Sunday, May 19, 2024

Blackouts, bias and ‘bravado’: The week at the mañaneras

President López Obrador on Thursday made much of his ultimately correct prediction that Senator Xóchitl Gálvez would become the presidential candidate for the Broad Front for Mexico (FAM) opposition alliance, but didn’t substantiate his claim that she was chosen months ago by an “oligarchy” led by a prominent businessman.

The contest to succeed the president is heating up, with Gálvez’s designation as the FAM’s presumptive nominee to be followed next week by the ruling Morena party’s designation of its new standard-bearer.

Xóchitl Gálvez
PAN Senator Xóchitl Gálvez was confirmed as the opposition bloc presidential candidate on Thursday. (JORGE ORTEGA/CUARTOSCURO.COM)

At his Thursday morning press conference, or mañanera, AMLO also made it known that he is also keeping an eye on the aspirants to the Republican Party’s nomination in the United States, telling reporters that he will be watching out for any untoward remarks they might make about Mexico.

On Friday, he took a break from his daybreak dueling with the press corps to deliver his fifth annual report in an 80-minute address in Campeche city before boarding the Maya Train for Mérida.

Monday

AMLO noted at the top of his press conference that it was the first day of the new school year.

“Congratulations to girls, boys, students, teachers and parents because [returning to school] is quite an event, starting the day before,” he said, adding that he had trouble getting back to the National Palace from his weekend tour of southern Mexico on Sunday because the streets of downtown Mexico City were filled with parents buying school supplies.

The mayor of Mexico City and several governors joined the presser virtually from schools around the country.

“Here in Mexico City almost four million free text books are being distributed,” said Mayor Marti Batres.

“[Having] these books is a right of girls and boys and they are a factor of social cohesion, of cultural cohesion, of cohesion of national identity and also a great support for families, for parents,” he said of the controversial texts.

AMLO at morning press conference
The president congratulated Mexico’s students and teachers who returned to school on Monday. (Gob MX)

“We’re very happy to begin this new school year, which will be historic because the Nueva Escuela Mexicana [New Mexican School] is starting,” said Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado, referring to the federal government’s new curriculum model.

“In Guerrero we’re convinced that the Nueva Escuela Mexicana will allow the consolidation of the progress our country has made and deepen the processes of peace, wellbeing and justice,” she said.

Early in his engagement with reporters, López Obrador was asked about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s assertion that he would send the United States military to Mexico to combat drug cartels if elected U.S. president.

“Unfortunately we’ll have to get used to these acts of bravado because elections in the United States are coming up,” AMLO said.

“… This man DeSantis wants to overtake Trump on the right and seems more anti-immigrant than Trump. It’s pure publicity, politicking, very ordinary, cheap, lame, but it’s what’s happening,” he said.

Probed about an outbreak of cartel violence in the Tierra Caliente region of Michoacán and the city of Uruapan, López Obrador said that peace had been restored.

“More than anything else, [the violence] was also an act of publicity and propaganda. [There were] takeovers [of roads], vehicles were burned, [there were] fires in two Oxxo convenience stores and that was it basically,” he said.

AMLO said that no lives were lost and that “some” arrests were made. “The National Guard intervened with the support of the Defense Ministry and state police,” he said.

“This happened basically in three municipalities – in Buenavista, in Apatzingán and in Uruapan, I believe. Peace and tranquility have already been restored,” López Obrador said.

Morena aspirants to run for president in 2024
The six Morena hopefuls have been touring the country since June. (Morena/X)

The president subsequently acknowledged that the campaign period for the aspirants to the ruling Morena party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election had concluded.

“It already ended and we just have to wait now [and see who the candidate will be], as we also have to wait and see what they’re going to decide on the right flank,” López Obrador said, making reference to the (now-concluded) contest between the senators Xóchitl Gálvez and Beatriz Paredes to secure the nomination for the Broad Front for Mexico opposition bloc.

“… In this entire process … there hasn’t been violence, no disorder, nothing, not even a lack of respect. [The aspirants] have acted with great political civility, everyone has behaved very well,” said AMLO, who perhaps couldn’t say the same of himself given his repeated lambasting of Gálvez.

