Saturday, July 13, 2024

Farmers, “fifís” and foreign affairs: the week at the mañaneras

President López Obrador lost two members of his cabinet this week. Marcelo Ebrard stepped down as foreign minister on Monday and Adán Augusto López Hernández resigned his post as interior minister on Friday. Both are vying to become the ruling Morena party’s candidate at next year’s presidential election.

Other ministers and senior officials are expected to resign their positions soon as they shift their focus to winning candidacies for other elections, including gubernatorial ones, that will also be held on June 2, 2024.

AMLO with López Hernández and Ebrard
The president at a May press conference with Interior Minister López Hernández and Foreign Minister Ebrard. (Rogelio Morales Ponce / Cuartoscuro.com)

Resignations and finding replacements for those departing weren’t the only things that occupied AMLO’s mind this week.

Among the other issues he spoke about at his morning press conferences, or mañaneras, this week were security concerns faced by the mayor of Tijuana, the blistering heat across much of the country and the strength of the Mexican peso, which appreciated to just above 17 to the US dollar on Friday.

Monday

The federal minister for infrastructure, communications and transportation took center stage early in the press conference and provided an update on five infrastructure projects in Cancún, Quintana Roo.

The Nichupté Bridge, which will link the city to the hotel zone across the Nichupté Lagoon, is 21% complete, while the repaving of the Luis Donaldo Colosio Boulevard is 69% finished, Jorge Nuño Lara said.

A new airport distributor road is 64% complete and the widening of Chac Mool Avenue is 13% finished, he added.

The minister said that construction of a road link between the Cancún airport and the city’s Maya Train station will begin in July.

“This project consists of four kilometers … [and] will connect the four [airport] terminals with the Maya Train station,” Nuño said, adding that an electric vehicle with the capacity to transport 47 passengers will operate between the rail and air hubs.

Xóchitl Gálvez
The PAN senator knocking at the door of the National Palace. ( Moisés Pablo Nava / Cuartoscuro.com)

AMLO began his engagement with reporters about 35 minutes into his mañanera, and was soon asked about Senator Xóchitl Gálvez’s unsuccessful attempt to get into his Monday morning presser.

“I don’t want to talk a lot about that. … In general, you already know my opinion. The conservatives, including the señora Xóchitl Gálvez, have always been against the majority of the people – the poor, the dispossessed,” he said.

López Obrador claimed that the National Action Party senator – who obtained an injunction granting her the right of reply at the president’s presser after he made allegedly false comments about her late last year – wanted to challenge him as a publicity stunt because she wants to be a candidate in the election for Mexico City mayor next year.

Instead of coming to the National Palace to attend a mañanera, she should go to “where the fifís live,” AMLO said, using a disparaging slang word for the wealthy elite. “They’ll vote for her, without a doubt.”

The president was also asked about who would replace Marcelo Ebrard and Adán Augusto López Hernández, who left their respective positions as foreign minister and interior minister this week to focus on campaigning for the ruling Morena party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

“I think that this week we’ll announce who will replace Marcelo Ebrard,” López Obrador said without setting a timeline for the substitution of López Hernández.

He noted later that, in accordance with candidate selection process rules established last Sunday, he can’t speak out in favor of or against any of those vying to win the Morena nomination.

AMLO did say that all the Morena “pre-candidates” should “defend the transformation” of Mexico, “which is to defend the people [and] not allow classism, racism, discrimination and corruption.”

One reporter raised the case of Alexander Martínez Gómez, a 16-year-old soccer player who was killed by police in Acatlán de Pérez Figueroa, Oaxaca, in June 2020 when he was mistaken for a criminal.

The reporter asserted there was sufficient proof to convict the allegedly responsible municipal police office, but noted that a judge ruled otherwise.

“[Security Minister] Rosa Icela Rodríguez will attend to [the case] and tell us what the situation is,” AMLO said.

Among other remarks, López Obrador acknowledged that he would meet with the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, later in the week.

Tuesday

Alicia Bárcena, Mexico’s ambassador to Chile, will replace Marcelo Ebrard as foreign minister in 10 days, López Obrador told reporters.

“She has an extensive career in the field of diplomacy. She is a very intelligent and capable woman,” AMLO said of the former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“… I’m very happy because we’re going to be well represented. She’s a professional, a diplomat, a woman with convictions, with principles, and she will help us in this last stretch in government,” he said.

AMLO at press conference
The president announces that Alicia Bárcena, Mexico’s current ambassador to Chile, will be the next foreign minister. (Gob MX)

The president – a fierce critic of the National Electoral Institute (INE) while it was under the leadership of Lorenzo Córdova – subsequently noted that he would meet with INE councilors later in the day to “exchange points of view.”

“There is no defined agenda, it’s a conversation … with the aim of working in a coordinated way … to ensure democracy in the country, that there is no influence peddling, that the INE acts with complete autonomy and doesn’t depend on the government or oligarchical groups,”  AMLO said.

