Friday, June 21, 2024

Poverty, peace and prosecutors: The week at the mañaneras

Twenty-nine years after Institutional Revolutionary Party presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta was assassinated in Tijuana, Baja California, history repeated in Quito, Ecuador, this week with the slaying of Fernando Villavicencio, who was one of eight aspirants to the top job in the South American nation.

The latest political assassination and its similarity with the murder of Colosio was among the numerous events and issues President López Obrador addressed at his morning press conferences, or mañaneras, this week.

AMLO at morning press conference
The president ended the week with encouraging data on poverty reduction from 2020-2022. (Gob MX)

A range of other “bad news” items were discussed at the pressers, but on a positive note, López Obrador noted that data showed that inflation declined in July and poverty decreased considerably between 2020 and 2022.

Monday

Responding to his first mañanera question of the new workweek, AMLO once again denied that remarks he made about Senator Xóchitl Gálvez – a leading aspirant to the 2024 presidential election candidacy of the Broad Front for Mexico (FAM) opposition alliance – could be considered gender-based political violence, as the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) ruled last week.

“This ruling … exposes the members of the Electoral Tribunal, the judges. … It exposes them because they lie, slander, act in a false manner. They’re even capable of changing my statements, my words,” he said.

“… They accuse me of gender-based political violence. Gender-based political violence! And what they do is attribute statements to me that I didn’t make in this press conference. It really is serious,” said López Obrador, who was directed by the National Electoral Institute (INE) on Aug. 4 to abstain from speaking about Gálvez.

AMLO, who claims that the senator has already been chosen as the FAM candidate by an “oligarchy” led by businessman Claudio X. González, told reporters that he would no longer speak about “the woman.”

“I’m not going to say her name, I think that is [what the INE order says]. … I won’t mention the name of the woman again,” pledged the president, who has defied an earlier INE directive to abstain from speaking about electoral issues in the lead-up to the 2024 elections.

In response to another question, López Obrador acknowledged that the husband of a cousin of Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado was murdered in Iguala.

“Regrettably there was this murder and the wife of the person who lost his life is wounded, fortunately not seriously,” he said, adding that an investigation is underway to determine who committed the crime and what the motive was.

AMLO also acknowledged that María Fernanda Sánchez, a 24-year-old Mexican student, was found dead in Berlin, Germany.

“The German government helped a lot, we thank them,” he said, adding that an investigation into the woman’s disappearance and death continues.

Uriel Carmona
The Morelos Attorney General will now remain in custody until his case is heard in September. (Especial/Cuartoscuro)

López Obrador later declared that the arrest of Morelos Attorney General Uriel Carmona – detained last week on charges of obstruction of justice in a 2022 femicide case – was “legal.”

Carmona has immunity from prosecution for federal crimes, but he is accused of a “common jurisdiction crime,” he said.

The case against him is about “the concealment of the truth” in “the murder of a young woman in Mexico City,” AMLO said, referring to Ariadna López, who was killed at the age of 27.

“That’s why the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office is involved. Of course we want there to be justice,” he said, adding that it was “very clear” that some politicians and “members of the judicial power,” among others, had sought to protect the attorney general.

After a reporter told him there were “great expectations” for the Maya Train railroad in Europe partly because “some European companies are participating in the construction of the project,” López Obrador declared that the mega obra is in fact being eagerly awaited around the world.

“It’s a great project – not just the most important rail project in the world today; I would say that it’s the most important public project in the world,” he said.

Tren Maya
Workers on the Maya Train project. (Gob MX)

“It’s important for the development of engineering. On the Maya Train [project] they’re applying all the fields of engineering: mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, civil engineering, railway engineering, of course. It’s a great project,” he said.

Among other remarks, AMLO said that he will leave office a happy man when his six-year term ends in late 2024, even though his administration is already the most violent on record in terms of homicides and the COVID-19 pandemic – poorly managed by the federal government, according to some experts – has claimed the lives of well over 300,000 Mexicans.

“I’m going to feel content, happy, when I finish and I can say: We didn’t repress anyone, we didn’t order massacres [by federal security forces], we didn’t order or allow anyone to be tortured, we didn’t allow or tolerate the disappearance of people, human rights were respected and no media outlet was censored even though I maintain that they manipulate [information],” he said.

