By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
It seems that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has a bone to pick with the world’s leading global business publication.
On Thursday, July 11, he “demanded” that the Financial Times of London — one of the most-respected and globally recognized print medias in the world – owed him – and oh, yeah, the Mexican people – an apology for having published an editorial that he found offensive.
In that column, signed by the newspaper’s editorial board and published one day earlier, the Times — pointing to AMLO’s repeated misjudgments regarding Mexico’s potential economic growth, the viability of a no-go international airport being carved out of an antiquated military air base that can barely service its own limited fleets, a destined-to-destroy-the-delicate-ecosystem-of-the-Yucatan Peninsula tourist train that nobody but AMLO seems to really want, and a financially unviable oil refinery plant in Tabasco that even his closest advisors at Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) have warned is a disaster waiting to happen – dared to say that maybe it is high time for the Mexican head of state to stop living in a political bubble and start accepting the country’s economic realities.
The “offensive” article suggested that the sudden resignation of AMLO’s fiscally prudent, feet-on-the-ground finance minister Carlos Urzúa one day earlier after just seven months in office was a harbinger of economic woes for Mexico that might come down the road unless he switches course.
This claim was evidenced by the fact that Urzúa’s departure immediately spurred a currency devaluation and a major downtick in Mexico’s Bolsa de Valores stock market.
The editorial likewise said that AMLO’s imprudent damn-the-torpedoes approach to economics was scaring off capital investment.
The Times pointed out that “the Mexican president has already upset investors by cancelling a much-needed, partly built new airport for Mexico City on largely political grounds,” (a project that has irked AMLO so much that he has even tried to erase it from the map by flooding it under 100 meters of water, which, thanks to saner minds in the still-relatively rational Mexican judicial system, has not yet happened).
“His insistence that Pemex, the heavily indebted national oil company, must build an $8 billion new refinery, which makes little business sense, has troubled markets further,” the editorial continued.
“Analysts fear that Pemex’s shaky finances may contaminate Mexico’s sovereign debt rating,” a premise that has been repeated by the Big Three international credit rating agencies, Moody’s, Fitch and Standard and Poor’s (S&P), all of which AMLO has said are part of some obscure global plot to discredit him and his administration).
The Financial Times ended its editorial by saying that AMLO needs to start listening to his new finance minister and “accept unpalatable news, not continue to rely on his own (different data).”
Well — surprise, surprise – he said that he had his own “alternative data” to show that not only was Mexico doing well financially, but that the Financial Times was hypocritical because it had not run any articles during previous Mexican administrations condemning corruption within those governments (which, by the way, is not true, but who can argue with “alternative data”?).
AMLO said that the Financial Times was “biased and unprofessional” for having written the column, which, I reiterate here for those who seem to be unable to distinguish between a straight news report and an opinion piece, was an editorial.
Jude Webber, the Financial Times’ correspondent in Mexico offered AMLO a quick retort: “Give us an interview, Mr. President, and we will gladly discuss the matter.”
AMLO did not reply, other than to do his typical song-and-dance act of pseudo indignation, demanding an apology from the newspaper.
Fat chance that’s going to happen.
It is time for AMLO to stop trying to schmooze the pro-Morena media with kissy-kissy spectacles in his now-infamous early-morning showboats and stop insulting, intimidating and threatening the serious media that dares to criticize him or question his actions.
Yes, the Financial Times is right: López Obrador needs to accept reality – economic and otherwise.