Thursday, June 13, 2024

Elections, ‘elites’ and embezzlement: the week at the mañaneras

The selection process to be used by the three-party Va por México alliance to select its 2024 presidential candidate was a dominant topic at President López Obrador’s morning press conferences, or mañaneras, this week.

The PAN-PRI-PRD coalition unveiled its method on Monday and announced the formation of the Frente Amplio por México (Broad Front for Mexico), which will also include citizens’ groups aligned with what AMLO calls “the conservative bloc.”

Politicians of Frente Amplio por México
The opposition coalition, including the PAN, PRI and PRD, has formed the “broad front for Mexico” and announced their selection method for a presidential candidate on Monday. (Daniel Augusto / Cuartoscuro.com)

Hours before the selection process was presented at an event at a Mexico City hotel, López Obrador had already labeled it a “sham,” asserting that the opposition candidate will in fact be chosen by a single person or a “corrupt oligarchy”, rather than via democratic means.

Monday

Claudio X. González, a businessman and co-founder of the civil society organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity, will ultimately choose the main opposition parties’ candidate for the 2024 presidential election, AMLO claimed while responding to his first question of the day.

“The corrupt, looting oligarchy is coming to an agreement to have a candidate,” he told reporters after dismissing the Va por México opposition alliance’s candidate selection process – which was announced on Monday but details of which emerged last weekend – as a “sham.”

“… They don’t have a plan [for the country], nothing. What they want to do is continue stealing,” López Obrador said.

The president said he would make his prediction about who the opposition standard bearer will be later in the week.

“I’ll tell you in two or three days and I’m sure I won’t be wrong,” AMLO said.

“… The top magnates are consulted, the conservative political leaders are also consulted. What do [former presidents] Fox, Calderón and Salinas think? They do that consultation then they interact with organic intellectuals, writers, journalists and after that [the candidate] is known,” López Obrador said.

“[The selection process] is a sham, and the conservative bloc candidate, regardless of who it is, … [will] continue with the same classist, racist, discriminatory politics,” he asserted.

Claudio González and Vicente Fox
Businessman Claudio X. González and former president Vicente Fox were special guests at the opposition coalition event. (Daniel Augusto / Cuartoscuro.com)

One reporter put it to the president that the aspirants to the ruling Morena party nomination for next year’s presidential election are seeking to style themselves in his image and demonstrate the closeness of their relationships with him as part of their strategy to gain support.

“The thing is we’re very similar, we come from … [the same] movement,” Lopez Obrador responded. “… They’re all my siblings. How many are there? I have five brothers and a sister.”

AMLO noted later in his presser that the government is carrying out a national survey on drug use. The aim is to “have a good diagnosis to improve our actions,” he said.

“The truth is that we succeeded from the beginning by attending to the causes of violence. If we hadn’t, the [security] situation would be very complicated. But we got down to attending to the causes [of crime], attending to young people. That has helped us a lot – all the scholarship programs [and the] Youths Building the Future [apprentice scheme],” López Obrador said.

The president subsequently asserted that there is not a lot of drug use in Mexico due to “cultural, moral and spiritual values” and “the cohesion” of Mexican families.

“The family is a fundamental institution, … a social security institution,” AMLO said.

Despite his previous remarks, he conceded that drug use is a problem in certain parts of the country including the border region and Guanajuato, Mexico’s most violent state in recent years.

“We’re working on the case of Guanajuato … because it’s a hot spot. And not all of Guanajuato [but] the industrial corridor. It has to do with the factories, the low salaries paid to workers, the abandonment of families, the lack of welfare programs, of support and other factors,” López Obrador said.

“And [drug] use is what leads to more homicides. That’s why Guanajuato accounts for 12% or up to 15% of [Mexico’s] daily homicides, because gangs clash over the market to control street-level drug dealing,” he said.

Among other remarks, López Obrador responded to United Kingdom government advice warning against “all but essential travel” to seven Mexican states and “all but essential travel” to certain areas within three others.

“They’re misinformed and they’re missing out on getting to know a beautiful country,” he said.

