With President López Obrador in Chile to attend a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the death of former Chilean president Salvador Allende during the Augusto Pinochet-led military coup, Interior Minister Luisa María Alcalde Luján presided over the federal government’s first morning press conference (mañanera) of the week.
López Obrador flew back into Mexico City on Monday night, but Alcalde allowed her boss a sleep-in by backing up for a second consecutive day at the helm of the agenda-setting publicity machine that is the daily mañanera.
That left AMLO with just two pressers to officiate this week as he attended the inauguration of the first section of the Mexico City-Toluca railroad on Friday morning instead of meeting with reporters at the National Palace.
Among the topics addressed at this week’s four press conferences were Marcelo Ebrard’s dissatisfaction with the process run by the ruling Morena party to select its 2024 presidential candidate, the valuable contribution Cuban doctors are making to public health care in Mexico, the supposed existence of a Mexican-made nuclear submarine and the apparent happiness of the people of (another) China.
At the final presser of the week on Thursday, AMLO invited “all Mexicans” to join him in Mexico City’s central square, the Zócalo, on Friday night for the once-a-year maximum expression of Mexican patriotism that is the Cry of Dolores, or Cry of Independence, known in Mexico as El Grito.
Before settling in to respond to reporters’ questions, Alcalde conveyed Mexico’s condolences to the people of Morocco, where a major earthquake caused widespread damage and claimed thousands of lives on Sept. 8.
“So far there are no reports of Mexican people being affected. From here we express our solidarity with the people of Morocco,” she said.
Following up on López Obrador’s announcement that United States authorities had decided to reinstate Mexico’s Category 1 aviation safety rating, a reporter asked the interior minister when that was expected to happen.
“We don’t have the day …[but] it’s very good news, of course, for our country,” Alcalde responded.
“We know [the Category 1 rating will be reinstated] because the foreign minister was informed to that effect,” she said.
Alcalde said that the recovery of the top-tier rating was possible thanks to “various actions” carried out by Mexico including “some legislative changes” and “the order that is being put in place at different airports.”
She said that the good news Mexico is waiting for – which will allow Mexican airlines to add new flights to U.S. airports – will “very likely” arrive in the coming days, a prediction that turned out to be correct.
Asked about ex-foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard’s decision to challenge the Morena party’s presidential candidate selection process due to alleged irregularities, Alcalde said her former cabinet colleague was within his rights to file a complaint.
Morena’s Commission for Honesty and Justice will have to consider the complaint and resolve it as it sees fit in due course, she said.
Alcalde praised the selection process, which culminated with polling that determined that Claudia Sheinbaum had the most support among the six aspirants to the Morena nomination.
“It was an unprecedented process, a democratic process. … It’s about breaking with el dedazo [big finger],” she said, referring to a longstanding Mexican custom in which the sitting president essentially handpicked his successor.
The Morena selection process put an end to “authoritarianism” and was agreed to by the participants, the interior minister added.
Alcalde subsequently said she wouldn’t be attending any Morena party events planned by Sheinbaum, who was officially designated as the “new national coordinator of the defense of the transformation” last week, a title that references the monumental change AMLO says he and his government are implementing in Mexico.
“We have to accompany President López Obrador in this titanic task of consolidating the fourth transformation. The women and men here will … accompany him until the last day of his government. We’re going to dedicate ourselves full time, 24/7, to completing all the [government] projects,” she said.
Alcalde later defended the Ministry of Finance’s proposed 2024 budget, even though it sets out spending that exceeds expected revenue. She noted that the proposal includes funding for key infrastructure projects and welfare programs.
It’s a fiscally “responsible plan” and one that will “help consolidate the projects of the fourth transformation,” Alcalde said.
Alcalde told reporters that AMLO was back “in national territory” after a “successful tour” of Colombia and Chile.
In the latter country, López Obrador participated in events marking the 50th anniversary of the death of former Chilean president Salvador Allende during the military-led coup, she noted.
“The president reiterated his profound respect and affection for president Salvador Allende, who he called the apostle of Chilean democracy,” Alcalde said.
“… He also reiterated that Mexico and Chile are brotherly nations, united by the ideals of freedom, justice, democracy and unconditional respect for sovereignty,” she added.
During the fortnightly health update, the director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), Zoé Robledo, reported that 806 Cuban specialist doctors have been hired to work in the public health system. He said that the médicos cubanos are working at hospitals in 16 states, some of which now have a specialist on staff for the first time ever.
“They work in places like la Mesa del Nayar [in Nayarit], the Montaña [region] of Guerrero, the Costa Chica of Oaxaca,” Robledo said.
