By RICARDO CASTILLO
There’s a growing concern among most Mexicans over President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) disdain for personal security. Friends and political opponents agree that the lax security that has surrounded him for the little over two months he’s been in office has to be reinforced.
The president’s problem is that he considers himself to be just one more member of the Mexican people, who, he says, “love me and would never do me any harm.” AMLO seems to have forgotten he is the president and his security is vital for the nation for the duration of his six-year term. In public meetings, he allows security breaches and rubs elbow with the crowds, something no Mexican president ever did before.
Apprehensions grew exponentiallylast Jan. 29 when a criminal group devoted to stealing fuels from the Salamanca refinery in the central state of Guanajuato left behind several sticks of live dynamite in a pickup truck by the refinery and a hand-written banner sign hanging on a bridge nearby warning the group would begin “killing innocent people” if he does not withdraw the stiff military guard now securing the nearly 70-year-old refinery.
There was also a final note that read, “I’m leaving for you a little gift near my refinery.” Of course, the “little gift” was the sticks of dynamite, which the president’s press secretary, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas, initially dismissed as bogus dynamite but that the Army later announced that it had destroyed in a control tank.
The note had an author, Antonio Yepes, nicknamed “El Marro” (marro in Mexico can mean either sledgehammer or tightfisted or cheapskate). When it was confirmed that the dynamite was real, the threat by Yepes was taken seriously. In fact, at the moment, he is the most wanted man in Mexico by both the Army and Marines and a thorough search to apprehend him is currently underway in the state of Guanajuato, where he is known to have been stealing fuel for years. Authorities confiscated 40 tanker trucks that belonged to his organization, which is called the Santa Rosa de Lima Cartel.
The concern over AMLO’s security is not new. Prior to being sworn in, AMLO eliminated the enormous Estado Mayor Presidencial (EMP) elite presidential bodyguard corps (composed of 3,000 people to report for duty with the regular Army, which had been in existence since 1934 to protect both the President in turn and his family).
President AMLO also did away with all the armored vehicles former President Enrique Peña Nieto left behind and is in the process of auctioning them because he has “no use” for them. Instead, he rides on a regular VW car.
Instead of the EMP, AMLO resorted to a small-but-trusted security group made up of 20 unarmed guards that took care of him during the electoral campaign last year and who are still with him.
In Congress, several senators who have no political sympathy for AMLO have said they are worried that something, somewhere, may happen to him. In Mexican history, there have been two major murders of would-be presidents who were gunned down by a lone killer. One of them was in 1928 of then-President-elect Alvaro Obregón. Obregón was murdered in a restaurant by a cartoonist who was supposed to be about to draw a funny picture of Obregón and instead pulled out a .38 revolver and unloaded it in the president-elect. The other case was that of Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio, who was stumping on his campaign on March 23, 1994, and in the midst of the crowd at a popular Tijuana neighborhood when a gunman came from behind with a .38 revolver and shot him behind the right ear. Colosio’s eyes rolled up showing the white and he dropped dead on the spot.
Two opposition senators have shown concern over the president’s security. Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Senate Coordinator René Juárez Cisneros has said: “The president has to have a security scheme acceptable for the position he represents. He has to listen to people concerned about his security so that he doesn’t wander into danger’s way. I think that’s the way he should consider it.”
Another senator, Carlos Romero Hicks – a former Guanajuato state governor – of the National Action Party (PAN) agreed with Juárez: “Decisions have to be made to afford security to ensure presidential protection,” he said. “I hope the president will assume that as the head of state he deserves security conditions.”
But instead of paying heed, when informed of the opinion of the two senators, AMLO retorted on Friday, Feb. 1: “We’re going to continue doing things the same way. The person who fights for justice has nothing to fear.”
What did this answer do? Certainly, it increased the fears of all concerned, yours truly included. His sworn enemies, for now the huachicoleros (gasoline thieves), who have made a mint stealing fuel from the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) fuel ducts are beginning feel the hurt.
Surely, El Marro has gone into hiding for now, but he is a known assassin, who, even if being hunted down and on the run, is scheming up ways to sock it to AMLO.
Indeed, the president should pay heed, and now even more so since he has spiked the fuel theft hornet’s nest!