Late in his first mañanera of the week, the president reiterated that he will hand over the “baton of command” of the “movement of transformation” – i.e. the Morena party – to the winner of Morena’s candidate selection process.

López Obrador wasn’t speaking figuratively, noting that he will actually relinquish a baton adorned with multicolored ribbons.

“From the time that I hand over the baton of command, the leadership of the transformation movement will be the responsibility of he or she who receives the baton,” he said.

“I’ll continue governing until I hand over the presidential sash, but the movement from which we emerged, which is a movement of transformation” will be led by Morena’s presidential candidate, López Obrador said.

“I’ve been leading it, heading it up, not directly but by example,” AMLO said. “But now the time has arrived for me to hand over the leadership of the movement.”

Tuesday

As is the case every second Tuesday, health care was a central focus of López Obrador and other government officials at the second mañanera of the week.

“What we’re seeking is to guarantee the right to health care for all Mexicans” regardless of whether they have health insurance through their employer or not, AMLO said,

He said that establishing a high-quality universal health scheme in which patients can access specialized care and free medications is a “challenge,” but pledged that it would be in place because his term as president ends.

“We’re going to have the best public health system in the world in terms of the number of Mexicans who will be looked after. … Sixty million Mexicans will be looked after, which is a lot. There’s no system like that in Europe … [or] America. That’s our challenge and we’re making progress,” López Obrador said.

Zoé Robledo, director of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), said that IMSS-Bienestar, as the universal scheme is called, will be operating in 24 of Mexico’s 32 federal entities by the end of the year with 692 hospitals and almost 14,000 health care centers.

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez later said that the State Workers Social Security Institute (Issste), which provides health care services to government employees, was reduced to a “shell” of its former self by previous governments.

“In July 2022, the president tasked us … with the mission of rescuing Issste and cleansing it of the corruption carried over from neoliberal governments,” she said.

Issste was “devastated,” but authorities are now working to restore it is as “the great institution it was in days gone by” when it was an “example” for other Latin American countries, Rodríguez said.

“We’re working hand in hand in with doctors, nurses, administrative staff, unions, the institute’s board and we’re going to achieve [the rehabilitation of Issste],” she said.

Rosa Icela Rodríguez
Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez at the Tuesday press conference. (Rosa Icela Rodríguez/X)

Issste chief Pedro Zenteno said that the institute currently provides services including health care to 14 million people. He offered an example of one kind of corruption that has plagued the institute, telling reporters that the payment of “irregular” Issste pensions had been detected. One former government employee was getting 273,000 pesos (about US $16,000) per month, when the maximum established pension is 31,000 pesos, Zenteno said.

López Obrador reported later in the presser that the distribution of the government’s new textbooks had begun in 30 of the 32 federal entities.

Students in Chihuahua and Coahuila aren’t receiving the new texts because the governors of those states filed challenges against their distribution and a Supreme Court justice who is “associated with magnates” ruled in their favor, he said, referring to Justice Luis María Aguilar.

AMLO subsequently continued his denunciation of Aguilar for not issuing a ruling in a tax debt case involving the corporation Grupo Elektra.

The president questioned why the justice hasn’t handed down a ruling eight months after he was assigned the case when he has a large legal team at his disposal.

“They say [he has] about 40 or 50 [lawyers working under him]. How can they not rule on a case in eight months? It’s strange, right?” López Obrador said.

new textbooks for Mexican public schools
Some are up in arms about the new government-issued textbooks that will replace the current public school curriculum. (SEP)

Among other remarks, he defended the inclusion of information abut sexual diversity in the new school textbooks.

As government critics “couldn’t prove that [the books] were injecting the virus of communism, they started questioning … [the inclusion] of sexual diversity [information],” AMLO said.

“… We’re talking about secondary school books that contain … information that young men and women need to have. How could they not have that information? These are fundamental things,” he said.

Wednesday

AMLO started his mañanera by once again denouncing the Mexican press, a ritual he goes through every Wednesday before the government’s purported fake news exposé sessions.