He said he believed there are “excellent conditions” to begin a “new stage” in the government’s relationship with the INE, which has been under the leadership of Guadalupe Taddei Zavala – who has links to Morena – since April.

One reporter asked AMLO about the directive to the Morena presidential aspirants to “avoid” speaking with “reactionary and conservative” media outlets.

“It is forbidden to prohibit,” but instructing the aspirants to “avoid” speaking with such outlets is fine, López Obrador said.

“It’s more than proven that the majority of media outlets … manipulate [information] and are at the service of the oligarchy,” he said.

“… There might be some exceptions, but … the majority of media outlets have [a preferred] party and defend interests. That’s why they don’t inform but manipulate. They have a political attitude and it’s a reactionary political attitude,” AMLO said.

The president was also asked about the the mayor of Tijuana’s announcement that she would move into military barracks due to concerns for her safety after receiving threats from presumed members of crime gangs.

Montserrat Caballero has been under protection for the past 15 days “because she has received threats,” López Obrador said.

Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero
Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero said that the move was a “sacrifice,” but explained, “I have a child, I have a family and I have a commitment to my city.” (Montserrat Caballero/Facebook)

“… An agreement to help her, to protect her, was reached and we’re going to continue doing so. We’re going to see how things evolve, always taking her opinion into account,” he said.

AMLO said that Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda and Senator Jaime Bonilla – a former governor of the northern border state – had also received threats from crime groups.

Late in the press conference, Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez indicated that she would remain in the president’s cabinet rather than pursue the mayorship of Mexico City at next year’s election.

“I’m staying in security, the [Ministry of] Security and Citizens Protection, I’ll remain here serving Mexicans,” she said.

Wednesday

During his Q & A session with reporters, López Obrador reiterated that he would completely withdraw from politics once his term as president concludes in late 2024.

“I’m not going to speak [about politics] at all, I’m going into full retirement. I will be spoken about a lot, but I’m going to leave with a very calm conscience, that’s the most important thing,” he said.

AMLO later acknowledged that some senior officials in his government – in addition to those vying for Morena’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election – will resign to focus on winning elected positions next year.

“The majority said they’re staying until the end,” he said, referring to members of his extended cabinet who attended a meeting at the National Palace on Tuesday.

“… There are others who decided to participate [in upcoming elections] – those that we already know about … and others who are going to participate in federal and state electoral processes and that is also valid,” López Obrador said.

Those who are leaving are “first-class” people and those staying are as well, he said.

The president didn’t say which officials intended to leave his government, but several – including Energy Minister Rocío Nahle and National Tourism Promotion Fund chief Javier May – have their eyes on the governorships of different states.

Turning to his meeting with INE councilors, López Obrador said he told the electoral officials that he wouldn’t tell them what to do as they are “independent” and “autonomous.”

“They should just act democratically and not become employees of oligarchs like the INE was before,” he said.

Noting that the Congress has blocked constitutional reform bills put forward by his government, including an ambitious one to overhaul Mexico’s electoral system, AMLO once again emphasized the value of having a two-thirds majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

INE and AMLO meeting
AMLO said a “new stage” has begun in the federal government’s relationship with the electoral agency. (AMLO/Twitter)

Citizens should vote in a way that helps their preferred presidential candidate have a supermajority in Congress as constitutional “modifications” are needed, he said.

“… For more than 30 years [past governments] dedicated themselves to reforming the constitution to favor a minority and harm the the people of Mexico. … There is not a single reform they did to benefit Mexico, to benefit the people. They adjusted the whole legal framework in order to loot, to steal,” López Obrador said.

Late in his presser, the president assigned some homework to reporters.

“Do you know what I’m going to have for breakfast? A chinín. I’ll leave [finding out what that is] as homework. It’s the butter of the poor,” he said, referring to what in fact is a native Mexican fruit similar to the avocado.

Thursday

Relatively early in his presser, AMLO noted that farmers demanding higher minimum prices for grains had blockaded the Culiacán airport, but asserted that the government wouldn’t give in to their demands.

“Not many [farmers are involved] because the majority of people realize that we’re helping producers and the most needy people, and what we’re seeking is food self-sufficiency – that is known,” he said.

López Obrador said that about 200 farmers had protested at the airport, where operations were suspended for two days before resuming on Thursday.

“We’re not going to give in, even if they have [control of] the airport. And also, for their peace of mind, we’re not going to use public force [to remove them],” he said not long before the protesting farmers left the airport for state government offices.

Culiacan grain protest
Sinaloa is Mexico’s largest producer of corn, and the protesting farmers claimed that market prices do not guarantee them a proper living. (Twitter)

“… I regret it because it affects those who use the airport, who need to travel, but our government doesn’t allow blackmail. … They should understand that we’ve helped them, that we’re going to continue helping them,” López Obrador said before accusing the “conservative bloc” – opposition parties and other government adversaries – of being involved in the protest

AMLO noted later in his mañanera that the Mexican peso is “very strong,” before asserting that many reasons for the currency’s strength are not acknowledged by “conservatives,” including journalists such as Jorge Ramos and Ciro Gómez Leyva.