“… I would say to English citizens that there is nothing to fear in Mexico, that we’re reducing the crime rate and that there are very few places where there is violence, very few. Mexico is a beautiful and safe country,” AMLO said.

Tuesday

The press conference started with the government’s regular “Zero Impunity” report, during which Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez Bucio offered details on a selection of recent arrests.

Among the thousands of people detained between June 13 and 26, he said, were a former judge in Veracruz accused of influence peddling, an ex-official from Hidalgo who allegedly embezzled 18 million pesos earmarked for the COVID-19 pandemic response and a former official from Nayarit accused of a range of crimes including embezzlement, influence peddling and criminal association.

National Guard chief Córdova
National Guard chief Córdova gave an update on seizures of illicit drugs on Tuesday. (lopezobrador.org.mx)

National Guard Commander David Córdova Campos subsequently noted that 1,727 kilograms of fentanyl, more than 138,000 kilograms of methamphetamine, almost 53,000 kilograms of cocaine, nearly 21,000 kilograms of heroin, 41.2 million pesos in cash and banknotes totaling US $3.8 million have been seized by authorities so far this year.

Responding to his first question of the day, López Obrador stressed that the government is committed to combating illegal logging.

AMLO asserted that a lot of progress has been made, but acknowledged that the crime remains a problem in some parts of the country including an area of Mexico City near the border with Morelos and mountainous parts of Durango and Chihuahua.

Asked about Va por México’s presidential candidate selection process, the president repeated his claim that Claudio X. González hijo – the son of the 89-year-old magnate of the same name – is pulling the strings.

“The representative of the entire conservative bloc is Claudio X. González hijo, but of course behind him are [former president Carlos] Salinas and others,” López Obrador said, adding that ex-president Vicente Fox is “very active” behind the scenes.

The “tycoons, oligarchs [and] corrupt politicians” under the leadership of González will choose the Va por México candidate, AMLO said, even though the main opposition parties have outlined a selection process that includes a “direct” vote by citizens.

Later in his presser, López Obrador reiterated that the government’s purchase of 13 power plants from Spanish energy company Iberdrola had allowed the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) to increase its share of the electricity generation market to 55%.

He noted that the government is modernizing 20 hydro-electric plants and building 12 new combined-cycle plants and a solar farm. With the “33 new plants,” the CFE will have a 60% share of the market “when our government ends,” AMLO said.

An Iberdrola Electric plant at night
The Iberdrola power plants purchased by the government are predominantly located in the north of the country. (Iberdrola)

Toward the end of his mañanera, López Obrador said that the government would send a letter to the Supreme Court seeking an explanation as to why the 11 justices earn salaries higher than his own.

The government wants to know “why [the justices] are violating article 127 of the constitution, which establishes that no [public servant] can earn more than the president of the republic,” he said.

“They earn four, five times more than what I earn. … I earn about 140,000 or 150,000 pesos [a month] and they earn 600,000. So I want them to explain to me why so I can inform the people of Mexico,” López Obrador said.

He said that the letter would be sent later on Tuesday and that the Supreme Court justices would have five days to respond.

“They should explain to us why they earn four times more than the president, why they violate the constitution, whether what they are doing is legal,” AMLO said.

Wednesday

Making another attack on the “manipulative” media during his introductory remarks, López Obrador expressed his support for citizen journalism.

While the “conventional” press is “co-opted” by the powerful elite, “we have to move forward and bet on each citizen becoming a media outlet,” he said, adding that almost any person has the capacity to do so due to widespread cell phone usage.

Ana García Vilchis, the government’s chief debunker of (purported) fake news, replaced the president at the mañanera lectern and noted that her controversial “Who’s Who in the Lies of the Week” segment had turned two.

President López Obrador and Ana García Vilchis at the Wednesday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

“It’s an honor to be with Obrador and to belong to the fourth transformation team,” García said before getting down to business.

“… It’s false that the López Obrador government authorized a multi-million-dollar payment to a company … [linked to Genaro] García Luna,” she said.

García said that several media outlets had reported on an Animal Político article that asserted that the government paid just under US $6.5 million to a company controlled by the former security minister and convicted drug trafficker.

“The information provided lacks veracity because the [security] contracts correspond to the six-year terms of [former presidents] Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto,” she said.