Tuesday

Three people have been arrested in connection with a bomb attack in Jalisco that claimed the lives of six people including four police officers on July 11, Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez reported during the regular “Zero Impunity” segment.

The third man detained has been identified as the person who placed the explosive devices on the road in Tlajomulco where the explosion occurred and who lured the police to the site by reporting that the bodies of missing people had been located there, Rodríguez said.

Continuing a broader security update, Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez told reporters that the government has destroyed 992 firearms that were handed in to authorities in exchange for cash during a “voluntary disarmament” program.

In 38 municipalities across 13 states, the government paid 3.8 million pesos (US $222,600) to people who handed in the guns and other firearm paraphernalia including ammunition, she said.

“One of the strategies to reduce violence linked to firearms is voluntary disarmament,” Rodríguez said.

Rosa Icela Rodríguez
Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez at the Tuesday morning press conference. (Rosa Icela Rodríguez/Twitter)

“This is a peace-building tool that is carried out in the states with the highest rates of violence. It’s done in coordination with the Ministry of National Defense, the National Guard and state and municipal governments,” she said.

The security minister also said that “warlike toys” could be exchanged for “educational and recreational toys to raise awareness among boys and girls about the danger that firearms represent.”

Interior Minister Luisa María Alcalde later took aim at a federal judge who – in response to an injunction request filed by Xóchitl Gálvez – ordered López Obrador to abstain from engaging in hate speech against the complainant.

She said that the same judge has made numerous other rulings against the government, including one that suspended a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes and another that suspended a prohibition on the use of mascots that appeal to children on food and beverage products.

Now the judge is going too far by “seeking, through this injunction, to silence the president of Mexico,” Alcalde said.

His loquaciousness still intact, López Obrador indicated that he wasn’t overly concerned about the possibility that some governors will block the distribution of new textbooks to schools in their states.

“We have to wait for the distribution and delivery of the books to start [to see what happens],” he said.

Opposition to the textbooks is nothing more than a “defamatory campaign of conservatism, without basis,” AMLO added.

“They’re saying that with the books the virus of communism is going to be injected [into students]. The truth is that’s grotesque, it’s absurd. It doesn’t just have no basis but is also an extremist, irrational, bad faith statement,” he said.

Luisa María Alcalde at press conference
Interior Minister Alcalde at the morning press conference. (Gob MX)

Any effort to block the distribution of textbooks would go against the constitution, López Obrador said, reiterating that the federal government has the right to develop textbooks and deliver them to students.

Later in his presser, AMLO once again expressed his admiration for United States President Joe Biden because he’s “the only U.S. president in decades that hasn’t built even a meter of wall” on the border between the North America neighbors.

Previous presidents from both the Republican and Democratic parties all built “their sections of wall,” he said, adding that their motivation was “publicity” and “politicking.”

“And now this man from Texas, the governor, also … [for] publicity and in a very inhumane way places these buoys with barbed wire in the … [Rio Grande], affecting agreements, treaties, threatening our sovereignty,” said López Obrador, who told reporters that Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena would raise the issue with U.S. officials during meetings in Washington later in the week.

Questioned about a claim that Mexico was interested in joining BRICS, an economic grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, AMLO said that wasn’t the case.

“For economic reasons, … geopolitical reasons, we’re going to continue strengthening the North American alliance,” he said, adding that Mexico would also seek to bolster economic ties with other countries of the Americas.

Wednesday

Before opening the floor to questions, AMLO once again defended the government’s new school textbooks, which have been criticized as being ideological, riddled with errors and lacking in content in key subject areas.

“The … [press conferences] about the textbooks will continue because it’s very interesting to become familiar with each book, to get to know the content, to expose how deceptive and cretinous the conservatives are, how they’re capable of slandering and lying to serve their own interests,” he said.

López Obrador said that mathematicians and scientists who contributed to the textbooks will attend press conferences next week and “refute” claims that “there is no mathematics” in them.

Leticia Ramírez presents textbooks
Education Minister Leticia Ramírez (center) at the first evening press conference about the textbooks held on Monday. (Leticia Ramírez Amaya/Twitter)

AMLO subsequently noted that the national statistics agency INEGI had reported that annual headline inflation in July was 4.79%, down from 5.06% in June.

“We have very good news, inflation continues to fall, this has a great effect on people’s finances, families’ finances, because income goes further,” he said.

