Sunday, June 16, 2024

Medicine, media and Moctezuma: the week at the mañaneras

With gubernatorial elections in México state and Coahuila now over, focus on the 2024 presidential contest has intensified.

The ruling Morena party, which President López Obrador founded, is gearing up to choose its new standard bearer via an internal survey process, prompting Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard to take the decision to step down this coming Monday to focus on winning the nomination.

Claudia Sheinbaum, President Lopez Obrador, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard
AMLO between the two presidential frontrunners for the Morena party, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum (left) and Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard (right). (Andrea Murcia/Cuartoscuro)

AMLO, who contested the 2006 and 2012 presidential elections before his emphatic 2018 triumph, reaffirmed his commitment to not “tip the balance” in favor of any of the so-called pre-candidates, emphasizing at his Wednesday press conference that times have changed and that he, as president, would not anoint a successor.

Colloquially known as mañaneras, his morning pressers this week were – as always – wide-ranging, with the elimination of daylight saving time, an apparent army massacre and efforts to repatriate a pre-Hispanic headdress among the topics discussed.

Monday

After a brief introduction from AMLO and the weekly update on gasoline and grocery prices from consumer protection agency chief Ricardo Sheffield, Deputy Interior Minister Alejandro Encinas offered a report on the response to the June 5, 2009 fire in a daycare center in Hermosillo that claimed the lives of 49 young children and injured more than 40 others.

“Today, on the anniversary of the terrible tragedy of the ABC daycare fire, we want to reaffirm our commitment to, and solidarity with, the relatives of all the victims and the survivors,” Encinas said.

He said that compensation has been paid to 142 “direct and indirect victims,” including families of deceased children, injured children and adults and children “exposed” to the tragedy.

Zoé Robledo, head of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), noted that two former IMSS officials who held positions related to overseeing daycare centers were arrested in November 2020 in connection with the fire.

He said that the officials have been ordered to stand trial and that the Federal Attorney General’s Office is currently working to complete its investigation.

Alejandro Encinas at morning press conference
Deputy Interior Minister Alejandro Encinas at the Monday press conference. (Gob MX)

Yucatán Governor Mauricio Vila also addressed the press conference, and during an update on infrastructure projects in the state noted that López Obrador had authorized the Ministry of National Defense to build a branch line of the Maya Train railroad “practically” to the port in the Gulf of Mexico town of Progreso.

“This will help us a lot because we’ll bring the train closer to the port, and we hope to build a classification yard that allows us to make the connection from the Trans-Isthmus train project to the Maya Train [railroad] and the port in Progreso,” he said.

During his Q & A session with reporters, López Obrador congratulated the people of México state and Coahuila who “exercised their right to freely elect” new governors on Sunday.

“There were no major problems, people participated and there were no post-electoral protests,” he said.

AMLO also congratulated the winners of the gubernatorial elections – Morena candidate Delfina Gómez in México state and PRI-PAN-PRD candidate Manolo Jiménez Salinas in Coahuila.

The president told reporters that he had been “reflecting” on the “political composition in the states” in the wake of the elections, and noted that Morena will control 22 states “with the triumph of the maestra [teacher] Delfina.”

“The Green Party has one [state], Citizens Movement has two, the PRI has one and the PAN has five. That’s the way it is,” he said.

AMLO stressed that the federal government will continue to treat all states equally, regardless of whether they have a government that “belongs to the movement that supported me” or not.

“All the welfare programs are universal. It’s not, ‘let’s see, what party are you from?'” López Obrador said after asserting that previous federal governments treated states differently depending on which party was in power at that level.

“We have good relationships with the governors. Here is an example of how we’re working in a coordinated way, regardless of party backgrounds,” he said, referring to the government’s relationship with Vila, a PAN governor who is vying to represent the opposition Va por México alliance at next year’s presidential election.

Acknowledging that the 2024 presidential election is just one year away, AMLO said that “the important thing” to do in the lead-up to that contest is “strengthen democracy – not just as a political system … but as a way of life.”

“[We need] democracy in the family, democracy at school, democracy in unions, … democracy in the broad sense,” he said.

Among other remarks, López Obrador said he was in favor of the installation of a monument to recognize the life and work of Dora María Pérez Vidal, a Tabasco-born singer known as La Chaparrita de Oro who passed away last Sunday.