“They say it’s external factors, that that’s why the peso is strong, as if it has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with combating corruption, nothing to do with Mexico being one of the most attractive countries for foreign investment, nothing to do with Mexico being among the countries with the lowest unemployment rates, noting to do with Mexico having [economic] growth rates of over 3%, noting to do with the increase to the minimum wage, … nothing to with there being governability, stability, social peace,” he said.

One reporter asked López Obrador whether the government had considered declaring a state of emergency due to high temperatures across much of the country.

“An information campaign is being carried out, Civil Protection is acting. The issue was dealt with today in the security cabinet,” he said.

“… We’re providing recommendations. Fortunately we haven’t had any tragedy, any loss of life,” AMLO said, even though his Health Ministry has reported deaths due to heatstroke.

Just before drawing his press conference to a close, López Obrador expressed his support for Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum’s nomination of Government Secretary Martí Batres as her replacement.

Batres – who was sworn in as mayor on Friday – is “an honest person, that’s very important, I always emphasize that, AMLO said.

“He’s a man with principles, with ideals. He comes from a family that has always fought for justice,” he said.

Martí Bartres
Martí Bartres is sworn in as the head of government to replace Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum. (GobCDMX/Twitter)

“I, with a lot of pride, was the first president of Morena when that organization was founded by millions of Mexicans, men and women from all the social classes, all the religions – believers, non-believers – indigenous people, campesinos, workers, business people, scientists, intellectuals and journalists. … And the second president of Morena was Martí. In addition, he knows the problems of Mexico City very well,” AMLO said.

“He will provide continuity to the process initiated [by Sheinbaum] in Mexico City, that’s a guarantee.”

Friday

It was a two-man show on Friday, with Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) chief Pablo Gómez accompanying Mexico’s preeminent political figure.

The government’s civil case in Florida aimed at recovering close to US $650 million in assets that former security minister Genaro García Luna allegedly acquired in the United States with proceeds of criminal activities in Mexico is going ahead, Gómez said.

Lawyers for García Luna – who was convicted in the U.S. on drug trafficking charges in February – filed a challenge “saying that the court … in Florida didn’t have the legal capacity to hear the trial,” he said.

Pablo Gómez
Pablo Gómez discusses the government’s lawsuit in the U.S. to recover ex-security minister García Luna’s allegedly ill-gotten gains. (Gob MX)

“Another court has now ruled and … the case for the return of the resources from Mexico is now unassailable. … There will be a trial without any doubt,” the UIF chief said.

López Obrador replaced Gómez at the mañanera lectern and confirmed that Adán Augusto López Hernández had resigned as interior minister to focus on the contest to secure Morena’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

The president said that a replacement interior minister had not yet been chosen, but announced that Deputy Interior Minister Alejandro Encinas – recently identified as a victim of espionage – would take charge of the ministry for the time being.

AMLO said he was preparing to “hand over the baton” to a new “leader of the transformation movement,” someone who can provide “continuity with change” to the political project he began when he was sworn in as president on Dec. 1, 2018.

“That’s why Adán resigned, because he’s looking to be the substitute, the replacement,” he said before noting that Marcelo Ebrard, Ricard Monreal and Claudia Sheinbaum were also in the contest.

“They’re resigning because they’re the best leaders of our movement, those who can lead this ship to a good port, this ship that is already on course,” López Obrador said.

“… We’re not going to take a single backward step … in the fight against corruption,” he added.

AMLO later spoke about the book he is currently writing, a follow-up to A la mitad del camino, which was published in 2021.

“The book isn’t autobiographical, … it has more to do with political experience,” he said, adding that its aim is to help young people who want to dedicate their lives to “the noble trade of politics.”

“There are lessons in the entire process we’ve lived, a lot of factors, a lot of circumstances are involved,” López Obrador said.

“… A lot of people fought before [us] in the student movement, in the workers’ movement, in the farmers’ movement, the movement for democracy – precursors of this movement. So it’s up to us to provide continuity to that process of struggle. It’s a special circumstance,” he said.

“Luck helps a lot as well. Politics, Machiavelli said, is virtue, but also fortune, also luck,” López Obrador said.

At the end of a shorter than usual press conference during which he offered his typical long and meandering responses to reporters’ questions, AMLO outlined his plan for another tour of Mexico’s southeast to inspect progress on the construction of the Maya Train railroad.

“[Today] it’s [Mexico City to] Palenque, Xpujil and we’ll sleep in Chetumal. Tomorrow Tulum, Cancún and we’ll sleep in Mérida,” he said, adding that he would supervise construction of the railroad in the state of Campeche on Sunday before returning to Mexico City from Ciudad del Carmen.

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

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