With elections on the horizon, a shift in tone was expected for the week’s morning press conferences in the National Palace in Mexico City. A ban on political campaigning kicked in at midnight on Wednesday, meaning even tighter restrictions on what could be discussed politically.
President López Obrador, or AMLO for short, had already been sanctioned by the National Electoral Institute for his points of discussion earlier in the campaign.
The week opened as it routinely does with a roundup of the standing prices of fuels. With that formality checked, the first question from the floor brought full alertness to a slowly waking room.
Had the U.S. government responded to the diplomatic note accusing it of funding political groups opposed to the administration?
“No, there has been no response, we are waiting for it … It is very regrettable that the United States government has not taken our request seriously,” the president said, bringing journalists’ pens to life.
He then advised his friends in the United States to follow the foreign policy teachings of former president Franklin D. Roosevelt. The wartime leader promoted the non-interventionist “Good Neighbor Policy” in Latin America.
Turning to another pressing issue, AMLO saluted the Cruz Azul soccer team on its victory Sunday. “Congratulations to Cruz Azul … I saw both goals,” said the president, offering a nod to the team that had finally won a league title after 23 years.
“Remember what Babe Ruth said? ‘You cannot beat someone who doesn’t know how to give up,’” said the 65th leader of Mexico, who secured office after two unsuccessful attempts.
Health was at the top of the agenda on Tuesday. A stellar lineup accompanied the president to relay the latest on the vaccine rollout. The Health Minister, the Deputy Health Minister, the Minister of Education, the Foreign Minister and the Defense Minister all lined up for their moment under the spotlight to confirm that things are going very well indeed (as they always are, according to the daily pressers).
“We are ninth in the world at the moment for doses administered,” related Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard. “Mexico is in ninth place,” he repeated.
Once the floor was opened, the question of election security was revisited. The president’s response addressed the election bit but the security part was left on the shelf.
“The people of Mexico are teaching the world a lesson. They are one of the most aware peoples in the world, never in history have there been so many aware people as now,” AMLO affirmed, repeating the pet adjective he has attributed to voters.
Security was taken back off the shelf later with the president’s claim that the election had been relatively peaceful. “Even though it is the largest election in recent times … even with the regrettable acts of violence, it is not the same as before,” said the president, demonstrating a tendency to compare himself to his rivals, rather than the ideal.
The celebration of Navy Day forced an abrupt end to the conference, and it was off to a ceremony in Veracruz for the president. “A hug to all the marines,” he proclaimed, before making a speedy exit.
In an early exchange, AMLO exhibited accurate aim, hitting two birds with one stone. In a single shot he used the unsold presidential jet to exhibit his virtues and denounce his rivals.
“They came up with the idea to buy a plane that was so luxurious,” he said as an explanation for why it still hadn’t been sold. “Imagine how much … we saved yesterday when I went to Veracruz [on a commercial airline] … if we have it in maintenance, grounded, we are saving … millions of pesos,” the president declared.
With the election days away and intimidation and violence accompanying its build-up, the president addressed the concerns of voters. “The country is at peace, there is governance, there are no risks of instability. We are facing the scourge of violence every day and we can speak of peace and tranquility in the country,” reflected the president, in somewhat contradictory fashion.
The morning ended with some spiritual advice. “Another respectful, affectionate recommendation: do not get angry, do not let anger take over, be calm … let love of your neighbor prevail and don’t hate anyone,” he said.
Whether violent criminals will heed his latest call for love and peace remains to be seen. They haven’t yet.
More good vaccine news headed up the mañanera on Thursday: on Wednesday more than 1 million people were vaccinated.
But a question spoiled the celebratory mood: electoral crime was the subject of a long, elaborate inquiry from a journalist, who went so far as to name the culprits.
But rules prohibiting discussion that could be seen as electioneering prohibited a response. “I can’t,” answered the president before turning to another question.
With the optics of a breaking news channel, the conference then switched to a live stream from Mexico City airport, where 1 million new Covid vaccines had arrived. The director general of Birmex, the state-owned vaccine company, updated viewers as the planes rolled in. “42,347,665 doses, Mr. President,” he confirmed.
The conference ended with a call for voters to go to the polls on Sunday. “He who wants to be free, will be free,” the president said, quoting former president Benito Juárez.
More Covid shots were on the way, the president announced, offering the news that the United States would send 1 million vaccines.
But the mood was threatened once again with a pointed inquiry: were refurbishments of the oil refinery in Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, causing cancer among children?
“No, no, we couldn’t do that, life is the most important thing,” was AMLO’s indirect response.
Then, full of Friday energy, the president found his narrative voice to elaborate on topics of neoliberalism, environmentalism, pseudo-environmentalism, feminism and vaccinations. The patient journalist interjected: “Mr. President, returning to the topic of Salina Cruz.”
“We would do nothing to harm the health of the people,” the president assured, before showing his absolute faith in the journalistic establishment. “If what you say were true … it would have already appeared in Reforma,” the daily newspaper the president loves to hate.
Pushed for time, AMLO vilified a politician’s use of a helicopter for campaigning and certified his faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ, all before leaving for a flight. The term messiah was not mentioned.
Mexico News Daily