The Cuban doctors, recruited by the current federal government due to a purported shortage of Mexican médicos, have performed over 23,000 surgical procedures, among other important work, in a period of just over a year, according to information presented by the IMSS chief.
“These 23,000 operations simply wouldn’t have happened without the presence of Cuban doctors,” Robledo said, adding that additional specialists from the Caribbean island nation would likely be hired during the coming year.
He also said that the relationship the Cubans have developed with Mexican medical staff is “extraordinary” and that health personnel at public hospitals all work as “one team.”
“Something that the Cuban specialist doctors contribute a lot is a sense of duty to medical practice,” Robledo said, adding that they are always willing to share their experience and knowledge with their Mexican colleagues.
“We truly are very thankful,” he said.
Jesús Ramírez, AMLO’s communications coordinator and spokesman, subsequently noted that the 2023 National Survey on Victimization and Public Security Perceptions found that Mexico’s overall crime rate declined to its lowest level in over a decade last year.
“There are significant reductions in crimes such as robbery on the street and public transport, and extortion,” he said.
Alcalde said that the government is “very happy” with the data calculated by the national statistics agency INEGI based on the survey results.
“It shows that the strategy of attending to the causes of violence is the correct strategy,” she said.
If young people are provided with opportunities to work and study, and if support for “those who have the least” is prioritized, progress toward “the pacification of the country” is possible, Alcalde added.
Health Minister Jorge Alcocer confirmed later in the press conference that authorities are preparing to offer additional COVID-19 vaccine shots to seniors, pregnant women and people with existing health conditions that make them vulnerable to serious disease.
He noted that almost 5.4 million doses of the Cuban-made Abdala vaccines are in storage at the state-owned medical company Birmex and that shipments of 4 million Russian-made Sputnik shots are scheduled to arrive in October and November.
Alcocer said that an additional 10.2 million shots will be required to be able to vaccinate some 20 million people in the priority categories. He indicated that some of that number could be inoculated with the Mexican-made Patria vaccine.
“Good morning. Cheer up. I missed you,” López Obrador said at the beginning of his first mañanera since the previous Friday.
“… We had a very good trip, and the love and respect that Colombia and Chile have for the people was confirmed once again. And it’s reciprocal, we’re brothers of those people. That’s why they treated us very well,” he said.
AMLO noted that he would attend a ceremony later in the day to mark the anniversary of the death of the niños héroes (boy heroes), military cadets who lost their lives during or shortly after a battle with invading United States forces at the Chapultepec Castle on Sept. 13, 1847.
“Let’s not forget that war was declared on Mexico unilaterally, arbitrarily, from the United States and they decided to invade us. [I’m talking about] the [Mexican-American] war of … 1847 and 1848,” he said.
“… It’s a very sad chapter in the history of Mexico because they managed to fly the United States flag here at the National Palace. And later, we had to accept the imposition of a treaty under which they took more than half our territory. It was a great blow, an act of arrogance,” López Obrador said.
The president frequently asserts that there is an interminable torrent of fake news published by the Mexican media, but perhaps that wasn’t the case this week as government official Ana García Vilchis turned her focus to social media content in her regular “Who’s Who in the Lies of the Week” segment.
“It’s not true that the government of Mexico has built or acquired a nuclear submarine,” she told reporters.
“… This is the level of fake news being spread. On the social network TikTok and others, a video and articles with supposed proof of a nuclear submarine developed by the Mexican government started circulating. … This is not true. This disinformation is so absurd that we weren’t going to present it. But given that it’s still circulating it’s better that we make it clear that a Mexican [nuclear] submarine doesn’t exist, except in the imaginations of those who navigate in a sea of lies,” García said.
AMLO returned to center stage to respond to reporters’ questions and was immediately asked about the murders in Guerrero of the Federal Attorney General’s Office’s delegate in that state as well as a regional prosecutor.
“An investigation is already underway. … Progress is being made in arresting the culprits,” he said.
“… I don’t want to disclose any hypothesis,” López Obrador said, adding that he would allow law enforcement authorities to provide relevant information.
Later in his presser, AMLO rejected the suggestion that the ruling Morena party’s candidate selection process was tainted by irregularities, as former foreign minister Ebrard claims.
“I’ve been saying this for some time: el dedazo is over, el acarreo is over,” he said, referring in the second case to a practice in which political parties, most notably the PRI, bus people to rallies to swell numbers after bribing them to get on the bus with things such as money or food.
Shortly before the end of his mañanera, López Obrador noted that he would travel to Monterrey after the niños héroes ceremony to attend the inauguration of the first stage of the El Cuchillo II aqueduct, which will transport water approximately 90 kilometers from the El Cuchillo dam in eastern Nuevo León to the state capital.
“It’s an extremely important project to avoid water shortages. … We built it in record time,” he said.
