Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Mining, mothers and majorities: the week at the mañaneras

The expiration of the United States’ COVID-era migration policy, a Supreme Court ruling against part of an electoral reform package, upcoming elections in México state and Coahuila and previous governments’ allegedly irresponsible issuance of casino licenses were among the topics discussed at President López Obrador’s morning press conferences, or mañaneras, this week.

AMLO also looked ahead to the 2024 federal elections, noting that if the ruling Morena party and its allies win a two-thirds majority in Congress, he will be able to make changes to the constitution before he leaves office.

AMLO at press conference on Mother's Day
AMLO at the Wednesday press conference, which included a concert in honor of Mother’s Day. (Gob MX)

Monday

After congratulating boxer Saúl “Canelo” Álvarez for his win over Britain’s John Ryder and Formula 1 driver Sergio “Checo” Pérez for finishing in second place in the Miami Grand Prix last weekend, AMLO handed over the reins of his mañanera to the head of the consumer protection agency Profeco.

Ricardo Sheffield presented information that showed that remittances sent to Mexico in March totaled just under $5.2 billion, a 10.7% increase compared to the same month last year and a 73.5% surge over the figure for March 2019.

He highlighted that PagaPhone, a Mexican fintech company, offered the best international money transfer service because its dollar-peso exchange rate was more favorable than those of its competitors.

Ricardo Sheffield
Head of Profeco, Ricardo Sheffield, at the Monday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

Javier May Rodríguez, director of the National Tourism Promotion Fund, subsequently reported that tracks have been laid along 120 kilometers of the 239-kilometer-long Izamal-Cancún section of the Maya Train. Construction of Section 4, which will run through nine municipalities in Yucatán and Quintana Roo, has created 62,000 jobs, he said.

“The Maya Train will be inaugurated in December 2023 for the good of all,” May pledged.

López Obrador later stressed that the ambitious railroad project wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Mexican people.

“Imagine building 1,554 kilometers of train tracks, … it’s like going from … [Mexico City] to Cancún by highway. Building this entire project, going through communities, communal land, small properties, towns and cities … [is] only [possible] with the support of the people. Without it, the project would stop and we wouldn’t be able to do it in the time it’s taking,” he said.

“It’s going to be a great achievement, an example for the world … and this is because of the participation and support of the people.”

One reporter asked the president whether it would be advisable for Mexico to diversify its foreign exchange reserves due to a growing shift away from the use of the U.S. dollar for international trade.

“We’re definitely going to continue considering the dollar the main currency of the world,” López Obrador responded.

“Firstly, … even with a financial crisis in the future, the dollar will continue to be the most important currency in the world. Secondly, we have increasingly closer economic integration with the United States and Canada. Mexico is the main trade partner of the United States – in the first quarter of the year Mexico was the main trade partner of the United States,” he said.

AMLO later revealed that he was scheduled to speak with United States President Joe Biden on Tuesday morning.

President Lopez Obrador on phone call with U.S.'s Joe Biden.
President Lopez Obrador on the Tuesday phone call with U.S. President Joe Biden. (AMLO/Twitter)

“The issues: migration, fentanyl and economic cooperation for development. … We’re going to continue speaking about the cooperation we have, which is very good,” he said.

Asked about Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s decision to deploy the Lone Star state’s Tactical Border Force to the U.S.-Mexico border ahead of the termination of the Title 42 migrant expulsion policy, López Obrador said that Abbott and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida – where lawmakers recently approved US $12 million in funding to transport migrants out of the state – should be focused on gun control rather than actions against migrants.

“The governor of Texas and the governor of Florida as well as Republican Party lawmakers and some [legislators] from the Democratic Party would be better off coming up with a proposal so that guns … aren’t sold in supermarkets,” he said.

“That [would be] a good initiative … [to prevent] these appalling murders, these constant shootings [in the United States]. Why don’t they get involved in that?”

Tuesday

López Obrador claimed at the beginning of his presser that Mexico will have a first-class public health system before he leaves office in 2024.

“I’ve said it on other occasions, I repeat it now – [we’ll have a health system] not like that in Denmark [but] better than that in Denmark,” he said.

AMLO asserted that his administration has made a lot of progress in cleaning up the health sector “disaster” left by “corrupt neoliberal” past governments, a situation he said included “corruption” and a “lack of doctors.”

After noting that the annual inflation rate declined to 6.25% in April and that the peso was strong at 17.8 to the U.S. dollar, the president railed against the Supreme Court for its ruling against a part of his electoral reform package that was approved by Congress last December.

The judicial power is “rotten” and the Supreme Court justices “are acting in a partisan way,” he asserted.

“…They’re part of the supreme conservative power, they’re dedicated to obstructing the transformation of the country to support the old regime … of corruption and privileges,” López Obrador said.

