Friday, June 14, 2024

INE orders, independence and Indigenous culture: the week at the mañaneras

President López Obrador called Senator Xóchitl Gálvez, one of 13 aspirants to the Broad Front for Mexico’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election, a “puppet” of two former presidents and two businessmen at his morning press conference, or mañanera, on Tuesday.

It wasn’t the first time he made a public verbal attack on the senator, but it may have been one of the last. In response to a complaint filed by Gálvez, the National Electoral Institute ordered López Obrador to abstain from speaking about electoral issues.

Mexican Senator Xochitl Galvez
President López Obrador claims that Xóchitl Gálvez has already been selected as a rival candidate to his Morena party. (Gabriela Pérez Montiel/Cuartoscuro)

AMLO said on Friday that he intended to comply with the directive, but not before railing against having his right to freedom of speech taken away.

Monday

Ricardo Sheffield, head of the consumer protection agency Profeco, opened the press conference with his weekly report on fuel and food prices.

The three most expensive gas stations last week were Chrevron, Redco and Oxxo Gas, while the three cheapest were Total, BP and Exxon Mobil, he said.

“Thanks for being allies of consumers last week,” the Profeco chief said in reference to the latter three.

Campeche city residents blocked the Maya Train's proposed route through their historic center
The president said that he intends to take part in the first test operation of the Maya Train in September, ahead of operations commencing in December. (Presidencia/Cuartoscuro).

With regard to the 24 products of the canasta básica, or basic basket of essential foodstuffs, there is a “clear downward trend” in prices,” said Sheffield, who has expressed interest in representing the ruling Morena party at the 2024 gubernatorial election in his native state of Guanajuato.

During his regular Maya Train update, the general director of the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur), Javier May, noted that the first four train cars to be used on the 1,500-kilometer-long railroad arrived in Cancún last weekend.

The cars — the first “Maya Train” to reach Mexico’s southeast — will commence “static tests” once they have been coupled together and will subsequently begin to run between Cancún and Mérida for “dynamic tests,” May said.

“The transfer of this first train involved seven days of travel over almost 2,000 kilometers,” the Fonatur chief said, adding that the journey passed through 10 states.

“There were initially some setbacks, mainly due to rain, but the [expected] pace was resumed, and the journey was completed as estimated,” May said.

Muñoz Ledo
Porfirio Muñoz Ledo was a titan of Mexican politics and a key figure in the fight to remove the PRI from their 71-year tenure as Mexico’s rulers. (Cuartoscuro)

Before opening the floor to questions, AMLO acknowledged the death on Sunday of Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, a veteran leftist politician who served as a federal cabinet minister in the 1970s and was a cofounder of the Democratic Revolution Party.

López Obrador read aloud the message he shared on social media after the death of the 89-year-old Mexico City-born statesman.

“I regret the passing of Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, whom I agreed with for a long time. The recent disagreements don’t erase the long, good moments of friendship and comradeship, much less his political legacy. A hug to his family and friends.”

Responding to his first question of the day, AMLO announced that the government’s purchase of the defunct airline brand Mexicana de Aviación — in order to use it for a new state-owned commercial airline — was going ahead.

“A judge threw out the appeals filed by lawyers and some [former] workers against … the legal representatives of the union selling some assets and the Mexicana de Aviación brand. So [the problems] have been resolved,” he said less than a week after effectively ruling out the purchase.

“…We’re happy, and I believe the [former Mexicana] workers are as well because they’re going to receive a payment from the sale of this brand and these assets. An appraisal was done, and they’re going to receive about 1 billion pesos [US $58.6 million],” López Obrador said.

“There are 6,000 workers, and some of them are going to get sixty thousand, eighty thousand or even 100,000 pesos. This will be compensation for all they have suffered,” AMLO said before railing against former president Vicente Fox for “almost gifting” Mexicana “to one of his close friends” before the airline went bankrupt, while employees were “thrown out on the street.”

Later in his press conference, López Obrador remarked that the government’s infrastructure projects in the south and southeast of the country — such as the Maya Train railroad, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec trade corridor and the Olmeca refinery — are aimed at “evening out development” in Mexico.

“In the neoliberal period, there wasn’t horizontal development. Well, there wasn’t development; what there was, was economic growth, and it wasn’t even — the north [of the country] grew, the center grew and the south and southeast declined,” he said.

Among other remarks, AMLO noted that he will deliver his fifth annual government report in Campeche on Sept. 1.

“And that day, once I’ve finished the report, we’re going to get on the [Maya] train,” López Obrador said, adding that he will travel from Campeche to Mérida on the first “supervision” trip of the new railroad slated to begin operations on Dec. 1.

“In December, [we’ll have] the inauguration, but in September, we’re going to do that supervision [trip],” he said.