During his engagement with reporters, López Obrador revealed that he had sent a letter to President Biden to thank him for opening up new legal pathways to the United States for certain migrants and for not building any additional sections of wall on the Mexico-U.S. border.

“He’s the only United States president to carry out this measure [in favor of migrants] in recent times and I acknowledge that in the letter,” he said. “And the other thing, which is very important, is that he’s the only United States president in decades that hasn’t build [sections of border] wall.”

While he praised Biden for offering new legal pathways to the U.S. for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans, AMLO said that “a plan to combat poverty” in “very poor countries” in the Americas is needed to reduce the need to migrate in the first place.

“Migration is not for pleasure, it’s a matter of necessity,” he said.

“So, countries that have more economic possibilities have the moral obligation to help poor countries and this … allows order to be brought to the migration flow. … We have to address the causes [of migration] so that people can work and be happy where they were born, where their families and customs are, and this can be achieved if there is investment, if there are work opportunities,” López Obrador said.

AMLO later acknowledged that remittances sent home by Mexican workers in the United States have taken a hit due to the appreciation of the peso this year. However, the current strength of the currency is good for the country, he asserted.

While the currency depreciated during the terms of previous governments, “with us the peso has strengthened like never before,” AMLO said.

“… What does this mean for us? Firstly, that Mexico is a country with economic and financial stability. There haven’t been tax increases in real terms,” López Obrador said.

Xóchitl Gálvez
A recent El Financiero newspaper poll found Gálvez to be the frontrunner among respondents questioned about who they’d like to see represent the Frente Amplio por México coalition in the 2024 presidential election. (Yerania Rolón/Cuartoscuro)

Among other remarks, the president said he would write to the Federal Judiciary Council to question the conduct of the judge who ruled that he must abstain from speaking about Xóchitl Gálvez. He also said that he would send a letter directly to the judge.

“He has a history of protecting white-collar criminals and tycoons,” AMLO said.

“… He permitted the distribution of vaping devices. What’s at stake? People’s health, young people’s health,” he said.

Thursday

“I already sent him the letter. I’m going to read it to you,” López Obrador said, referring to the missive he dispatched to the judge he spoke about on Wednesday.

“You, Mr. Judge, order me … to keep quiet, to censor information that should be public. … You accuse me … of hate speech for exposing the existence of contracts signed in the past nine years by the the company of the woman [Xóchitl Gálvez] and her family for more than 400 million pesos, of which 70% were signed in the [Mexico City] borough of Miguel Hidalgo, a district where she, coincidentally, served as mayor between 20215 and 2018,” AMLO said.

“You warn of … effective malice on my part, but the one guilty of effective malice is you. … It was you that granted a suspension to Joaquín [“El Chapo”] Guzmán Loera to prevent his extradition to the United States,” continued López Obrador as he read from his letter to Martín Adolfo Santos Pérez, a judge at a Mexico City-based administrative court.

Earlier in the press conference, Interior Minister Luisa María Alcalde told reporters that the government’s 815-million-peso purchase of the Mexicana de Aviación brand name as well as three buildings and a flight simulator that belonged to the defunct airline was “formalized” on Wednesday.

The Mexicana airline will begin operations with an initial fleet of 10 Boeing aircraft. (Andrea Murcia/Cuartoscuro)

Alcalde said that the money will go to former employees of Mexicana, which is set to be revived as a military-run commercial airline.

“Today is a historic day, a day that will be worth remembering” because the “thousands of women and men that were left helpless [when they lost their jobs] now see light on the road,” she said.

National Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval said that tickets for flights on the new state-owned airline will likely go on sale in September. The airline, which is slated to start operations before the end of the year, already has 209 employees and will have 745 by the time the first flight takes off, he said.

The government has made an “initial investment” in the airline of 4 billion pesos (about US $235 million), Sandoval said.

“Profitability will depend on flight activity,” the defense minister said of the soon-to-be launched airline, which is set to initially operate with ten Boeing 737-800s.

Asked about the assassination on Wednesday of Ecuadorian presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio, AMLO said he very much regretted the event.

“These are very difficult and regrettable times,” he said before describing the murder as “reprehensible” and “very painful.”

Luis Donaldo Colosio at the Tijuana rally where he was murdered on March 23, 1994.
Luis Donaldo Colosio at the Tijuana rally where he was murdered on March 23, 1994. (Archive)

“We suffered [the same thing] when Luis Donaldo Colosio was assassinated [in 1994],” López Obrador said.