“The entire press is against the transformation, with honorable exceptions. … In general, the press in our country doesn’t inform but manipulates,” said López Obrador, who also frequently attacks foreign newspapers.

AMLO at the morning press conference on Wednesday
The president shared a favorite quote from late Polish journalist and writer Ryszard Kapuściński. (Gob MX)

The president expressed his admiration for Ryszard Kapuściński (1932-2007), describing the deceased Pole as “one of the best journalists in the world,” a title he has also bestowed upon Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

He quoted Kapuściński, agreeing that “when it was discovered that information was a business, the truth stopped being important.”

During his engagement with representatives of what he sees as biased and manipulative Mexican media, López Obrador offered an anecdote from his travels in Guerrero last weekend. He told reporters that he and colleagues stopped to have lunch in a family-owned fonda (modest restaurant) in a town near Ometepec and word soon got around that he was eating there.

A short time later, AMLO said that two ladies “grabbed” him and hauled him away to the local school, where they showed him how federal funding had been used to put a roof over the schoolyard, an asset that is especially useful during the rainy season.

Arriving at the moral of the story, López Obrador – who is especially popular in rural southern Mexico – said that government adversaries and “intellectuals” should follow his lead and get out and talk to “the people.”

They should go to the “towns [and] neighborhoods” and get out out of their “comfort bubbles” in order to understand that Mexico isn’t a country of a select few but a nation for “everyone,” he said.

AMLO in Guerrero
The president visited Guerrero last week and advised his critics in the media to get out and talk to “the people”, as he does. (Gob MX)

Asked about recurring blackouts in recent weeks in Sonora, AMLO said he hadn’t heard about the problem and expressed doubt that they actually occurred given that he is generally informed about “everything.”

The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) will provide a report, he said, before warning reporters to be careful because there is “a lot of politicking” on the issue of electricity, just “like with the [text]books.”

López Obrador later said that the wounding of a Mexican man in Ciudad Juárez by a member of the Texas National Guard who fired his weapon across the border was under investigation.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is attending to this,” he said, adding that additional information would be provided later in the day.

After a reporter mentioned the murder of a man in Yanga, Veracruz, who was allegedly killed by his best friend and a femicide allegedly perpetrated by a young man who was renting a room in the Mexico City home of his 22-year-old victim, AMLO declared that he remained confident that the country’s security situation will improve.

“Look, I’m very optimistic because the causes [of violence] are being addressed and fortunately we didn’t waste time. From the beginning of our government we started attending to young people,” said López Obrador, referring to initiatives such as employment programs and education scholarships.

“I’ve always insisted that peace is the fruit of justice, that violence can’t be confronted with violence, that evil can’t be fought with evil. Evil has to be combated by doing good, fire can’t be put out with fire,” he said.

“… A human being is not bad by nature, it is [certain] circumstances that lead some people to take the path of anti-social behavior. If we change the circumstances we change everything. I always maintained that the causes of violence had to be attended to and that’s what we’re doing and it’s yielding results,” López Obrador said.

Thursday

Following up on a question from his Wednesday presser, AMLO said that the occurrence of blackouts in Sonora is not a “widespread” problem and told reporters that CFE officials would explain the electricity situation in the northern state at a press conference later the same morning.

“To the people of Sonora, I would say in advance that there were two blackouts: one due to an act of vandalism, which was corrected in less than 24 hours and affected very few people and another [caused by] a transformer failure that was also attended to promptly,” López Obrador said.

Later in his mañanera, he once again stressed the importing of addressing the root causes of migration with initiatives such as employment programs, which the Mexican government has sponsored in Northern Triangle countries of Central America.

CFE representatives at morning press conference
The Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) officials at the Thursday morning press conference. (CFE Mx/X)

“It’s proven that if these programs are applied, migration flows can be moderated, reduced,” AMLO said.

“So we proposing to the United States government that they invest in these programs because if they don’t we’re not going to be able to resolve the problem definitively or structurally,” he said.

