Saturday, April 20, 2024

Courts, candidates and ‘continuity’: The week at the mañaneras

It was a big week for the ruling Morena party, which announced Wednesday that Claudia Sheinbaum would be its candidate at the 2024 presidential election.

A day later, President López Obrador – who founded Morena and led the party to a comprehensive victory at the 2018 general election – handed over a “baton of command” to the former Mexico City mayor, officially designating her as the “new national coordinator of the defense of the transformation.”

AMLO and Claudia Sheinbaum with the baton
President López Obrador hands over the “baton of command” to Claudia Sheinbaum. (Claudia Sheinbaum/X)

AMLO initiated what he calls the fourth transformation of Mexico when he took office in late 2018. The term, abbreviated as 4T, quickly became an epithet for the current federal government, and is used by both supporters and detractors of the López Obrador administration.

The president claims that the change he is bringing to Mexico via things such as the eradication of corruption and the implementation of social programs to address the root causes of crime is as monumental as societal transformations brought about by independence from Spain, 19th century liberal reforms and the Mexican Revolution.

At his morning press conferences, or mañaneras, this week, he staunchly defended the “transformation” process he initiated almost five years ago and expressed confidence that it will continue under the leadership of Sheinbaum, who will face off against Senator Xóchitl Gálvez at the presidential election next June.

Monday

“As you confirmed on the weekend, Mr. President, the Maya Train is operational and traversed the tracks from Campeche to Cancún,” Javier May, director of the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur), said early in the first press conference of the week.

“This shows that in the fourth transformation, commitments are fulfilled. Without a doubt, the Maya Train [railroad] will be inaugurated in December of this year,” he said.

López Obrador, who completed “supervision” trips on the new railroad last Friday and Saturday, said that the project, “through tourism,” will spur economic growth in Mexico’s southeast, a region he described as “almost paradise.”

The railway will connect destinations in a region with tropical jungle, “exceptional” and “unique” animals such as jaguars, deer and armadillos, “the most beautiful beaches in the world” and the most abundant “archaeological, cultural and artistic heritage” on the planet, he said.

AMLO at the Monday morning press conference
President López Obrador gives an update on the Maya Train at the Monday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

“We’re talking about a 2,000-year flourishing of the Maya culture, 2,000 years! [The pre-Hispanic settlements] are beautiful cities, full of splendor, with a lot of art, it’s a great civilization. The Maya Train is all that and it will allow there to be progress with justice,” AMLO said.

He acknowledged that the military will assume responsibility for the 1,554-kilometer-long railroad once it is completed.

“Why are we going to leave this project in the custody of the Ministry of Defense? Because this project, like others, is being financed with public investment, … money of the people,” López Obrador said.

Public infrastructure projects belong to the nation and people, “so we want to look after them” and avoid their privatization, as occurred when “corrupt, neoliberal” governments were in office, he said.

“How do we guarantee good, honest management of the Maya Train, avoid the squandering of money and … [prevent] its future handover to private interests? Well, we have to leave it to a serious, responsible institution that represents the nation, that represents Mexico – the Ministry of National Defense in this case,” AMLO said.

The president later revealed that May will resign as chief of Fonatur – which has managed the Maya Train project – and return to his home state of Tabasco for a possible tilt at the governorship of the Gulf coast state.

Alfredo del Mazo governor of México state
The governor of México state Alfredo del Mazo at his sixth annual report. (Alfredo Del Mazo/X)

He’s thinking about seeking the governorship (presumably on a ticket supported by the ruling Morena party) and he “has the right” to do so, López Obrador said.

A short time later, the president told reporters that he would be cutting his presser short, not because he didn’t want to answer their questions but because he was heading to Toluca to attend an event at which México State Governor Alfredo del Mazo Maza of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presented his sixth and final state government informe (report).

AMLO said he was going to the event because México state is a “very important” state and the most populous state in the country. In addition, the Del Mazo government and the federal government have “worked together,” he said.

“We have different political origins but we’ve understood each other. Projects in benefit of the people of the state of México have been completed, which is the most important thing,” López Obrador said.

“We may have different party origins, but as leaders we must always think of the people,” said AMLO, who was affiliated with the PRI for over a decade in the 1970s and 80s before switching his allegiances to the Democratic Revolution Party for more than 20 years and later forming the Morena party that rules Mexico today.

“There can’t be partisan biases, we have to work together and we’ve achieved that because Alfredo del Mazo has been very respectful, hasn’t complicated things, hasn’t engaged in politicking and has never made a declaration against the federal government. He has been very respectful and we thank him,” he said.

