By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Despite the fact that it took him four and a half hours to arrive at the site of the Tlahuelilpan, Hidalgo, gasoline explosion on Friday, Jan. 18, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said Sunday, Jan. 20, that there was no need for him to use aero-transport to get there.
“I will not use airplanes or helicopters to be transported, except in the case of an emergency, in the situation of something that has to do with Pemex or the Navy,” AMLO told reporters during a press conference at the National Palace to present the latest registry of deaths resulting from the explosion.
“I hope that I will never have to do so.”
The president apparently does not consider an explosion that killed 79 people and counting as “an emergency,” but the people of Tlahuelilpan might disagree.
Part of a president’s inherent duties include being the consoler-in-chief after a national disaster, and AMLO’s obligation was plainly to be supportive of and show compassion for the victims by offering them his physical person immediately after the explosion, not four and a half hours later.
To make matters worse, AMLO told reporters that it was far more important that he take advantage of the road trip to Tlahuelilpan to check out gasoline supplies and costs, as well as the state of tankers, along the way to the explosion site – information he no doubt could have gotten from his team of energy experts who so astutely advised him to launch his war on gasoline theft in late December – than to get to the Hidalgo town promptly.
“If I had arrived in airplane or helicopter, when would I have seen this? When would I have seen the state of the roads and highways?” he asked.
Answer: How about some time other than when you are needed to console a town that is suffering massive deaths and injuries as a result of a program that you instigated and which led to a fuel shortage crisis that pushed people to resort to collect gasoline illegally in order to be able to get to their jobs the next day?
But perhaps the true coup de grâce of AMLO’s appalling response to the question of why he did not use a helicopter to get to Tlahuelilpan earlier was his personal defense of his use of land transport over aerial transport:
“I feel safe using land transport,” he said.
“I don’t have to tell anyone where I am going and I don’t have to have a meeting or travel in a committee to get there,” he said.
Maybe not, but since he is now the head of state for a nation of 132 million, he might just want to put his personal interests aside and focus instead on those of the Mexican people, starting with the needs of the victims of the Tlahuelilpan explosion, which, in the eyes of most Mexicans, qualifies as a national emergency.