He rejected the Supreme Court’s ruling that lawmakers violated established legislative procedure when passing two “Plan B” electoral reform laws and accused the justices of committing an “act of arrogance and authoritarianism.”

SCJN votes to repeal the first part of the Plan B
The vote to invalidate the first part of the controversial “Plan B”electoral reforms passed by nine votes to two. (SCJN/Cuartoscuro)

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell later reported that AMLO had signed a decree that brought to an end a three year “health emergency situation” due to COVID-19, while Education Minister Leticia Ramírez offered an update on the government’s schools-based anti-addictions campaign.

The campaign, in which teachers educate students about the harm caused by drug use, “has been very well received,” Ramírez said.

“We are very grateful for the participation of teachers and authorities. Everyone has agreed on the importance of preventing addictions,” she said. “… And we have also agreed, and seen, that the participation of mothers, fathers and families is essential.”

Wednesday

On Mother’s Day, López Obrador began his presser by congratulating Mexican mothers and “all the moms of the world.”

Mother's Day concert at morning press conference
A performance for Mother’s Day at the Wednesday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

“We’re going to dedicate a concert to you,” he said, referring to a performance by the singers Eugenia León and María Inés Ochoa in the second half of the mañanera.

Asked whether he had begun thinking about a replacement for Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard given that he could soon leave his position to focus on winning the ruling Morena party’s nomination to contest the 2024 presidential election, AMLO declined to give much away.

“We have to wait” was all he would say before turning his focus to upcoming elections in México state and Coahuila, at which the ruling Morena party will aim to add to the 20 governorships (including the mayorship of Mexico City) it already holds.

“Both [elections] are important, but think about what the México state election means. We’re talking about the most populous state in the country, … a state that has around 18 million residents – that’s the population of several countries in the world,” he said.

López Obrador noted that “a party I can’t mention” – the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI – has never lost an election in México state or Coahuila, before reiterating that both elections are “very important.”

“Who will decide? The people, the people, freely. There shouldn’t be manipulation through the press, through radio, through [favorable] television [coverage] sold or rented to candidates, to parties, that’s a disgrace,” he said.

“… Be careful with vote buying as well, the delivery of groceries and building materials, and chickens and ducks, goats, sheep, pigs … and beans with weevils [in them] … and the stream of lies,” López Obrador said.

“‘If I win I’ll build a bridge here in this town.’ ‘But there’s no river,” he said, impersonating a candidate and a constituent. “‘We’re going to build the river as well.'”

One reporter sought López Obrador’s opinion on the decision of the International Association of Women Judges to award a human rights prize to Supreme Court Chief Justice Norma Piña, of whom the president has been highly critical.

“Those prizes can be obtained at the Plaza de Santo Domingo,” he derided, referring to a Mexico City square that is notorious for the sale of falsified documents.

AMLO later took aim at the Organization of American States (OAS), a regional grouping of 35 countries.

“I recommend the disappearance of the OAS, which is useless. Does it serve any useful purpose? Do you know whether the OAS has done anything good?” asked the president, who has favored the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States over the OAS.

“The only thing it has done is endorse all the authoritarian acts against legitimate, legal, popular governments in Latin America – that’s all the OAS has done.”

Thursday

Early in his engagement with reporters, AMLO took aim at one of his favorite targets: past governments.

“During the neoliberal period there was no planning for the development of the country, they left everything to the market. [The goal] was to grow [the economy] for the sake of growing, without taking wellbeing into account, without taking nature and other elements into account,” he said.

López Obrador said that his government is making sure that “development is balanced” and “sustainable” and that natural resources are not “exploited irrationally.”

Concessions for mining are no longer granted, fracking isn’t allowed, genetically modified corn can’t be brought into the country and the supply of water for domestic purposes is guaranteed, he said.

Senate on April 29
A legislative session held at an alternate venue by Morena senators on April 29 where many reforms – including the new mining law supported by AMLO – were passed. (Galo Cañas Rodríguez / Cuartoscuro.com)

“It was up to us to cancel the Constellation Brands brewery project in Mexicali. For those who suffer amnesia … I’ll remind you that the National Action Party authorities at that time gave permits for this brewery to set up in Mexicali where there is no water,” López Obrador said.

AMLO turned his attention to a long list of benefits enjoyed by Supreme Court justices before claiming that the decision by the nation’s top court to invalidate part of his electoral reform package was motivated by a desire to protect those perks.

“That’s why [the justices] rejected the so-called Plan B [package], because [the aim of] Plan B was to prevent these excesses at the National Electoral Institute and the Federal Electoral Tribunal. … If the law passed it had to apply to them [as well],” he said.

AMLO later urged citizens to vote at the 2024 elections in favor of the “transformation” he claims his government is carrying out.