Back before reporters, AMLO asserted that he knew who the Va por México presidential candidate would be, but declined to offer a name.

“They already made an agreement, I have information that they have an agreement,” he said, adding that he would reveal who the person is after his July 1 rally to mark the fifth anniversary of his 2018 election victory.

AMLO 2018
AMLO took office in December 2018 following an election in which he received 53% of the vote. (Lopezobrador.org.mx)

AMLO claimed that the majority of aspirants to the Va por México candidacy know that the candidate has in fact already been chosen, but are nevertheless participating in the selection process because doing so increases their chances of being offered a proportional representation seat in Congress, which are allocated to parties based on the percentage of votes they attract.

A few aspirants might “naively” think “there will be democracy and a level playing field,” López Obrador said. “No, no, no,” he added. “They already decided.”

Later in his presser, AMLO said that Senator Lilly Téllez had decided not to take part in what he sees as a “sham” selection process because she realized she isn’t “the chosen one.”

A shift in focus came via a reporter’s question on the government’s plan to give control of the Mexico City International Airport (AICM) to the Mexican Navy.

López Obrador confirmed that responsibility for the AICM would pass from the Ministry of Infrastructure, Communications and Transportation to the navy, and noted that the latter is already in charge of security at the airport.

“[The navy] has done a very good job. I believe that a lot of people are already noticing that; there’s no theft of suitcases, as happened before, and care is taken so that contraband doesn’t come in, so that drugs don’t come in,” he said.

The president responded to questions on a range of other issues, including one on the recent arrest of eight soldiers in connection with the disappearance and presumed murder of the 43 Ayotzinapa students in Guerrero in 2014.

“We have the commitment to shed light on these events, there won’t be impunity,” López Obrador said.

“… If one member of the army, two, three, five, 10 [or] 15 acted badly – committed crimes – they can’t be protected, can’t be given impunity, because instead of helping the institution, that harms it,” he said.

“The problem with Ayotzinapa, apart from the crime committed, is that … [the previous government] wanted to hide things,” AMLO added.

Thursday

“Today we’re going to report on the fraud at Segalmex,” López Obrador said, referring to embezzlement and other kinds of corruption and illicit conduct detected at the food security agency established by his government.

“It’s a very regrettable event, it’s the most scandalous and I believe the only case of corruption that we’ve faced during our government,” he said.

“… This government doesn’t allow, doesn’t tolerate corruption or impunity because we’re different,” AMLO added.

Public Administration Minister Roberto Salcedo at the Thursday press conference. (Gob MX)

Public Administration Minister Roberto Salcedo Aquino said that irregularities totaling 9.5 billion pesos (US $555.1 million) had been detected at Segalmex by the ministry he heads up and the Federal Auditor’s Office.

“The amount … comes from the results of audits in 2019 and 2020. They are findings that are in the process of being analyzed by the relevant authorities,” he said, noting that Segalmex has the opportunity to “clarify” where the money went.

Eighty-seven people – 41 former public servants and 46 “owners, partners, representatives, shareholders and lawyers of companies linked” to alleged corruption at Segalmex – face charges, said federal fiscal prosecutor Félix Arturo Medina Padilla.

After returning to center stage, AMLO pledged that the Segalmex corruption case won’t go unpunished and reiterated his commitment to combating corruption.

The president subsequently said that the final year of the terms of previous governments, was known colloquially and “improperly” as “the year of Hidalgo,” named after Independence hero Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.

During the final year before a government left office, officials “dedicated themselves to looting, to stealing,” López Obrador said, adding that in the final year of his administration – which will begin in October – there will be no “year of Hidalgo,” at least in the sense in which the term was previously used.

There will be a “year of Hidalgo,” but to celebrate “the father of our homeland,” he clarified.

Later in his presser while responding to a question about his government’s welfare programs, AMLO spotted an opportunity to criticize Senator Xóchitl Gálvez, a leading aspirant to the Va por México presidential nomination.

“The program most accepted by the people for a long time, since we began it when I was mayor [of Mexico City], is the program of support for senior citizens and now even more so. It’s the program that the people approve the most. It’s the program that the conservatives didn’t want,” he said.

