By RICARDO CASTILLO
On Sunday, Sept. 1, Mexicans witnessed what was a hapless State of the Nation Address by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). He delivered an eloquent speech, but it offered nothing new under the sun in terms of content. The fact is that Mexico’s president is now facing that he never thought he would have to: an excess information problem.
AMLO appears every day at the National Palace in a morning press conference, explaining the issues and problems of the day. Moreover, this was the third “informe,” or address, AMLO has delivered since thus far in his nine months in office, one marking his first 100 days in power, the second to commemorate his party’s July 1, 2018, victory that led him to the National Palace, and now this official annual address to the nation.
So, for the most part his third address was pretty much more of the same, though concentrated on a day that has for the past 90 years been pretty much celebrated by Mexicans as the “President’s Day” to inform the people. This time – as expected – AMLO blew his own horn and admitted few gaffes, though “too few to mention” as the old Paul Anka “I Did It My Way” classic song says.
Here are a few salient statements AMLO made in his address, one of them not being that in the most notable polls last week, all pollsters gave him a high popularity rating, ranging from a low of 69 to a high of 71 percent, with headlines touting the fact that “previous to the Informe, seven out of every 10 Mexicans are satisfied with his performance.
AMLO began his address by mentioning that on Dec. 1, 2018, his inauguration day, he summoned the people to join him to make his concept of the Fourth Transformation of Public Life in Mexico and that “it’s begun to be a reality.”
The Fourth Transformation, now downsized for public consumption to 4T, includes three previous historic events in the nation. One, the first 1824 Constitution; two, the Reform Constitution of 1857, which separated the government from the Catholic Church; and three, the Mexican Revolution, in which people demanded democracy after the 34-year dictatorship of President Porfirio Díaz.
“It is now a fact that Mexico has the separation of political power from economic power,” he said. “The current government represents everyone, regardless of ideology, sexual orientation, economic situation. There is a true state of law.”
He also said: “The executive power no longer intervenes, as was previously customary, in the decisions of the legislative and judicial branches, the governments of municipalities and state or in autonomous organizations such as the Fiscal General of the Republic, the National Electoral Institute or the (central) Bank of Mexico.”
In different issues touched upon at random, AMLO was brief, keeping a promise he made prior to starting the speech and showing a thick book containing the full informe he sent to Congress later in the day. “I’m not going to read it all,” he said. AMLO got a laugh of relief from the 500 guests attending the ceremony at in the National Palace’s main patio.
“The Mexican economy is growing very little, but there is no recession,” he said. “Nevertheless, we’re now seeing a less unfair distribution of income, that is to say, there is more development and wellbeing.
“The most important objective of the government of the Fourth Transformation is that by 2024 to have a better society and for people to live in an environment of wellbeing. I proclaim again, out of conviction and humanism, that for the good of all, the poor must come first.”
AMLO said his administration managed to save 145 billion pesos just by cutting down on “squandering and opulence” and by doing away with high wages, the “immense” (five million pesos a month) pensions former presidents were getting, and privileges and perks for all higher-echelon government officials such as vehicles, expenditures and body guards.
He also mentioned that when he took over the presidency, fuel thieves (inside and outside the government) were stopped dead cold from stealing 80,000 liters of fuel a day from Pemex. Fuel theft has been cut down by 94 percent.
AMLO said that 51 tourism offices called ProMexico all over the world were closed down because in no other nation in the world are there comparable offices. “I never heard of ProGermany or ProFrance,” he said. “They just don’t exist.”
In his speech, AMLO also spoke about not being able to bring internal criminal activity down, but said he will keep on trying, also discussing the issues of education, health, migration, special treatment to Central American nations and, several times, corruption.
He likewise defended his most controversial legal action, shutting down the construction of the New International Mexico Airport (NAIM.)
“We have finished paying the outstanding debts,” he said. “We were not going to owe anything for this work, in which there were many irregularities.”
AMLO mentioned that if the NAIM project had continued, “the control tower they were building would be sinking by now (in the dry lakebed).” Also, a nearby bird sanctuary, the Nabor Carrillo Lake, would have been destroyed by the airport’s presence.
The president closed his speech by attacking the “neoliberal reactionaries” who ruled before him and sent the nation astray over the past 36 years.
“They are morally defeated,” he said. “And I don’t want you to perceive this as an act of arrogance or mockery, that is what I see them as, morally defeated,” he said.
“The conservatives that oppose any real change are nervous, and some are even out of their gourd. However, they have not been able to form a group and we celebrate and – touch wood – that they have not been able to organize into a group or fraction with the power of the reactionaries of yesteryear.”