Tuesday

During his fortnightly “Zero Impunity” report, Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez Bucio took aim at eight judges “whose rulings favor presumed criminals.”

One of those he criticized was a Tamaulipas-based judge who ruled in favor of government bodyguards being reassigned to the former governor of the northern border state, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, who has been accused by federal authorities of ties to organized crime and other offenses.

Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez Bucio
Deputy Security Minister Rodríguez Bucio shows allegedly corrupt judges. (Gob MX)

“It’s worth pointing out that Judge [Faustino] Gutiérrez Pérez, in October 2022, also issued a provisional suspension against the arrest warrant [for García] for organized crime,” Rodríguez said.

“… It would seem that the judge … acts … on orders in matters involving the ex-governor of Tamaulipas,” he said.

Rodríguez also spoke about arrests in a case involving a 35-year-old Indian man who was murdered in Mexico City on Aug. 19. The deputy minister noted that Ketan Shah was shot 11 times on the Viaducto freeway shortly after changing US $10,000 at a currency exchange business at the Mexico City airport.

The car in which Shah was traveling with another person was intercepted at around 11:30 a.m. by four men on two motorbikes who apparently followed him from the airport, he said. The Indian citizen didn’t understand the men’s demand to hand over the cash as he didn’t know Spanish, Rodríguez said.

“This caused confusion and in the end one of the assailants shot him 11 times,” he said, before explaining the modus operandi of a criminal gang that has targeted people who exchange money at the Mexico City airport.

During his engagement with reporters, López Obrador confirmed that a 20-kilometer section of the Mexico City-Toluca passenger train line will begin operations on Sept. 15.

Toluca-Mexico City train
The Mexico City-Toluca commuter train is to begin first phase operations in September. (Crisanta Espinosa Aguilar / Cuartoscuro.com)

The entire railroad – a project that has been plagued by problems and delays since construction began during the term of the previous government – will be completed in December and open in March 2024, AMLO said. He noted that the rail link between central Mexico City and the Felipe Ángeles International Airport is also scheduled to begin operations early next year.

Later in his presser, López Obrador reiterated his intention to send a constitutional bill to Congress that proposes the election of judges by citizens.

“The people have good judgement and sound instinct and will know how to choose them well,” he said.

“… The members of the legislative power and the members of the executive power are elected, but the members of the judicial power aren’t,” AMLO noted.

“… So, the constitutional reform is very important and I’m going to send the bill,” he said before acknowledging that it will need support from two-thirds of lawmakers to pass Congress.

“If I send it now, the conservative bloc, which is involved in funny business with the judicial power, will reject the bill. I’m going to wait for the result of the [2024] election and if there is a [qualified] majority [of pro-government lawmakers], a majority of those who want the transformation, it will be made easier,” said López Obrador, a frequent critic of Supreme Court justices and other judges.

Among other remarks, AMLO noted that the 2024 presidential candidate for Morena and its allies will be announced on Wednesday.

“I’m going to support he or she who wins the survey as the leading member of the transformation movement,” he said.

“… And I’m going to give him or her the baton of command – not the presidential sash – the baton of command for the leadership of the transformation movement and I’ll remain governing for another year to continue helping the people, consolidating the transformation and finishing [government infrastructure] projects,” López Obrador said.

Wednesday

Shortly after the beginning of his Q & A session with journalists, AMLO was asked why he had decided to hand over a “baton of command” to Morena’s new standard bearer when such an object is a “representation of the entire citizenry, not one political party.”

“Look, it’s a way of passing on a responsibility that I’ve had to attend to as the leader of a movement of transformation. That’s what the baton symbolizes. Above all, it’s a symbol of indigenous communities, the poorest people of this country, and it’s about handing over that symbol to he or she who must lead the transformation, provide continuity to what for us is essential – helping the poor and helping the Indigenous people,” he said.

Claudia Sheinbaum with Alfonso Durazo and Mario Delgado
Claudia Sheinbaum (center) with Alfonso Durazo (left) and Mario Delgado (right) at the announcement of the Morena poll result. (Claudia Sheinbaum/X)

“That makes us different. The oligarchy doesn’t … have love for the people,” López Obrador said, referring to politicians and other citizens affiliated with parties that have previously held power in Mexico.

“The oligarchs are classists and racists. I’m not making anything up. We have great love for the people and a lot of admiration and respect, and we have a commitment to the Indigenous communities of Mexico,” he said.

