An apology owed: last week there was no article on President López Obrador’s morning press conferences. Unfortunately, the writer found himself behind bars in a migrant detention center after being caught unawares without his passport.
No doubt everyone’s favorite elder statesman was up to old tricks, and perhaps a few new ones in those conferences. Mischief is a staple of AMLO’s diet, as this week again went to prove.
A vibrant AMLO put energy at center stage on Monday. As the president justified the proposed reforms of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), he recalled some familiar foes. “Do you remember that Iberdrola here in Mexico hired the minister of energy and former president Calderón? Well in Spain … they just hired a high-level leader of the PSOE, the socialist workers’ party of Spain … a politician. What does he know about the electrical industry? Nothing,” he said.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard read a letter sent by U.S. President Biden, which offered glimmers of hope for cooperation on Central America: “The United States has provided more than US $600 million in international assistance to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. I have also asked the United States Congress for an additional $861 million in my fiscal year 2022 budget for Central America.”
More big figures, and perhaps a hint of jealousy, entered the conference. This time it was journalists’ salaries in question. “They earn about 20 times more than me … one earns … the newspaper said, we will have to see if it is true, US $650,000,” the president said.
Health wizard Hugo López-Gatell spun into action on Tuesday. COVID-19 cases had been falling for 10 consecutive weeks, he said, and had dropped 30% over the last seven day count. Only a quarter of hospital beds for COVID patients were occupied, he added.
Truancy rates were falling, Education Minister Delfina Gómez Álvarez confirmed. More than 16 million students had returned to class, she said, leaving about 9 million chairs still empty.
Is Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum really the president’s favored pick for his successor? AMLO refused to be drawn in, and said surveys could be used to help select the candidate.
Money talks, the president said, but yachts talk even louder. “[Yachts] have stabilizers, it can be in rough seas … and the passengers can drink a toast, and not a drop of champagne falls … Do you know what a 120, 150-million-dollar yacht is? It is a spectacular thing and at the same time an offensive one. It is an offensive display.”
“Good news,” the president announced: the land border to the United States would reopen in early November to the fully vaccinated. However, the Russian vaccine Sputnik and the Chinese vaccine CanSino, both distributed widely in Mexico, won’t be recognized by the U.S., as they are not on the World Health Organization’s approved list.
AMLO returned to the topic late in the conference: “We’re going to ask the World Health Organization to finish with the certification [of Sputnik and CanSino] … it needs to hurry up,” he said.
Oracle in disguise Ana Elizabeth García Vilchis took her usual place. An analysis of news related to the reform of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) had revealed media bias, she said. Of the articles, 41% were negative and only 3.5% were positive; the rest were classified as “informative.” Convenience store Oxxo bore the brunt of a García onslaught: ” … how much does a Mexican family pay for electricity on average? … 5.2 pesos per kilowatt, Oxxo pays 1.8 per kilowatt,” she said. The store had been a target for AMLO on Monday.
The CFE, García assured, would not be removing solar panels from homes and businesses.
A new petrochemical plant was planned for Poza Rica; could the mayor, former baseball player Fernando “The Octupus” Remes, be trusted?
“He knows very well that you have to steal the bases, but not the budget,” the president quipped.
AMLO’s sworn enemy, the newspaper Reforma, was back in his sights on Thursday. An article suggested a worker at the Dos Bocas refinery in Tabasco had died in a recent flare-up; AMLO accused the newspaper of wishing it so: “They were already talking about a dead person … they are very eager for there to be tragedy, for us to do badly. These are times of vultures,” he said.
He appended presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón to the naughty list for their Twitter comments.
Later in the conference, AMLO directed his attention to the sporting arena, and a Sinaloa born baseball star. “I’m going to keep an eye on today’s game, which is very important, Dodgers-Giants. And I wish Julio Urías the best, because he deserves to do well … he comes from a humble background, he was brought up very well by his father, who was the one who trained him, and he is a good, noble person.”
(Urías was suspended for 20 games by Major League Baseball in 2019 for violating its domestic violence policy after an incident in Los Angeles in which he shoved a woman to the ground during an argument).
It was back to the land of the free shortly after. The president quoted U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris who had derided European explorers like Christopher Columbus: “Those explorers ushered in a wave of devastation for tribal nations — perpetrating violence, stealing land, and spreading disease …We must not shy away from this shameful past, and we must shed light on it.”
AMLO advertised his weekend plans: California awaited. Baja California to be precise, and the president had to keep the conference short if he was going to make his flight.
The trip would see a tour of six municipalities before the Tabascan finds his way to the opposite end of the country on Monday, near the Guatemalan border at Balancán, Tabasco, where he will be joined by the U.S. presidential climate envoy John Kerry.
A journalist probed on the CFE reforms, in which any lithium discoveries are to be protected as a state asset. AMLO explained its importance: “The reform contemplates that lithium, which is a strategic mineral, is owned by the nation, that contracts or concessions cannot be delivered to individuals and much less to foreigners … future development depends on that, maybe we ourselves will never see it, but it is for the coming generations, for our children and for those who come after,” he said.
Abruptly, time was up, as the president feared making himself a nuisance. “I have to go … If not, I won’t make it … I’m not going to delay a commercial plane. I have to get to the plane on time,” he said before rushing away to attend to the nation.
Mexico News Daily