President López Obrador presided over just four morning press conferences this week instead of the usual five as he took Thursday off for Day of the Dead.
The response to Hurricane Otis remained a dominant topic at the four mañaneras, but AMLO also addressed a range of other issues and events, including a court ruling in favor of a former official imprisoned in connection with the 2014 disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero.
Acapulco hotels to reopen “as soon as possible”
After noting that the president of the Acapulco Hotel Association said that hotels in the resort city might not reopen until 2025 due to the damage Hurricane Otis inflicted on them last week, a reporter asked the president what date the government was aiming for.
“As soon as possible, as soon as possible,” López Obrador responded.
“We know how to work in order to get things done correctly and quickly, and we have the support of the armed forces and very responsible public servants,” said AMLO, who has relied on the military for a wide range of non-traditional tasks including infrastructure construction.
“… Didn’t we build the Felipe Ángeles airport in two years? Are we not going to build the Maya Train in five years? Are we not going to be able to rebuild Acapulco in a very short time? Of course we are,” he said.
The president declined to specify exactly when Acapulco hotels would start reopening, but emphasized his commitment to rebuilding the city.
“We’re going to get Acapulco back on its feet. Me canso ganso,” he said, using a colloquial phrase to indicate he was certain of achieving his goal.
AMLO advocates electronic voting for Mexicans abroad
Later on Monday, López Obrador told reporters that he had asked National Electoral Institute (INE) counselors to guarantee voting rights for Mexicans abroad by allowing them to cast ballots electronically.
AMLO – who met with INE officials in June and subsequently declared that the government had begun a “new stage” in its relationship with the electoral authority – said that he was told that implementing an e-voting (or online voting) system was “very difficult,” but he asserted that it could be done.
“I, respectfully, would still call on the INE council … to establish an electronic voting system so that our compatriots [abroad] can vote,” he said before calling on lawmakers to assist the electoral authority.
“The majority [of Mexicans abroad] have their Mexican voter ID,” López Obrador added
“… You know what? If they want to [implement e-voting], they can. The problem is they haven’t wanted to,” AMLO said, referring to INE officials. “They always put obstacles in the way.”
López Obrador evidently believes that the ruling Morena party stands to benefit from allowing Mexicans abroad to vote electronically. Following in the president’s footsteps, presumptive Morena presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum recently held a rally in Los Angeles, which has a huge Mexican population.
AMLO expressed his appreciation for billionaire businessman Olegario Vázque Aldir, saying that the media, healthcare and hotel baron has “behaved very well” by cooperating with the government, including during the coronavirus pandemic when his chain of private hospitals accepted public patients.
AMLO emphasizes the reach of the government’s welfare programs
“There are 35 million households in Mexico … and we’re now delivering support … to 30 million,” López Obrador said Tuesday morning, referring to the government’s provision of pension payments, educational scholarships and other benefits as well as the employment of citizens in programs such as the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) reforestation initiative and the Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro (Youths Building the Future) apprenticeship scheme.
“Even if it’s just a little bit of assistance, [government welfare] reaches 30 million households. That didn’t happen before,” he said.
Seniors, students, young people and farmers are among those who benefit, AMLO said.
One of the president’s favorite phrases is “for the good of all, the poor come first,” and he has made the provision of welfare one of his administration’s central purposes.
Presidential candidates’ future plans for welfare are almost certain to be a feature of the campaign in the lead-up to the June 2, 2024 election.
López Obrador has attempted to portray opposition candidate Xóchitl Gálvez as being anti-welfare, but the National Action Party senator has asserted that social programs won’t disappear if she becomes president.
A self-inflicted headache
Near the end of another press conference dominated by reports on the impact of Hurricane Otis and the progress of recovery efforts, AMLO noted that the book he is currently writing – his 19th – “is directed to young people” and “for young people,” in whom he said he has “a lot of confidence.”
“It’s giving me a bit of a headache because I’m writing it in my free time and intellectual work also wears you out, it’s quite exhausting,” he said.
López Obrador said in June that “the book isn’t autobiographical,” but “has … to do with political experience.”
Its aim is to help young people who want to dedicate their lives to “the noble trade of politics,” he said June 16.
The new book is a follow-up to A La Mitad del Camino, which was published (and reviewed by Mexico News Daily) in 2021.
“We have a lot in common,” AMLO said in reference to Mexico and Guatemala. “We are peoples that inherited a great reserve of cultural, moral and spiritual values that the great Maya civilization left us.”
Recovery plan for Acapulco
Much of AMLO’s Wednesday presser was taken up by the presentation of a Hurricane Otis recovery plan for Acapulco and the neighboring municipality of Coyuca de Benítez.
López Obrador outlined details of the 61.3-billion-peso, 20-point plan, which includes monetary support and tax relief for Hurricane Otis victims, interest-free loans for businesses and funds for public works.
“It’s important to say … that we have the budget to fund all these needs, these programs and we don’t consider the allocation of these resources an expense but rather an investment,” he said.