AMLO said that it hadn’t yet been decided whether he would hand over the baton in a public or private ceremony.

“We’re going to wait for the result,” he said on the morning of the night that Morena announced that Claudia Sheinbaum would be the party’s 2024 presidential candidate.

López Obrador also told reporters that he was preparing for his upcoming trip to South America.

“I’m writing my texts for the tour because I’m leaving on Friday for Colombia and [after that] we’re going to Chile,” he said.

AMLO with Gustavo Petro
President López Obrador with Colombian president Gustavo Petro. (Gustavo Petro/X)

AMLO said that his foreign affairs minister, his defense minister and his navy minister would accompany him on the trip, during which he will meet with Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Chilean President Gabriel Boric and attend a ceremony on Sept. 11 marking the 50th anniversary of the death of former Chilean president Salvador Allende during the military coup led by general Augusto Pinochet.

“We’re going on an Air Force plane, it’s a small entourage,” he said, adding that the aircraft won’t pass through Peruvian air space to get to Chile.

“As it is public and well-known, we don’t have good relations with the government of Peru,” said López Obrador, who condemned the Peruvian Congress’s removal of former president Pedro Castillo in late 2022 and has rejected the legitimacy of President Dina Boluarte’s rule.

“[Consequently] we’re not going to ask to go through [Peruvian] air space. We’re going to make a detour to get to Santiago de Chile,” he said.

During his Wednesday mañanera, AMLO also advocated – as he has done many times previously – for the economic integration of all the countries of the Americas.

“The ideal of [Simón] Bolívar was the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean. We think that we must be united in our America, like [Cuban independence hero José] Martí said,” he remarked.

Toward the end of the presser, the president ruled out any possibility of a “rupture” in Morena following a candidate selection process that was marked by moments of acrimony.

“There won’t be any problem,  … they’re responsible people,” he said in reference to the six people who sought to represent Morena and its allies at the upcoming presidential election.

Thursday

“I believe it was an example of a democratic exercise, something unprecedented,” López Obrador said when asked about the ruling Morena’s candidate selection process that culminated Wednesday night with the announcement that Claudia Sheinbaum would represent the party at the 2024 presidential election.

“The custom for decades, centuries, was imposition, el dedazo [big finger]. The incumbent president chose his successor,” he said.

AMLO confirmed that he would hand over the “baton of command” to Sheinbaum on Thursday evening.

Marcelo Ebrard at press conference
Marcelo Ebrard at a press conference where he called on his party, Morena, to repeat the polling process ahead of the announcement of results. (Cuartoscuro)

Turning his focus to Marcelo Ebrard – who denounced “irregularities” in Morena’s polling process hours before it was announced he had finished second – the president said his former foreign minister was “a very good person, a good leader, a good public servant … [and] my friend.”

“I hope that he decides to support the transformation, continue with the transformation, put the greater interest, the general interest first,” López Obrador said of Ebrard, who told a radio station Thursday morning that there was no longer a “space” for him in Morena.

“We have to wait and see what Marcelo Ebrard decides. … We respect him a lot, he’s our colleague, our friend, but he’s free to take the decision that he considers most appropriate,” he said.

“… Above all, the position [one holds] is not the important thing but rather the assignment, the project,” AMLO said.

He added that he didn’t agree with Ebrard’s assertion that Morena’s polling process “must be redone” because it was “completely transparent” and “there was no tipping the scales in anyone’s favor.”

López Obrador subsequently reiterated that his leadership of the “movement of transformation” would end when he handed over the “baton of command” to Sheinbaum later in the day.

“I’ll no longer intervene in any decision that has to do with the movement of transformation. Now, I’ll completely dedicate the time I have left [in office] to consolidating the programs in benefit of the people, … finishing the [government infrastructure] projects, governing for all, looking after everyone, listening to everyone, respecting everyone, even our adversaries,” said AMLO, who frequently acknowledges that he sounds like a broken record given the frequency with which he repeats some of his messages.

“… I’m very happy because there is generational change. I know Claudia very well and I’m very relaxed because I know there’s going to be continuity with change. … In addition, she’s an honest woman, with principles, with ideals, very prepared and experienced because she’s held important positions and was mayor of Mexico City,” he said.

Near the end of a presser dominated by questions relating to Morena’s candidate selection process and Ebrard’s dissatisfaction with it, López Obrador was asked about the Supreme Court’s decriminalization of abortion at the federal level.