Former president Vicente Fox and Gálvez, who was an official in Fox’s 2000-2006 government, said “it was better to put the elderly to work,” López Obrador said.

The National Action Party Senator is “now very active as a representative of the oligarchy, with the same thinking as Fox, she even worked with Fox, she’s from the school of Fox,” he said.

Among other remarks, López Obrador said he was very happy to hear about the Tourism Ministry’s designation of 45 new pueblos mágicos, or magical towns, and asserted – not for the first time – that groups that cause problems at women’s marches are “manipulated by the far-right” of Mexican politics.

Friday

“What happened is very regrettable,” AMLO said in response to a question about the murder of self-defense force founder Hipólito Mora in Michoacán on Thursday.

“… It’s very sad and painful for families when a person is murdered. We regret it a lot,” he said.

López Obrador claimed that the murder of Mora and three bodyguards was a “remnant of the violence fostered and allowed” by previous governments, especially the 2006-2012 administration of former president Felipe Calderón.

“Remember there was a narco-state in Mexico during the government of Felipe Calderón. The public security minister of Felipe Calderón – who is in prison, accused [and convicted] of complicity with drug traffickers – applied a strategy of elimination for some criminals and protection for others,” he said.

Hipólito Mora's funeral
Mora’s funeral was held on Friday in La Ruana, Michoacán. ( Juan José Estrada Serafín / Cuartoscuro.com)

AMLO said that Mora had asked for and received protection from the state government because he had been targeted in previous attacks, but “it wasn’t possible to avoid him being murdered.”

“The governor has said that he spoke with him to tell him to leave [the town of] La Ruana, to go to Morelia. He had an armored vehicle, but these criminals … are very violent, they have high-caliber weapons,” he said.

Later in his presser, López Obrador acknowledged that his term in government has been the most violent in recent history in terms of homicides, but blamed that fact on the security situation he inherited.

“Mexico’s highest paid journalist and one of the best paid in the world whose name is Jorge Ramos says: ‘It’s the six-year period of government with the most deaths.’ Well, yes, yes, due to this,” AMLO said after presenting data that showed increases in homicide numbers during the governments led by former presidents Fox, Calderón and Peña Nieto and a decline during his own presidency.

“Just imagine the years of corruption, of impunity, of collusion,” he said.

López Obrador left the past behind to focus on the near future when a reporter asked him whether his rally on Saturday to celebrate the fifth anniversary of his election as president would be the last time he would fill Mexico City’s central square, the Zócalo.

“On Saturday, tomorrow, everyone’s invited. We’re going to celebrate five years,” AMLO said.

“… It’s five years since the historic day on which the people decided to support us to begin a transformation in the country. … How many more times [will we fill the Zócalo]? Well, we don’t know, but that’s the way we’ve always fought, with the mobilization of citizens, the support of citizens. Without a doubt, we’re the ones who have summoned [people] to the Zócalo the greatest number of times in all of history,” he said.

Toward the end of his mañanera, the president addressed two crimes that made headlines this week: the abduction of 16 Security Ministry employees in Chiapas and the detonation of a car bomb in Celaya, Guanajuato.

AMLO at Friday press conference
The president discusses security during the Friday press conference. (Gob MX)

“We’re looking for [the police employees], there is coordinated work between … the federal government, the Ministry of Defense, the National Guard and also state police,” he said in relation to the first case.

López Obrador said that an investigation into the car blast was underway and noted that a member of the National Guard was killed, apparently while responding to a tip-off that there were dead bodies in the vehicle.

“They made the bomb explode when National Guard troops went to check a car,” AMLO said.

Just before the conclusion of his presser, López Obrador confirmed that new Foreign Affairs Minister Alicia Bárcena and Morena party state governors would attend his rally on Saturday.

“I have to go now because we’re going to the commemoration of the fourth anniversary of the [inauguration of] the National Guard,” he said shortly before he left the press conference to travel to a Mexico City military facility where the event was held.

“… Mañana fiesta, baile,” he added, referring to the festivities planned for the Zócalo gathering. “Adiós, adiós.

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

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