“Many people remember those sad times, times of distress and fear. That’s why we very much regret that this has happened in Ecuador,” he said.

AMLO said “there is no evidence” that the Sinaloa Cartel is responsible for the assassination and remarked that it mustn’t be forgotten that “things are always made up, and even more so in electoral times.”

“So we have to act very responsibly, very seriously, not blame anyone lightly … and wait for the result of the investigation to be announced,” he said.

Toward the end of his presser, López Obrador said that five government helicopters will patrol the route of the Maya Train railroad once it’s operational “to guarantee security.”

He said that the railroad and all other infrastructure projects undertaken by his government belong to “the people” of Mexico and asserted that that’s the way it should stay.

“They mustn’t be privatized, the same thing [that happened during previous governments] mustn’t happen again,” AMLO said.

Friday

At the top of his final press conference of the week, López Obrador noted that data published by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy on Thursday showed that poverty has declined during his government.

“They won’t be able to take this away from us, this happiness we get from the fact that there are fewer poor people in the country. It fills me with pride,” he said.

During his Q and A session with the press, a reporter asked AMLO what he made of Enrique de la Madrid’s assertion that Mexico has suffered from two viruses during his presidency: the coronavirus and “the virus of the 4T” (Fourth Transformation), the government’s self-anointed nickname.

“It’s normal” considering that de la Madrid – one of four remaining aspirants to the Broad Front for Mexico’s nomination for the 2024 presidential election – is campaigning, he said.

Enrique de la Madrid
Enrique de la Madrid’s father was president of Mexico and he served as tourism minister during the administration of Vicente Fox. (Enrique de la Madrid/Twitter)

The same reporter sought the president’s opinion on why Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele – who has taken a hardline approach to combating crime – is so popular.

“There are different realities [in Mexico and El Salvador] and also different ideas. I think the causes [of crime] have to be addressed, it’s not just about applying coercive measures. Lasting peace is achieved with justice and that’s what we’re putting into practice. I don’t want to argue with the president of El Salvador,” López Obrador responded.

“We’re doing well despite inheriting a very difficult situation because there was a president who declared war on drug trafficking,” AMLO said, referring to Felipe Calderón.

Later in his mañanera, López Obrador weighed in on the curious case of Israel Vallarta, who was arrested on kidnapping charges in 2005 – including for a second time in a televised setup – but hasn’t been sentenced. He said there was evidence that Vallarta has been tortured and noted the long period that has passed without the suspect being sentenced.

“Where is the fast and expeditious justice?” AMLO asked before acknowledging that a court had once again ruled that Vallarta couldn’t be released from prison as he continues to await trial.

López Obrador said that his cabinet looked at Vallarta’s case and decided that he “deserved” to be released from jail. He indicated he was in favor of pardoning him, but said an amnesty “can’t be applied” if the suspect hasn’t been sentenced. There are many other people who have been in prison for a long time without being sentenced and who should also be released, AMLO said.

Israel Vallarta and then-partner Florence Cassez were arrested for kidnapping in 2005, but only Cassez was formally convicted. Her conviction was overturned in 2013 and she was released. Later investigations revealed that Vallarta confessed to committing the crime under torture. (Pedro Marrufo/Cuartoscuro.com)

“This is another one of the deficiencies of the judicial power,” he said.

Late in his press conference, López Obrador advised people who want or need plastic surgery to be careful and do their research given that some doctors are practicing despite not having relevant qualifications. He then recounted a long story about severe back pain he experienced before becoming president.

“They did everything to me [to try to treat the problem], even something that has to do with electric shocks that seems like torture…,” he said during his dire yet diverting tale.

Changing subjects, AMLO said he had been reviewing the new school textbooks and informed reporters that “the word communism practically doesn’t appear.”

“It appears in one book, a fourth grade or fifth grade one I think, but what appears is a poem of Bertolt Brecht,” he said before his communications coordinator, Jesús Ramírez, corrected him by saying that the poem was in fact by Martin Niemöller, a Lutheran pastor who opposed the Nazi regime in 1930s Germany.

“Put the poem up,” AMLO directed Ramírez. “It has to do with the way in which we must unite against fascism, against repression, against the violation of human rights. That’s what appears in the book,” he said.

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

First they came by Martin Niemöller 

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

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