Tuesday

A man known as “Pepe Gangas” and another nicknamed “Comandante Oso” were among thousands of people detained during the previous two weeks, according to information included in the recurring “Zero Impunity” report, presented by Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez Bucio.

Rodríguez said that the former was arrested in connection with the murder of a municipal official in Bácum, Sonora, while the latter was detained on charges of extorting hotel owners in Solidaridad, a Quintana Roo municipality where the resort city of Playa del Carmen is located.

“Pepe Gangas” was detained for the murder of a munipical officer in the northern state of Sonora. (FGR)

The deputy minister also noted that a man was arrested in connection with a car bomb explosion in Celaya, Guanajuato, late last month, which claimed the life of a National Guard officer, and that two men allegedly involved in a Mexico City jewelry store robbery were taken into custody.

Rodríguez acknowledged that one of three journalists who disappeared in Nayarit earlier this month was found dead, while the two others survived their kidnappings.

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez presented the latest crime statistics, including homicide data showing that there were 2,536 murders in June, a 5% decline compared to the same month of 2022. Last month was the least violent June of the past six years, she said.

During his Q & A session with reporters, López Obrador claimed that Xóchitl Gálvez — the senator he asserts has already been chosen as the Broad Front for Mexico’s 2024 presidential candidate — is a “puppet” of former presidents Fox and Carlos Salinas, as well as businessmen Claudio X. González and Roberto Hernández.

In contrast, the Morena party candidate — the person who “will receive the baton of leadership of the [ruling party’s] transformation movement” — will have “autonomy,” and his or her only “master” will be “the people of Mexico,” AMLO said.

One reporter asked the president why broadcasting behemoth Televisa is conducting “a campaign against” Adán Augusto López Hernández, López Obrador’s former interior minister and one of the six aspirants to the Morena nomination.

Por algo será, that’s what they say in my hometown [in Tabasco],” AMLO said, using a phrase that roughly translates as “there must be some reason.”

“…It’s very obvious that Televisa is against Adán. I don’t know why … [The broadcasters] are constantly against him, and now it’s like they have an order to speak well of the señora Xóchitl,” he said.

On the presence of organized crime in Guerrero — where 13 people, including National Guard officers and state police, were taken hostage this week as part of a highway blockade outside the capital of Chilpancingo that officials attributed to criminal gangs — López Obrador said that the government would solve the problem “without the use of force.”

an APC
Protesters in Guerrero with an armored troop carrier they stole and then returned this week as part of their blockade protest. (Dassaev Téllez Adame/Cuartoscuro)

He rejected a reporter’s suggestion that Guerrero is a “failed state,” asserting that crime is only a major issue in one of the state’s eight regions. The blockade of the Autopista del Sol highway on the outskirts of Chilpancingo that was set up earlier this week by citizens allegedly acting on the instructions of two imprisoned members of the Los Ardillos crime group was “dramatic,” but the government wouldn’t give in to their demands, AMLO said.

Asked to identify the criminal group responsible for a fire on Monday in the Toluca Central de Abasto wholesale market that claimed the lives of at least nine people, López Obrador asked his security minister for comment.

“The investigation is being carried out by the state Attorney General’s Office in collaboration with … the security cabinet of the federal government,” Rosa Icela Rodríguez said.

“There are several lines of investigation, and there was an advance yesterday. Today I would only like to say that the culprits will be arrested…Unfortunately several people lost their lives,” she said, acknowledging also that children were among the dead.

“… We will soon have results,” Rodríguez said before noting that the lighting of the fire was linked to the crime of extortion.

Shortly before concluding his Tuesday mañanera, López Obrador thanked the band Grupo Frontera and the musical artist Bad Bunny for withdrawing their opposition to his use of their song “un x100to” during a recent press conference.

“They removed the song from my social media due to copyright, but as what we do is not for profit and because they’re good people, they exempted us [from copyright infringement] yesterday,” he said.

Wednesday

During a heated discussion with a reporter about violence in Mexico, López Obrador asserted that the media and “the conservatives” — as the president calls opponents of his administration — exaggerate the situation, “as if it was the same as before and we weren’t attending every day to this problem that we inherited from corrupt governments that were linked to organized crime.”

“In the time of [former president Felipe] Calderón, there was a narco-state, and that’s not spoken about. You might be speaking about the violence in Chiapas, in Guerrero or in any place, [and]…even those of you who do independent journalism…don’t deal with the [history of the] issue — García Luna, for example,” AMLO said, referring to the Calderón-era security minister who was found guilty of collusion with organized crime following a trial in the United States earlier this year.

Outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderon with incoming president Enrique Pena Nieto
Former president Felipe Calderón, left, seen here passing the presidency to Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012, is a frequent target of criticism from AMLO, who claims his predecessors caused many of Mexico’s modern ills. (Aarón Sánchez/Cuartoscuro

“You don’t address the issue of the war [with cartels] that was unleashed with Calderón,” he added amid a lengthy rebuke of the Mexican press.

“I regret that you see those of us doing a job as adversaries,” Ernesto Ledesma of the news site Rompeviento said almost an hour into his back-and-forth engagement with the president. “We don’t have political party agendas…We’re doing a job and we’re honest with our work,” Ledesma said.

Later in his press conference, AMLO lamented the drug crisis in the United States fueled by the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl, which Mexican cartels illegally ship into the U.S. across the northern border.

“The fentanyl situation in the United States is very serious. [The U.S. government] is acting responsibly, but more needs to be done, and the causes [of addiction] need to be dealt with,” he said.

“… It’s a very complex problem because there is demand, and it’s demand for fentanyl or demand for any drugs,” AMLO added.

“… There is a society that is unsatisfied  — in this case, young people who feel alone. There is a void; they’re not happy, and they seek to confront that distress, that void, that unhappiness … with drugs, which create happiness temporarily, but it’s an ephemeral thing, a trap that leads to greater unhappiness and … [even] the loss of life,” he said.

López Obrador reiterated his view that Mexico doesn’t have a large drug problem and claimed that there are few Mexicans in the U.S. with addiction issues.

A permanent exhibition honoring the lives lost to fentanyl lines the walls of the DEA Museum in Washington, D.C. President López Obrador says these deaths are the result of an unhappy society and that the problem does not exist in any meaningful way in Mexico. (U.S. Department of Justice)

“It has to do with our idiosyncrasies. That’s why I always defend our past, our cultures, what we inherited from the great Mesoamerican civilizations,” he said.

“… Who are we, the Mexicans? We share with each other because we have a tradition of community life. What are we? [We’re] caring, fraternal, we help each other out. … What else are Mexicans? Hardworking, very hardworking. What else…? Honest, very honest. These are the virtues our people have.”

Among other remarks, AMLO noted that he would travel to Durango next week to attend a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the death of revolutionary hero Francisco “Pancho” Villa.

“We’re going to La Coyotada because Francisco Villa was born there. And we’re dedicating this year to him, Francisco Villa, the revolutionary of the people,” he said.

Thursday

AMLO opened his fourth press conference of the week with a monologue on the richness of Mexican history and culture.

“It tends to happen that those of us who have the possibility to do so go abroad on occasion — to Egypt, to Athens — and we don’t know what we have in our country: our exceptional, splendid cultural and artistic past. We have to exalt the cultural grandeur of Mexico because starting centuries ago, since [the Spanish] invaded us, they considered us barbarians and made us believe that they came to civilize us,” he said.

Edzna archaeological site, Mexico
The president said that Mexican people need to take more pride in the history of their nation and appreciate the glory of Mexico’s historic monuments. (soft_light/Shutterstock)

“… Although our people nourish themselves with this glorious, exceptional, extraordinary past, it’s very important to … strengthen our identity and also … pay tribute to the cultures, the great [pre-Hispanic] civilizations that flourished in our territory because thanks to that, cómo México no hay dos,” López Obrador said, using a proverb (and movie and song title) that means there is no other country similar to Mexico.

During his introductory remarks, AMLO also noted that there are forecasts that Mexico will become one of the 10 largest economies in the coming decades.

“Mexico is very attractive for foreign investment — it’s one of the countries that’s receiving the most foreign investment in the world,” he said.

Diego Prieto Hernández, director general of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), subsequently reported that INAH has carried out archaeological inspections along the route of all seven sections of the Maya Train railroad and has “granted approval” for the construction of the entire project.

“In each piece, each shard, every fragment of ceramic or arrowhead or flint knife” found along the route there is “very valuable information to recover knowledge about the evolution, the development, the characteristics and the composition of the civilizations and cultures that flourished in this territory,” he said.

Banners protesting the Maya Train
There have been widespread protests against the construction of the Maya Train project, including concerns about damage to artifacts that might be on the route. But INAH’s head Diego Prieto Hernández assured reporters that his agency has inspected the entire route and made valuable new archeological finds. (Twitter)

Back behind the mañanera lectern, AMLO acknowledged that the Mexico City-Querétaro highway is “very busy” and announced that the government has entered into an agreement with railroad company Canadian Pacific Kansas City “to begin to draw up the project for the construction of a passenger train” to run between the two cities.

“Fifteen or 20 days ago, an agreement was signed in which the company commits to … looking at the viability [of the project], which I maintain it has,” López Obrador said.