“We fortunately have healthy public finances and when it comes to providing benefits to the people we have unlimited resources,” he said, adding that the 61-billion-peso cost of the recovery plan is “an estimate” and that if more money is needed, “we’ll increase the budget.”
Guerrero Governor Evelyn Salgado said earlier in the press conference that guerrerenses – natives and residents of the state – are “a brave people” and “a people who know how to rise up in the face of any adversity.”
With the help of Mexican authorities, the Mexican people “and even international assistance,” Acapulco “will sparkle once again,” she said.
Two Mexicans leave Gaza
Later on Wednesday, López Obrador read aloud a message from Foreign Affairs Minister Alicia Bárcena announcing that a Mexican woman, Michelle Ravel, had left the Gaza Strip and was on her way to Cairo, Egypt.
Asked whether she was a doctor who had been working for Doctors Without Borders, AMLO said she was, but appeared to be mistaking Ravel for another woman in Gaza, Bárbara Lango.
He subsequently said that authorities were seeking to obtain information about when Lango – an anesthesiologist from Sinaloa who has been in Gaza since 2022 – would be included on “the exit list,” allowing her to enter Egypt via the Rafah Border Crossing.
“They weren’t hostages, but they were in the Gaza Strip,” López Obrador said of Ravel, who is also reportedly a doctor, and Lango, who subsequently did manage to get to Egypt with her husband.
Two other Mexicans, Ilana Gritzewsky and Orión Hernández, are presumably still being held hostage in the Gaza Strip after they were abducted by Hamas members during the militant group’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.
Governor Salgado read aloud (in Spanish) a Náhuatl poem at the conclusion of her remarks on the hurricane response efforts.
“They tore down our fruit, cut our branches and burned our trunk, but nothing can kill our roots.”
López Obrador acknowledged on Friday morning that a judge had ruled that former attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam – who is in prison in connection with the disappearance and presumed murder of 43 students in Guerrero in 2014 – could be transferred to house arrest as he awaits trial due to ill health and his advanced age (75).
“The [former] attorney general couldn’t leave [prison] because there is another case [against him], but [the judge] argued in favor of his release,” AMLO said.
The president asserted that there was something “very strange” about the ruling, saying that a hearing was scheduled just 2 1/2 hours before it was held when there is “always” at least 48 hours notice.
“And the judge, according to the report I have, acted on orders because he spoke ill of me, … said that the judicial power is above the executive, … that they had more power than anyone, that he could do what he liked and that furthermore we weren’t fulfilling the commitment we made to clear up the Ayotzinapa case,” López Obrador said.
Asked whether the government would appeal the ruling, he said that was a decision for the Federal Attorney General’s Office.
Murillo Karam, who has been in the medical wing of a Mexico City prison for months, is accused of forced disappearance, torture and obstruction of justice in connection with the abduction of the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College students
López Obrador, whose government released a new report on the case in late September, was also asked about the government’s attempt to have Tomás Zeron extradited from Israel. The former head of the now-defunct Criminal Investigation Agency is accused of abduction, torture and tampering with evidence in connection with the Ayotzinapa case.
The extradition process is “advancing very slowly, even more slowly now due to the situation in Israel and Gaza,” AMLO said.
“It’s becoming more complicated, but we’re going to continue insisting on the extradition being carried out,” he said.
“I’ve written to two Israeli [government] ministers about the issue. There has been a response that they’re going to cooperate, that they’re going to help, but up until now [the extradition] hasn’t been achieved,” López Obrador said.
AIFA on the rise, but Interjet still “in trouble”
AMLO welcomed recent announcements from Viva Aerobus and new state-owned airline Mexicana that they will operate a combined total of 37 new flights from the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA), the army-built airport just north of Mexico City.
“It’s very good that these companies are moving [to AIFA],” he said, although Mexicana hasn’t yet started flying.
The number of flights at AIFA is increasing because the Mexico City airport (AICM) is “saturated,” López Obrador added.
“Additional operations cannot be allowed [at AICM], … that’s why … [airlines] are going to move [more flights] to the Felipe Ángeles Airport. We’re pleased with this decision that the airlines are taking,” he said.
Turning his focus to Interjet, which stopped flying in late 2020 due to a lack of funds, AMLO said the situation the airline faces is “quite complex.”
It not only owes money to the federal tax service SAT, state-owned airport corporation ASA and other government institutions but also to private companies, he said.
“So, yes, that company is in quite a lot of trouble,” López Obrador said.
He said that the government made “proposals” to help Interjet settle its debts, but “they didn’t accept or they weren’t interested.”
If the airline wants to fly out of AIFA, that’s “all good,” but it first has to “get up to date” with its debts, AMLO said.
“Look how [the peso] is doing,” AMLO said as a USD:MXN exchange rate of 17.39 was displayed on the screen behind him.
“Super peso, very strong. This helps us. There are some disadvantages, but there are more advantages,” he said.
By Mexico News Daily chief staff writer Peter Davies ([email protected])