“She represents the music of Tabasco, she’s a musical ambassador of Tabasco, as was Chico Che,” he said.

Tuesday

AMLO’s engagement with the press began approximately 30 minutes into his mañanera, but he immediately called on his education minister to respond to a question about the dismissal of teachers during the 2012-18 government led by former president Enrique Peña Nieto.

“During the previous six-year period of government there was a very powerful campaign against teachers, against their educational activity, denigrating the work they did, … making it appear like teachers weren’t really committed to their work,” Leticia Ramírez Amaya said.

She noted that the current government repealed the previous government’s education reform, which forced teachers to undergo controversial evaluations, and asserted that the vast majority of educators who lost their jobs during the Peña Nieto years have been reinstated.

“Almost 95% of the teachers who were affected by the poorly-named education reform have been reinstated,” she said, adding that the government intends to resolve every case in which a teacher challenged the grounds of his or her dismissal.

López Obrador was later asked about his meeting on Monday with Morena governors and the aspirants to the ruling party’s candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.

“We got together to congratulate the maestra Delfina, we were all very happy. And we also met to [talk about] maintaining unity. … We’re doing very well, we’re fine and in a good mood,” the president said.

Celebratory dinner by Morena Party figures for governor elect of Mexico state, Delfina Gomez
AMLO told reporters that he took the opportunity at a celebratory dinner for Mexico state governor elect Delfina Gómez to speak to the four main presidential hopefuls. (Andrea Murcia Monsivais / Cuartoscuro.com)

“I can’t say any more about the issue,” he added before noting that he has committed to not “tip the balance” in favor of any of those seeking the Morena party nomination, among whom are Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard and Interior Minister Adán Augusto López.

One reporter put it to the president that electricity use has increased due to the elimination of daylight saving time.

“Look, we haven’t had increases in use beyond what economic growth and population growth demand,” López Obrador responded.

“[Eliminating] daylight saving time was a very good decision, it was accepted by the majority of people, and there are studies that prove that the time change affected [people’s] health. So, there is no problem [and] the price of electricity hasn’t increased,” he said.

Toward the end of his Tuesday presser, AMLO directed Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell to meet with a reporter who raised the case of Lauro Hinostroza – a Peruvian shaman detained at Mexico City airport last year for possession of ayahuasca – and advocated the changing of laws that allow authorities to “criminalize those with ancestral knowledge” who work as curanderos, or healers.

“Explain to her what the health plan is with regard to traditional medicine, with regard to healers,” he told López-Gatell before indicating his openness to the use of medicinal plants in Mexico’s public health system today.

“It’s the original medicine of our country. We suffered from the smallpox pandemic because the healers didn’t know how to treat it because it was an unknown disease,” López Obrador said.

“That’s why it decimated the population in the entire colonial period after the invasion, but before that, in the time of pre-Hispanic civilizations, it was the traditional healers [who treated people] with traditional medicine,” he said.

Wednesday

“We’re going to start with the water projects we’re building. … Water is fundamental, it’s health, it’s life,” López Obrador said at the beginning of his presser.

“So we’re reporting on the projects we’re completing across the entire country – dams, aqueducts, very important water projects.”

Germán Martínez Santoyo, general director of the National Water Commission (Conagua), noted for the second time in as many weeks that the government is investing over 93 billion pesos “with complete transparency and zero corruption” in 15 priority water projects.

Construction of the La Libertad dam in Nuevo León is 65% complete, he said.

The Conagua chief said that the federal and Nuevo León governments are each investing 3.68 billion pesos in the project and that it will benefit 500,000 residents of the northern border state, which suffered a severe drought last year. Martínez said that the dam is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The El Cuchillo II aqueduct, also in Nuevo León, will be built in “record time,” he said, without mentioning a completion date. The project will benefit all residents of Monterrey, Martínez said.

Iñáki Echeverría spoke about the project he is managing – the Lake Texcoco Ecological Park, which is under construction on a México state site where the previous federal government began building a new Mexico City airport.

The park encompasses “an area of 14,300 hectares that was protected by you, Mr. President, on March 22, 2022 through a decree that converted it into a natural protected area,” he said.

Echeverría said that the park is 17 times the size of the Chapultepec Forest in Mexico City and will “improve the living conditions” of all residents of the Valley of Mexico, including by helping to reduce air pollution. The project is 65% complete, he said.

