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The cast for Tuesday's mañanera. The cast for Tuesday's mañanera.

Patriotic shouts, prisoners getting out: the week at AMLO’s press conferences

George Washington, Aztec emperor Moctezuma and a revolutionary hero were afforded mentions

Processions were planned for a reflective week. The El Grito celebration on Wednesday would mark the 200th anniversary of Mexican independence.

El Grito, meaning the cry or the shout, had sparked the independence movement on September 15, 1810 when Miguel Hidalgo, a priest from Dolores, Guanajuato, ordered the church bells to ring and urged the people to rise up against their oppressors and take back their land with the cry “Long live Mexico!” On August 24 1821 Spain finally called time on so-called “New Spain,”and recognized independence with the Treaty of Córdoba.

Monday

The week of patriotism had arrived, the president announced. Monday would commemorate the defense of Chapultepec Castle by the “Heroic Children” who fought off U.S. aggressors in 1847. Wednesday was “El Grito,” and the presidential raffle; Thursday promised an air parade; Friday a meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac); and on Sunday flags would fly at half mast for victims of the 1985 earthquake.

A journalist had first dibs from Friday. Why, she posed, were Mexicans living abroad not being afforded the opportunity to exercise their vote? The National Electoral Institute, she said, appeared an “enemy of democracy.”

“If you analyze how much has been spent to achieve that [facilitating voting abroad] and what the results have been, we see that there hasn’t been any progress, very few people [living abroad] are participating,” said the president, before assigning the task to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.

Later in the conference, the president claimed that today’s corruption could be traced to the conquest. “The treasure of Moctezuma [the fallen, last Aztec ruler] kept diminishing because it was being robbed since the so-called conquest … when it was divided up there was almost nothing left … those at the top had kept the grand part of the treasure.”

AMLO offered journalists’ his Oaxaca plans: on Sunday he would go to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec and give the morning news conference from the southern state on Monday. However, he lamented that time wouldn’t permit him to drop in on the Mixes, an indigenous group.

Tuesday

AMLO the hustler arrived on Tuesday: Lottery tickets “are 250 pesos, but it’s a stadium box, apartments, houses … and you have to trust your luck.”

COVID supremo Hugo López-Gatell declared that case numbers were falling in all states, and for the sixth consecutive week hospital numbers were down. Despite schools reopening, there hadn’t been an increase in cases among young people, he said. Education Minister Delfina Gómez Álvarez announced modestly improved school attendance with just over half of students having returned to classes.

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez cracks a smile on Tuesday.
Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez cracks a smile on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard spelled out the results of the high-level conference in Washington, D.C.: there would be bilateral coordination on supply chains and convergence on health regulations, but there was no big announcement on migration.

Interior Minister Adán Augusto López gave an update on the release of prisoners due to torture, old age and a few other circumstances, which did not include those accused or sentenced for more severe crimes. On Wednesday 682 prisoners would be released and 4,233 cases were under review. However, the decree only covered the 7.4% of prisoners who are in federal lockups.

The president was up. He said he wanted to appoint the governor of Sinaloa, Quirino Ordaz, as the Mexican ambassador to Spain. Ordaz belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

“They [PRI] got very annoyed,” AMLO said of the party’s reaction to one of their number aligning himself with the rival Morena party.

Later he announced that border municipalities would complete their second doses of COVID vaccine on Tuesday, and that he would soon meet with the newly arrived U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar.

Wednesday

The Mexican public had to show their patience, for which they are famed, to hear from the president, as there was no morning news conference. But, as goes the tradition, he appeared from his balcony late in the evening to recite the Grito in honor of the heroes of the independence movement. Due to sanitary restrictions, Mexico City’s central zócalo square beneath him was largely empty.

“Mexicans!”

“Long live independence!”

“Long live Miguel Hidalgo and Costilla!”

“Long live José María Morelos and Pavón!”

“Long live Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!”

A happy moment with reporters.
A happy moment with reporters.

“Long live Ignacio Allende!”

“Long live Leona Vicario!”

“Long live Vicente Guerrero!”

“Long live the unnamed heroes!”

“Long live justice!”

“Long live equality!”

“Long live democracy!”

“Long live honesty!”

“Long live our autonomy!”

“Long live universal fraternity!”

“Long live love for your neighbor!”

Long live the pre-Hispanic cultures!”

“Long live Mexico!”

“Long live Mexico!”

“Long live Mexico!”

Thursday

Once again, the morning press conference was off. The president waited for the military air parade later in the day to speak publicly.

He began by introducing his guest “His excellency Mr. Miguel-Díaz-Canel, president of the Republic of Cuba,” and then explained why El Grito is more symbolically important than when Spain eventually ceded power. “We Mexicans care more about the initiator, the priest [Miguel] Hidalgo, than [Agustín de] Iturbide, the consummator, because the priest was a defender of the common people and the royalist general represented the elite, those at the top, and just sought to wear the imperial crown.”

The priest, Hidalgo, didn’t mince his words: AMLO read a letter he had sent to a Spanish general. “’The current [independence] movement is great and much more because it deals with recovering holy rights granted by God to Mexicans, usurped by cruel, bastard and unjust conquerors,” he said.

As the president related, Hidalgo’s head ended up on a spike for 10 years looking over Guanajuato’s main square, kept company by the revolutionary heroes Ignacio Allende, Juan Aldama and Dolores Jiménez y Muro, whose heads adorned the other three corners of the Alhóndiga de Granaditas.

After so much talk of colonial struggle, AMLO returned his attention to Cuba. “The people of Cuba deserve the dignity prize … the government I represent respectfully calls on the U.S. government to lift the blockade against Cuba, because no state has the right to subdue another people, another country. It is necessary to remember what George Washington said: ‘Nations must not take advantage of the misfortune of other peoples.’”

“It is a time of brotherhood and not confrontation … Long live the independence of Mexico! Long live the independence of Cuba!”

Friday

AMLO cut short his morning press conference in order to participate in a virtual climate conference hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Later in the day he was busy with the Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) conference, a political bloc and regional forum seen as an alternative to the often derided Organization of American States, headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Leaders and dignitaries joined him in Mexico to discuss issues mainly affecting Spanish speaking America. The only other large country with a different language, Brazil, left the organization in 2020.

Among likely topics of discussion were the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, how to promote Celac over the OAS and a pan Latin American space program.

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