By RICARDO CASTILLO
It’s either one or the other, no in between.
Either Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is at war with the press, or the press is at war with him. Maybe both.
Since being elected president of Mexico, AMLO has been taking a pummeling from the media on a daily basis. Of course, there are the same old suspects who have bashed him since time immemorial, so those don’t really count.
But then there are those who have joined the opposition armies for no apparent reason at all. One of them is the weekly muckraking political magazine Proceso. During his daily press conference on Monday, April 27, AMLO projected the cover of the magazine’s latest edition, showing a group of doctors preparing a covid-19 victim’s corpse for cremation. The headline read: “Phase 3. The Nightmare.”
“If Julio Scherer were alive today, he’d die again,” AMLO said of the founder of the magazine.
“Do you know why I am doing this? (The magazine) gets very angry at me, but I always say what I have on my mind. This is alarmist journalism,” he said, referring to a now-defunct crime in Mexico, which is slanderous, yellow journalism, similar or worse than that of the United States’ National Inquirer.
But Proceso is not a criminal institution, but rather an anti-establishment political magazine which has joined the crowd of AMLO critics. Page one — and the next two, too — almost have some report criticizing the president or one of his ongoing projects.
In reality. Proceso’s turnaround against AMLO is raising eyebrows. To begin with, Julio Scherer, Jr., the son of the magazine’s founder, is the top lawyer and legal advisor to the president.
“I’m all for letting go in analysis,” AMLO said.
“There is freedom of expression above all, (but this cover has) no moral scruples and is without ethics.”
AMLO went on to say: “I do not censor anything. Nothing, nothing. It’s prohibited to prohibit. But all this must be debated. It’s better to mention it here.”
He added he could not believe how Proceso stooped so low.
But this is just the latest clash in an ongoing war between AMLO and the press, which he has repeatedly called “liars,” and even worse, “boring.”
“Do you think it’s not boring to open up a newspaper, El Universal, for example, or Reforma, only to find absolutely nothing good about the government?” he asked rhetorically.
“It’s all bad! It’s all bad! But not just the news items, but the columnists, who are allegedly independent”
The president’s nickname for the above mentioned dailies is “the fifi press,” meaning elegant but with no scruples.
“The fifi press takes everything out of context, all rotten news,” he continued.
“That is their position, because since a long time ago, since the initiation of Mexico as an independent nation (1821), there have been two political groups, conservatives and liberals, always, for nearly 200 years. That still exists. It hasn’t changed. It may seem like political confrontation gets diluted, but it exists. I have sought reconciliation and will continue to do so because that’s what’s best for the nation. But there are those who don’t want our project of transformation, of change, to take hold.”
Of course, AMLO’s criticism of Proceso comes as a bit as a surprise, but not his constant bickering with the ultra-conservative daily Reforma, which now scorns the “useless” revival of the Maya Train to turn it into both a cargo and tourism enterprise to improve the forever-battered economy of the Yucatan Peninsula.
“Whether our adversaries like it or not, the fifis, the fifi press, we’re going to build the Maya Train,” he stated a couple of weeks ago, adding one of his favorite slogans, “me canso ganso” (literally, “I tire out goose,” but roughly translating to “by hook or by crook”), to show his stubbornness.
“I remember (when he was Mexico City Mayor),” AMLO said, “when I made the proposition to build up a second floor expressway, there was a campaign in Reforma against it. Had I stopped because of that campaign, the second story expressway would not exist. Then, I have known those guys in the fifi press for many years, even if they try to disguise themselves or act in simulation.”
AMLO has often contradicted news items published in Reforma and El Universal calling them fake news, “una volada,” or a flight of the imagination, as fake news items are known in Mexican journalist slang.
But in the end, it’s not just the abovementioned publications that are against AMLO. The financial daily El Financiero, a subsidiary of Bloomberg News, is in its entirety against his financial policies.
AMLO has responded to El Financiero by saying that its problem is that its writers don’t understand what he is doing.
In any case, it does make for a boring paper to ready daily attacks concocted by the same usual suspects – Pablo Hiriart, Raymundo Rivapalacio, to name but two El Financiero columnists, repeating the same anti-AMLO attacks. Isn’t there anything else for them to write about? Really, not for them.
But again, there is no love between AMLO and the press. But that should not be news. It’s been like that forever.
We’ll be hearing more from AMLO and the press, for sure, mañana.
…April 28, 2020