Iñaki Echeverría at press conference
Iñaki Echeverría discusses the Texcoco project at the morning press conference. (Daniel Augusto / Cuartoscuro.com)

AMLO returned to center stage to take reporters’ questions and was immediately asked about the decision by Foreign Minister Ebard to resign to focus on winning the ruling Morena party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election.

The president said that Ebrard is resigning because the process to find a Morena candidate has “already started,” although the ruling party has not yet defined exactly what that process will entail.

López Obrador said it’s “possible” that other aspirants to the Morena candidacy will announce their resignations in the coming days.

The selection of a presidential candidate via an internal survey is an “unprecedented event, something never seen”, AMLO said, noting that previous presidents imposed a person of their choosing – a so-called tapado – in a move colloquially known as a dedazo.

“The president was the one who designated his successor, we’re talking about centuries, and for the first time there is no tapado, there is no dedazo, there is no imposition,” he said.

Later in his presser, the president fielded a question about the alleged murder by the army of five men in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, on May 18.

“It appears that there was an execution and that can’t be allowed, we’re not the same as previous governments,” he said.

“When there is abuse, … when human rights are violated, the culprits have to be punished. The process to deepen the investigation has already begun,” López Obrador said, adding that all the soldiers involved in the incident will face justice.

“In the past, massacres were ordered from above,” while the Nuevo Laredo incident, which followed a similar event in the same city earlier this year, is among “isolated cases” of extrajudicial killings that have occurred during the current government, he said.

“When they happen, they’re punished, they’re not allowed. In other words, we’re not the same,” AMLO said.

Among other remarks, López Obrador noted he would meet with United States Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg later in the day to discuss Mexico’s efforts to recover its Category 1 aviation safety rating with U.S. authorities, which it lost in 2021.

“At 12 I’m going to [the] Felipe Ángeles [International Airport] and we’re going to meet [there]. We’re going to address the Category 1 thing because we already did everything [required],” he said.

Thursday

Before opening the floor to questions, López Obrador offered “two pieces of good news” in the economic realm – annual inflation declined to 5.84% in May and the Mexican peso “continues to strengthen” against the US dollar.

“It’s a phenomenon, look at this, 17.37 pesos per dollar. When we arrived [to government] it was at over 20 [to the dollar] and the forecast of our adversaries was that it was going up to 30,” AMLO said.

AMLO at Thursday press conference
The president discussed his administration’s economic policies at the Thursday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

Responding to a question about the public health system, the president claimed that the current level of medication supplies is sufficient for two years.

“People are still complaining that they can’t find medicines,” countered a reporter, prompting López Obrador to present data to back up his claim.

“We’re making progress and when I finish [my six-year term] – before I finish – this system will be much better than other public health systems around the world,” AMLO said.

He subsequently accused the reporter of bias. “I’m sure that on your radio station, if we do an analysis of the past month, [we’ll find that] all the stories are against us,” he said.

“… I’m absolutely certain that your radio station dedicated itself to attacking us this [past] month. Not just [then], but for some time now.”

Turning his focus to the contest between those vying for the Morena party’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election – currently one of the hottest topics in Mexico – López Obrador noted that the “rules” for the selection process will be set at a meeting of the Morena National Council this Sunday.

Asked how he felt about “presidential succession,” he responded:

“Very good, very good, because I have a lot of confidence in the people, … full confidence in the people. The people of Mexico are in a phase of [political] awakening, and are among the most politically aware people in the world – that’s exceptional, it’s extraordinary.”

Later in his presser, the president addressed a recent outbreak of violence in a southern region of Mexico’s southernmost state.

“We’re attending to what is happening on the border between Chiapas and Guatemala. … There is an organized crime presence, … that’s why [there have been] these confrontations. But we’re acting, the National Guard is there and a program to strengthen the welfare programs is about to be applied,” he said.

“It’s a bit like what we did in Aguililla, in Michoacán, where it wasn’t just about [having] the presence of the National Guard but also strengthening the welfare programs, and in that way we managed to calm things down and guarantee peace in Aguililla. We’re doing the same thing in … Chiapas,” López Obrador said.

Toward the end of his presser, AMLO expressed confidence that United States authorities would soon reinstate Mexico’s top-tier aviation safety rating.