Women marching in Sept. 2022 for abortion rights in Chiapas
Women marching in favor of decriminalizing abortion in September in Chiapas, one of 21 states in Mexico with laws making abortion a crime. The Supreme Court ruling paves the way for these laws to be changed. (Isabel Mateos Hinjosa/Cuartoscuro)

“I don’t have good information about that,” AMLO said. “I don’t know [the detail of] the ruling,” he added when asked whether public health care providers would be obliged to offer abortion services.

Among other remarks, the outgoing “movement of transformation” chief thanked United States authorities for filing a lawsuit that resulted in a federal judge ordering the state of Texas to remove the floating border barriers it placed in the Rio Grande to discourage migrants from crossing the river from Mexico into the U.S.

After describing the installation of the buoys as an “arrogant act,” López Obrador personally thanked President Joe Biden, explaining that he, “at our request,” took the decision to challenge Texas’ anti-migration measure.

“Yesterday this was resolved and it’s good news for the people of Mexico,” he said.

Friday

Early in his final presser of the week, López Obrador acknowledged that Texas Governor Greg Abbott had appealed the order to remove the floating barriers from the Rio Grande.

“He went to a judicial authority so that they would allow him to keep the buoys, but the case is continuing and we’re going to win, the government of Biden is going to win,” he said.

“… What the government of Texas is doing is completely reckless and inhumane as well,” AMLO said.

The president subsequently informed reporters that United States authorities had decided to reinstate Mexico’s Category 1 aviation safety rating more than two years after it was downgraded to Category 2.

President López Obrador met with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in June. (lopezobrador.org.mx)

He said that U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg informed Foreign Affairs Minister Alicia Bárcena of the decision.

“It’s good news, they’re going to formalize it next week. We’re very grateful to the United States Secretary of Transportation and we thank President Biden,” López Obrador said.

He later acknowledged that he had handed over the “baton of command” to Claudia Sheinbaum on Thursday evening.

“I have now finished my term as leader of the movement of transformation, the leader of the movement of transformation that millions of Mexicans initiated is now … Claudia Sheinbaum,” AMLO said.

“… Yesterday I really liked that she repeated our oath: don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t betray the people,” he said.

He reiterated that Marcelo Ebrard is free to take any decision he likes with regard to his political future, but echoed Sheinbaum’s remark that Morena’s doors are open. López Obrador said that he still considered Ebrard his “brother,” and asserted that he has millions of brothers and sisters throughout the country.

Claudia Sheinbaum, President Lopez Obrador, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard
AMLO stands between ex-Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum (left) and ex-Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard (right). (Andrea Murcia/Cuartoscuro)

He also said that his former foreign minister was a great help for him in the management of the bilateral relationship with the United States during “very difficult times” with former U.S. president Donald Trump, who in 2019 pressured Mexico to do more to stem illegal migration to the U.S. and threatened to impose blanket tariffs on Mexican imports if it didn’t.

Toward the end of his mañanera, AMLO touted the “political stability, social peace and governability” that he believes have prevailed during his time in government.

“Do you think that foreign investment would be arriving if there wasn’t political stability? Would our currency be strong?” he asked.

“No. Investors have very good information, they know very well – perfectly well – what the macroeconomic situation is like. In other words, [they know] what’s happening with variables such as [public] debt, the performance of the currency, what’s happening with inflation, productive activity, employment, consumption,” López Obrador said.

He also addressed the decision to postpone to January a reduction in hourly flight numbers at the Mexico City airport that was slated to commence in October.

Airlines pressured the government to postpone the starting date because they have already sold tickets for flights in late 2023, AMLO said. He said he agreed to the change, but added that he wants airlines to move more flights to the Felipe Ángeles International Airport north of the capital.

Raquel Buenrostro at the G20 summit
Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro with India’s Prime Minister Modi at the G20 summit. (SRE/X)

“There is space, and there’s no excuse [not to use the new airport]. On the contrary, the airport use tariff is lower,” López Obrador said, adding that airlines could lower their ticket prices as a result.

Among other remarks, AMLO noted that Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro is representing Mexico at the G20 summit taking place this weekend in New Delhi, India.

López Obrador, who hasn’t attended a single G20 summit since assuming the presidency, also said that Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena would attend an upcoming multilateral meeting in Cuba.

“We’re becoming internationalists because I’m going to Colombia and Chile,” he said shortly before ending his press conference ahead of his departure to Cali, where he was scheduled to discuss the fight against drug trafficking and other issues with President Petro.

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

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