“… We already know that migration doesn’t occur for pleasure but out of necessity, so we have to attend to the causes. … Sometimes [this] isn’t understood in the United States. President Biden and his close team understand it well, but there a lot of obstacles,” López Obrador said.

“For example, in the United States Congress they’re very efficient and quick to approve the shipment of arms and the delivery of money for the war in Ukraine, 30 or 40 billion dollars, but [to get lawmakers] to attend to the root of the migration problem it takes a lot of work,” he said.

“… It’s not expenditure, it’s investment, it’s attending to the causes,” AMLO said.

“… The United States just told us that they’re going to allocate direct support of $40 million for Central America. That’s good, but it’s not enough, more is needed,” he said.

López Obrador subsequently noted that Mexico has not yet received $246 million that U.S. authorities seized from a former finance minister in the state of Coahuila.

“We are waiting for the money to arrive, it’s already been four months and they haven’t sent anything. They make the announcements, but they take a long time,” he said.

Continuing his focus on events north of the border, AMLO said that the government will respond to aspirants to the Republican Party’s presidential election nomination if they speak ill of Mexico.

Ron DeSantis
Florida governor Ron DeSantis is vying for the Republican nomination to run in 2024, but is polling behind former president Donald Trump. (Shutterstock)

“The other day I was watching a debate of the potential candidates and they were speaking about fentanyl, about drugs and Mexico. We’re going to be attentive here – every time that there is an unfounded questioning of our country there will be a response because we’re not anyone’s piñata,” he said.

Asked about the government’s decision to mandate a reduction in flight numbers at the Mexico City International Airport, López Obrador said the main consideration was safety.

“The airport is saturated, … there are a lot of operations, there are risks and we want to prevent [mishaps],” he said.

AMLO said that the government consulted with Mexican airlines before taking the decision to reduce the numbers of flights permitted per hour, an adjustment that will take effect in late October.

Toward the end of his presser, López Obrador asserted that he had “won the bet” given that he claimed in early July that Senator Xóchitl Gálvez had already been chosen as the 2024 presidential candidate for the Broad Front for Mexico (FAM).

He repeated his claim that Gálvez – who this week was confirmed as the FAM candidate – was selected by a small group of people led by businessman Claudio X. González.

AMLO described what he sees as an undemocratic installation of the opposition bloc candidate as “shameless,” and noted that the FAM “didn’t even finish their [selection] process” because Gálvez was declared the winner before a vote scheduled for this Sunday that was ultimately canceled due to Senator Beatriz Paredes’ effective withdrawal from the contest.

“Who decided [who the FAM candidate would be]? Those at the top … of the conservative bloc,” he said.

Friday

With AMLO gearing up to present his fifth annual informe (report) – his final one before elections next June – there was no 7 a.m. press conference on Friday. Dressed in a guayabera for a second consecutive Friday, the president began his address in Campeche city at the more relaxed time of 10.

“Dear people of Campeche, I’m very happy to be here with you,” he said before noting that the state has “a lot of history and a lot of culture” and is among the federal entities that have contributed the most to the development of Mexico because it was the country’s main oil producer for decades.

AMLO at fifth annual report
The president gave his fifth annual report on Friday in Campeche. (Gob MX)

“That’s why I decided to give my report here,” López Obrador said at the beginning of a self-congratulatory speech of the kind he has delivered many times before.

“… In the almost five years of my government, it has been shown that our model of development called Mexican humanism – summed up in the phrase ‘for the good of all, the poor come first’ – is effective and works exceptionally. In this fifth informe, I present facts that prove it,” he said.

Among the achievements AMLO highlighted were the increase to the minimum wage; post-pandemic economic growth; record foreign investment; and poverty reduction.

He also cited the current strength of the peso and the record level of remittances sent to Mexico by Mexicans working abroad, even though many impartial observers wouldn’t describe those things as government achievements.

“What has been the key to achieving these results? … The key is in not allowing corruption,” López Obrador said.

“It seems something basic, simple and even easy, but that’s what progress with justice in our country depends on. Nothing has damaged Mexico more than the dishonesty of its rulers,” he said.

