By RICARDO CASTILLO
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador(AMLO) is currently preparing his report on his first 100 days in office. The precise day will be Sunday, March 10, but he’s already announced that he will instead blow his own horn on Monday, March 11, during his daily morning press conference at the National Palace in Mexico City.
Last Wednesday,March 6, AMLO met with his full cabinet and left them as homework the job of writing up a brief report on 25 different government programs now underway.
For AMLO, however, coming to the presidential office was like going into baseball season so big is his love for the game.
“The season is here and we’re ahead. Thus far, we’ve won more games than we’ve lost,” he said. “We Have a first-place position in our batting percentage, with over .300 and with great results from our pitchers. We’ve got two of them pitching over 100 miles per hour. They are good and both are women.” He did not mention these ladies by name.
Finally, in baseball terms, he said his team will be playing for the Mexican Baseball League championship and “we’re going to win the season, we’ll take best out of seven because we’ve got a solid bench, batting, pitching and a manager. We’re going to wipe out the other team, the conservative fifí team.” Fifi – to AMLO – means neoliberal, elegant, well-mannered and corrupt.
But on the not-so-sporty side, what has AMLO done in his first 100 days in office? Here are some of his moves in what could be the stormiest performance of an in-coming president in Mexican history:
The fact is that AMLO began governing long before being sworn in on Dec. 1, through his National Renovation Movement (Morena) Congress. One month before taking office, he had already kept two of his most important campaign promises: the cancelation of the construction of the “faraonic” New International Mexico Airport (NAIM) and the deprivation for former presidents of their pensions. In his campaign stumping, AMLO sustained that former presidents had “stolen more than enough” so they do not deserve a pension.
But once in power, López Obrador said, “I have the reigns of the nation in my hands,” and on Dec. 20, he declared an open war on fuel theft known as “huachicol” by shutting off the state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos’ (Pemex) ducts of crude, gasoline and diesel, thus depriving the thieving “huachicolero” gangs from access to the precious fuel.
The move was impulsive and definitely not well thought out. This columnist criticized the decision, saying “AMLO may be a good politician, but he definitely knows nothing of logistics.” I was not far off the mark. By shutting off the ducts, yes, AMLO deprived fuel thieves of access to free gasoline, but he also created a historic major fuel shortage.
As a whole, the Mexican people understood the motive of the move, but nearly everyone was of the opinion that “he could have planned it better” and not have done harm, as it did, to vehicle owners who had a nightmarish time acquiring fuel. Finally, the ordeal lasted until mid-January, with one hell of a Christmas-New Year season for motorists.
In baseball terms, it was a back-to-back homerun and three strike outs to end the first inning at bat. The measure, however, came as a hard blow to thieving gangs, which are still “diversifying” into other criminal activities, but the decision has diminished fuel theft from Pemex to a minimum amount.
In terms of show of strength, let’s say that in cancelling the airport, presidents’ pensions and shutting off fuel stealing have been AMLO’s three noisiest political and economic moves.
The most enduring trait of AMLO’s “personal style of governance” has been in terms of communications. He’s a stern believer in being a president of the people, and has been in constant contact with them from the beginning through the establishment of his daily morning press conference, now popularly referred to as “las mañaneras,” or the morning ones. The president’s morning conferences began on Dec. 3, 2018.
Thus far, he’s held 70-live “mañaneras” on a Monday-through-Friday basis and answered over 1,200 questions from attending reporters, which amounts to over 80 hours of effective air time.
This alone has drawn a lot of attention, since his morning press conferences are now being broadcast in Mexico City live by government-owned Channel 14 and newscast Milenio, which devotes nearly the full hour to las mañaneras. The conferences can now be consulted in Spotify, which also runs them live.
As a sidebar, this newscast has become a deadly competition to normal morning commercial news broadcasts because, in terms of presidential news, people are now experiencing that it’s best to get news straight from the horse’s mouth rather than being limited to refried beans.
With AMLO live, people are now getting news through streaming services. In his conferences, AMLO touches on a series of different subjects and returns to follow-up on those topics a few days later.
Another big communications hit by López Obrador has been his weekend outings to all of the states of Mexico. In fact, he will finish his first round of visits to states this upcoming weekend with a trip to Aguascalientes, Guanajuato and Puebla, all of which are governed by the opposition National Action Party (PAN) and where AMLO lost in his presidential bid. It’ll surely make for an interesting final round of his visitations to states.
What AMLO has fully managed to accomplish in his first 100 days in office is to establish himself as the sole spokesman for his administration, while definitely letting people know — as he constantly repeats on a daily basis like the broken record people want to hear – that he is out to put an end to corruption in the Mexican government.
But he’s also proven that in his simplistic style there is a gold mine of direct communications with the average people of Mexico because he talks in slang to them and gives them constant assurances that he is watching over the nation as a whole from the National Palace. He has direct contact with governors and knows municipal mayors by name.
The result of this public relations policy is that his popularity has soared. The latest poll from the daily El Financiero – a foxhole of some of AMLO’s most vicious critics – put his popularity at 88 percent, the highest of any Mexican president in recorded history.
But let’s wait for Monday and see what AMLO’s “100-Day Report of Duties” brings with it.