“… It’s an aqueduct of around 90 kilometers and they divided it [into sections]. I believe that 10 companies [built] an average of nine, 10 kilometers each. The plants that made the pipes also behaved very well,” he said shortly before leaving the National Palace to get on with the rest of a very busy day.
At the top of his mañanera, López Obrador noted that he would travel to Toluca later in the day to attend the swearing-in ceremony of new México state Governor Delfina Gómez, who won the state’s gubernatorial election in June.
He then invited “all Mexicans” to go to Mexico City’s central square, the Zócalo, on Friday night for the Grito – his reenactment of the Cry of Independence made by Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla in 1810.
“The Grito is at 11 p.m. After the Grito, there’s a party and [Grupo Frontera] will keep playing,” AMLO said, referring to a popular Texas-based norteño band.
“… It’s a national party, everyone is invited,” he said of the pre-Independence Day festivities.
Turing his focus to his trip to Nuevo León on Wednesday, López Obrador said that the first stage of the new aqueduct had begun operating as planned. He said that the aqueduct will ensure Monterrey has adequate water supply for the next six to 10 years, but noted that more projects will be needed down the track to satisfy growing demand for water.
The metropolitan area has population growth rates above the national average, AMLO said, noting that a lot of companies are moving to Nuevo León because of the infrastructure already in place there, AMLO said.
“… There is growth and there’s going to continue being growth in Nuevo León, so new water supply projects have to be started, thinking about the medium and long term,” he said.
Later in his press conference, López Obrador noted that he was in China on Wednesday – not the East Asian superpower, but the municipality of the same name in eastern Nuevo León.
AMLO asserted that the people in China – known as chinenses – and people across Mexico, are “happy” with the state of the country and his government, in contrast to what his political adversaries say.
“Yesterday, when I went to Nuevo León, we arrived in China, the Air Force helicopter landed there … because the El Cuchillo dam is there. I got out to take the truck to the dam and the people were very affectionate. But the most touching thing was that a few kids from a school came out … and started chanting, presidente, presidente!” he said.
“… That’s what there is in the country. In what they call the political class, which is another world, … it’s something else, that’s where there is confrontation … and where there is criticism [of the government], questioning,” López Obrador said.
AMLO later weighed in on an issue involving a person he has been extremely critical of – Senator Xóchitl Gálvez, the presumptive presidential nominee of the Broad Front for Mexico opposition bloc.
There has been speculation that Gálvez’s home in Mexico City could be seized by authorities and demolished because it was allegedly built illegally, but López Obrador made it clear he wouldn’t support such a move.
“They’re talking about the destruction of a house that was supposedly built without papers, without permits, and that the house has to be destroyed. … No, no, no, let’s not burn books or use … a sledgehammer to destroy anything,” he said.
“And let’s see each other as adversaries to defeat, not as enemies to destroy,” AMLO added.
Friday (eve of Mexico’s Independence Day)
López Obrador appeared on the presidential balcony of the National Palace at 11 p.m. to deliver El Grito de Independencia to a packed Zócalo and millions of Mexicans celebrating “el 15” at home. Here’s the transcript of his remarks and an English translation.
¡Mexicanas! ¡Mexicanos! Mexican women! Mexican men!
¡Viva la Independencia! Long live independence!
¡Viva Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla! Long Live Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla!
¡Viva Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez! Long live Josefa Ortiz de Domínguez!
¡Viva Ignacio Allende! Long live Ignacio Allende!
¡Viva Leona Vicario! Long live Leona Vicario!
¡Viva José María Morelos y Pavón! Long live José María Morelos y Pavón!
¡Viva Vicente Guerrero! Long live Vicente Guerrero!
¡Vivan los héroes anónimos! Long live the anonymous heroes!
¡Viva la libertad! Long live freedom!
¡Viva la igualdad! Long live equality!
¡Viva la justicia! Long live justice!
¡Viva la democracia! Long live democracy!
¡Viva nuestra soberanía! Long live our sovereignty!
¡Viva la fraternidad universal! Long live universal fraternity!
¡Mexicanas! ¡Mexicanos! Mexican women! Mexican men!
¡Que muera la corrupción! Death to corruption!
¡Que muera la avaricia! Death to greed!
¡Que muera el racismo! Death to racism!
¡Que muera la discriminación! Death to discrimination!
¡Que viva el amor! Long live love!
¡Que vivan nuestros hermanos migrantes! Long live our migrant brothers!
¡Vivan los pueblos indígenas! Long live the indigenous peoples!
¡Viva la grandeza cultural de México! Long live Mexico’s cultural grandeur!
¡Viva México! Long live Mexico!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!
¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!
By Mexico News Daily chief staff writer Peter Davies ([email protected])