AMLO with cabinet members
The president with members of his cabinet, ready to board the Maya Train on Friday. (Rosa Icela Rodríguez/X)

Continuing his report, AMLO touted a range of government programs, including welfare ones, employment ones and schemes to help farmers. He also spoke about the government’s new universal health care scheme, the designation of new natural reserves, the government’s response to natural disasters and support for victims, and – of course – his cherished infrastructure projects.

“The policy of zero corruption and republican austerity has allowed us to carry out a lot of projects without resorting to debt or the so-called public-private partnerships that allowed private companies [to get] juicy deals at the expense of the treasury,” he said.

López Obrador mentioned numerous projects his government has undertaken, including the Felipe Ángeles International Airport, which opened in early 2022 and the soon-to-be completed Tulum airport, Isthmus of Tehuantepec railroad and Maya Train railroad, on which he began the first “supervision” trip on Friday night.

“It’s a badge of pride to be able to say that passenger trains will return [to Mexico],” he said.

AMLO also said that the new Pemex refinery on the Tabasco coast would begin refining oil later the same day.

“And at the end of the year it will be producing an average of 290,000 barrels per day (bpd) of gasoline,” he said of the Olmeca refinery.

After noting that Pemex’s six other refineries in Mexico have been upgraded and that the state oil company’s Texas refinery is producing 340,000 bpd, López Obrador told officials, business representatives and reporters gathered in Campeche that “the plan is that next year we won’t buy gasoline or diesel abroad.”

“All [of Mexico’s] crude oil will be processed here in order to give added value to our raw material and maintain low fuel prices to benefit consumers,” he said.

With regard to security, AMLO said that the government’s strategy of “attending to the causes of violence” is “working well,” even though his term in government will go down as the most violent in living memory in terms of homicides. He cited recent reductions in the incidence of a range of crimes including homicides, robberies, vehicle theft and kidnapping.

Dos Bocas refinery, Tabasco
The Dos Bocas refinery in Paraíso, Tabasco is one of the president’s key infrastructure projects. (Gob MX)

López Obrador said that the National Guard now has 128,000 officers and thanked the military – on which he has relied heavily for a range of non-traditional tasks – for its contribution to public security efforts.

“The Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Navy have been great support for us, not just in public security,” he said before going through a long list of jobs they have been assigned, including infrastructure construction, the management of customs offices, ports and airports, the removal of sargassum from the Caribbean Sea and the creation and operation of a new-state owned airline.

“Instead of militarizing the country as our opponents maintain, we’re making it clear that the marines and soldiers are common people in uniform, exemplary public servants, loyal and patriotic workers,” López Obrador said.

“… In this fifth government report and 13 months before I conclude my term, I can demonstrate that with decent and hard-working people, and with an honest and austere government, it is possible to live in a better, fairer, freer, more fraternal and more egalitarian society,” the president said.

“… We will continue walking toward the sublime ideals of democracy – true democracy – justice, equality, freedom, fraternity and sovereignty. No corruption, no extravagances, none, zero, no authoritarianism, no classism, no racism, no discrimination,” he said.

“Democracy, yes! Oligarchy, no! Honesty, yes! Corruption, no! Justice and fraternity, yes! Poverty and Inequality, no! Long Live Campeche! Viva México! Viva México! Viva México!

By Mexico News Daily chief staff writer Peter Davies ([email protected])

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Lucero López Maza, candidate for mayor of La Concordia, Chiapas,

6 killed in Chiapas shooting, including mayoral candidate

0
The candidate, Lucero López Maza, and her sister were two of the victims of a shooting in the southern border state.
People cheer at a campaign rally in Yucatán

A guide to the governors’ races in Puebla, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatán

0
On June 2, Mexican voters will pick governors in eight states; in part two of our guide, we cover the races in Puebla, Tabasco, Veracruz and Yucatán.
Presidential opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez waves a Mexican flag at a rally in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, last week.

Presidential candidate Xóchitl Gálvez to speak Sunday at rally in support of electoral institute

0
A rally organizer said the group will use the event to explain why they are supporting Xóchitl Gálvez for president, rather than remaining neutral.