“You have to vote not just for the [Morena] candidate for president, you have to vote for the lawmakers, the [Morena] candidates for deputies and senators, so that the transformation has a qualified majority,” said López Obrador, who would be able to push constitutional changes through Congress in the last month of his presidency if the ruling party and its allies have two-thirds control of both houses.

Asked about the imminent end of the United States’ pandemic-era Title 42 migration policy, López Obrador said that Mexico would fully cooperate with the U.S. to avoid chaos and violence at the northern border as migrants rush to seek asylum in the U.S.

US CBP at the border
Members of the US Customs and Border Patrol assembled at the San Ysidro border crossing for a practice drill, in preparation fro the repeal of Title 42. (Omar Martínez/Cuartoscuro)

He also revealed that the government would send additional National Guard troops to the southern border, but stressed they would be instructed not to use force against migrants. AMLO said he was unsure of the size of the new deployment and didn’t specify what their duties would be.

He said that the decision to send extra troops to the southern border was not agreed with Biden during his call with the U.S. president on Tuesday, but rather one that his government took on its own.

López Obrador noted that he didn’t raise the United States’ funding of what he describes as groups “openly” opposed to his government during his conversation with Biden, nor did he bring up the case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange – of whom he is an ardent supporter – as he has done before.

At the end of his presser, AMLO noted that he would provide an update on the economy at his Friday mañanera. 

“I can tell you in advance that we’re doing very well, but tomorrow we’re going to provide information and data. We’re going to do an analysis of the economic situation of the country,” he said.

Friday

In response to a question posed the previous day about the harm caused by gambling, Interior Minister Adán Augusto López Hernández spoke about casino licenses issued by previous governments.

“As the president commented yesterday, not a single permit for the operation of casinos has been granted during the current administration,” he said.

López Hernández said that 229 licenses for casinos or other gambling establishments were issued by federal governments between 1970 and 2000, and that the 2000-2006 administration led by former president Vicente Fox granted 340.

AMLO, Adán Augusto López and Marcelo Ebrard
AMLO at the Friday morning press conference with Interior Minister Adán Augusto López (left) and Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard (right). (Gob MX)

He took aim at former interior minister Santiago Creel – currently a federal deputy – saying that he was “directly responsible” for the issuance of 153 licenses during the Fox administration.

López Hernández also pointed out that the previous two governments led by Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto both issued over 100 casino licenses, while the López Obrador administration has shut down 47 “irregular casinos.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard replaced the interior minister at the mañanera lectern and reported that the expiration of Title 42 hadn’t caused any “confrontations or situations of violence” at the northern border.

He also presented a video showing United States Senator John Kennedy speaking to DEA Administrator Anne Milgram at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing. Kennedy said that the United States should be using its economic clout to force López Obrador to enter into a deal that would allow the U.S. military to go into Mexico to combat cartels.

“We buy $400 billion [worth of products] every year from Mexico. Without the people of America, Mexico, figuratively speaking, would be eating cat food out of a can,” the senator said.

In response, Ebrard declared that Kennedy is a “profoundly ignorant man,” a “persona non grata in Mexico” and a “liar.”

AMLO, as promised, provided an update on Mexico’s economic situation. Among the data he highlighted was an unemployment rate of 2.8% in the first quarter of the year, an exchange rate of 17.58 pesos to the U.S. dollar and foreign investment of just under US $35.3 billion last year.

“Mexico is the main economic-trade partner of the United States. We have now displaced Canada, China, Germany and Japan,” AMLO added.

He also highlighted that the economy has recovered after GDP dropped sharply in 2020, but conceded that inflation remains a concern.

One reporter asked the president about the madres buscadoras, or searching mothers, who took to the streets on Mother’s Day to protest against authorities that have failed to locate their sons and daughters.

MOther's Day protest Mexico City
Protesters in Mexico City accuse the government of doing nothing to help families find their missing loved ones. (Cuartoscuro)

“They have all our support,” he responded. “… It fills us with sadness … and … we’re working to protect them, to find their missing family members, we’re dedicated to that. This is a humanist government, not a conservative, authoritarian government.”

AMLO later revealed that he would like to travel to the United States to meet with Mexican migrants, but indicated that such a trip might not be possible.

“I don’t want them to have reasons to say that I’m getting involved in the internal politics of the United States, that we’re violating our foreign policy of non-intervention,” he said.

“… The important thing is for … [Mexican migrants] to know they have the support of the Mexican government,” AMLO said.

“… We’re always going to defend migrants, and not just Mexican migrants. … We’re in favor of universal fraternity, of justice,” he said.

” … I would prefer that there were no discriminatory, racist acts, that we really loved each other as human beings. I’m in favor of a world of love, of fraternity,” López Obrador said.

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

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