“The transportation secretary is a very respectful person, attentive and I’m sure we’re going to have good news,” he said a day after meeting Buttigieg.

“I don’t want to set deadlines because they’re fatal. You’ll say to me, ‘What happened? Nothing yet?’ It depends on the paperwork and there in [the United States] there are also rheumatic elephants you have to push,” López Obrador said, employing a term he frequently uses to describe slow-moving bureaucracy.

Friday

The president dove straight into responding to reporters’ questions at the beginning of his final press conference of the week.

“The disappearance [of people] and later finding the victims in clandestine graves is very regrettable,” López Obrador said when asked about abductions and homicides in Jalisco, where the remains of missing call center workers were found last week.

He said that the federal government is working with the Jalisco government on that case and others, and that the United States government has offered “some recommendations” to assist the investigation into the disappearance of eight Zapopan-based call center workers.

“Regarding missing people in the country, a new census is being carried out in order to have complete certainty how many there really are,” AMLO added.

“State governments, state Attorney General’s Offices are helping us … in order to have … a reliable census because [the register] needs updating,” he said.

Over 112,000 people are officially registered as missing in Mexico, but López Obrador said there are cases in which disappearances remain on the register even after those who vanished are found.

The president was later asked about Mexico’s attempt to retake possession of the penacho de Moctezuma, a feathered headdress that is thought to have belonged to the Mexica huey tlatoani, or emperor, at the time of the Spanish conquest.

The government of Austria has demonstrated a “very arrogant attitude,” AMLO responded.

“In recent times they’ve argued or claimed that it can’t be moved because it would be destroyed. That’s something that has no basis, in our opinion. The truth is they don’t want to hand it over,” he said of the penacho, which is on display at the Weltmuseum Wien, an ethnographic museum in Vienna.

A modern copy of the headdress is displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology and History, in Mexico City.
A replica of the artifact is displayed in the National Museum of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. (Thomas Ledl)

“And as tends to happen in these cases, it’s not just governments that consider themselves owners of things that don’t belong to them, but also associations of experts.”

AMLO noted that his wife traveled to Austria in 2020 and delivered a letter to the country’s president asking for a loan of the headdress for an exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the fall of Tenochtitlán.

After acknowledging that the mission failed, López Obrador indicated that Mexico would continue to pressure Austria to return the artifact.

“Everything that was stolen, everything that was [illegally] removed from Mexico has to be recovered, in this case and others,” he said.

A reporter subsequently noted that there will soon be just two Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, governors – Esteban Villegas in Durango and Manolo Jiménez in Coahuila – due to Morena’s victory in México state, and asked AMLO about the relationship the federal government will have with the governments they lead.

“[Jiménez] is now governor-elect and later he will be governor … and we need to have good coordination and work together because it’s not a partisan issue, it’s not about our ways of thinking, which might be different,” López Obrador said.

“We have to serve the people of Coahuila … and all the people of Mexico. … I’ve always said that the party [you represent] is one thing and government is another. Party, as its name indicates, is a part, one part. The government represents everyone, the budget the government manages is for all people. So there will be a good relationship,” he said.

“…  We’ve been supporting both states with welfare programs. In the case of Durango, the Sowing Life [reforestation/employment] program is being implemented … and we’re building roads in the most remote communities of Durango and we’re doing it jointly with the state government. And the same thing for Coahuila, the welfare programs are continuing,” López Obrador said.

Among other remarks, AMLO offered a synopsis of the economic situation in Argentina, where annual inflation is over 100%.

“What happened in Argentina? Why is the crisis in Argentina so deep? Because, in complicity with international financial bodies, the government of [former president Mauricio] Macri put Argentina into debt, but with no limit,” he said.

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

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Mexican flag

Opinion: The risks to liberal democracy and an effective state in Mexico

19
Former Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan thinks Claudia Sheinbaum needs to repair damage to Mexico's democracy and reputation abroad.
Brian Nichols in an appearance before Congress

US State Department official remarks on judicial reform in Mexico, urges ‘transparency’

14
Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols addressed questions from U.S. lawmakers about AMLO's judicial reform proposal and its potential impact.
Claudia Sheinbaum at a press conference

Sheinbaum says investors in Mexico have ‘nothing to worry about’

6
Sheinbaum spoke about investor concerns following a meeting with U.S. officials, which Ambassador Salazar described as "very good and friendly."