“… This railroad company already has the concession for the line, so it’s using the same line for passenger trains and modernizing the system. This will help a lot because … there’s a lot of traffic and constant accidents [on the highway],” he said.

AMLO later indicated that he partially shared Jalisco Governor Enrique Alfaro’s view about the events leading up to the detonation of seven improvised explosives that killed six people, including four police officers, in a municipality south of Guadalajara on Tuesday night.

“It was an ambush, a trap,” he said, indicating that he agreed with Alfaro’s statement that police were lured to the site of the explosion after receiving a call alerting them to the “supposed” presence of human remains there.

“[What happened is] reprehensible. In addition, they used a means [of luring police to the location] that has to do with a human activity, as is the case with searching for [missing] family members,” López Obrador said.

The president said that “everything indicates” that it wasn’t a member of a “searching mothers” collective that called the police after receiving an anonymous tip-off about the presence of human remains — as Alfaro claimed — but rather someone else who passed herself off as such and was actually colluding with the criminal group that placed the explosives on a road in Tlajomulco.

“We very much regret this event. It’s cruel, a trap; it can’t be accepted, permitted or justified in any way. An investigation is being done, and the government of the state of Jalisco is in charge, but we always help in these cases,” he said.

Friday

“We’re very happy to be here in La Paz, Baja California Sur,” López Obrador remarked at the beginning of his presser before inviting the state’s Governor Víctor Manuel Castro Cosío to speak.

Castro delivered a lengthy address, during which he welcomed AMLO to Baja California Sur (BCS) and spoke about a range of issues, including government investment in the state to improve security, health care, education and citizens’ overall well-being.

A whale shark statue with the sea in the background at sunset.
Baja California Sur has benefitted heavily from federal government social programs, Governor Victor Castro told reporters at Friday’s mañanera. (Luis Aleman/Unsplash)

About 150,000 people out of a population of 800,000 people in BCS benefit directly from the federal government’s social programs, he said.

“The enrollment in high schools increased, Mr. President, thanks to the scholarships [for students],” Castro said.

“… For me, it’s an honor to be with López Obrador,” the Morena party governor said at the conclusion of his remarks.

Navy Minister José Rafael Ojeda Durán reported that Baja California Sur ranks 31st out of Mexico’s 32 federal entities for total homicides during the term of the current government — Yucatán is the least violent — and 29th for murders per 100,000 people.

“There is very good security,” Ojeda said of Baja California Sur, which was one of Mexico’s most violent states for a period last decade.

Later in the mañanera, a reporter asked AMLO about the directive from the National Electoral Institute (INE) ordering him not to speak publicly about electoral issues.

INE and Frente Amplio candidates
The INE has ordered AMLO to cease discussing election matters in public. (Andrea Murcia)

“I’m going to appear here with tape [across my mouth],” jested López Obrador, whose remarks about presidential aspirant Senator Xóchitl Gálvez prompted her to file a complaint with INE.

“They want to silence me, they don’t want me to speak. And where does that leave freedom? And freedom of speech? And the right to reply? And the right to dissent? Aren’t these basic principles of democracy?” he asked.

After confirming that the government hasn’t received formal notification of the INE’s ruling, López Obrador said he still had time to ask businessman Claudio X. González — a cofounder of the organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) — to “hurry up” and conduct an investigation about government infrastructure project contracts awarded to companies owned by Senator Gálvez.

“I received information that in nine years, she received contracts for close to 1.5 billion pesos. They just need to clarify it, … public life has to be increasingly more public,” he said.

“…This man, Claudio X. González, is supposedly interested in transparency, but [MCCI] only does investigations against us; they even receive money from the United States to do their investigations against us, all of which have failed because, in my case, I’m not a thief,” AMLO said.

Late in his press conference, the president suddenly called for the United States-Mexico exchange rate to be displayed on the screen behind him and noted that the peso — 16.81 to the U.S. dollar at the time of the press conference — was fortachón, or very strong. (Later in the day, the peso would strengthen even further, trading at just under 16.74 pesos to the U.S. dollar at the close of markets on Friday.)

AMLO subsequently directed his communications coordinator to present the latest data on the popularity of world leaders from business intelligence company Morning Consult.

Jesús Ramírez noted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the most popular leader with a 77% approval rating, followed by AMLO, with 61% of poll respondents approving of his performance and 35% disapproving.

López Obrador remarked that his detractors would call him “egocentric, vain, conceited, and arrogant” for displaying the data.

Before bringing his mañanera to a close, AMLO pledged to “continue helping” the people of Baja California Sur and to continue combatting crime throughout the state, including extortion.

“Let one thing be clear: [In my government there is] zero corruption and zero impunity. Before there was no border, the line wasn’t painted. It wasn’t known where crime ended and where the authorities began,” he said.

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

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