By RICARDO CASTILLO
Timing and politicking usually go hand in hand and is almost always in perfect tandem for a shrewd politician. But the visit by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to the states of Querétaro and San Luis Potosí on Wednesday, Aug. 19, might just have been a case of the wrong place at the wrong time.
This coincidence in visiting these two states, however, was not of AMLO’s choosing, but rather the consequence of previously agreed visitations with two Querétaro and San Luis Potosí governors, Francisco Domínguez Servién and Juan Manuel Carreras López, respectively.
The objectives of each of the two visits were completely different. AMLO went to Querétaro to sign with Domínguez a series of agreements to build and equip hospitals.
In San Luis Potosí, Carreras, who is also president of the National Governors’ Conference (Conago,) hosted a live one-day summit between AMLO and the governors.
Let me now take a pause here to repeat a joke AMLO likes to throw in now and then in his press conferences: He says that news travel so fast these days that he thinks we’ve gotten to the day when we know the news, “before it happens.”
Actually, the pun comes from a play by madcap German writer Oscar Panizza, who circa 1900 wrote a hilarious comedy called “The Council of Love.” While drinking schnapps at a bar, the characters hear herald tell of a surrounding town’s gossip and news, some even a month old. One of the characters mentions his amazement at hearing the latest, and another comments: “This is nothing. There’ll come a day when news happens so fast we’ll know about it before it happens.” Moreover, I am right in saying that AMLO is quoting from this play because he saw it staged at an offbeat theater in the southern Mexico City neighborhood of Coyoacán, staged by his dear friend and appointed Senator Jesusa Rodríguez.
In any case, the rest of this column is about what happened Wednesday morning in Querétaro while AMLO was on his way to the Conago summit in San Luis Potosí. More about Conago at the end, since for this writing this news has not happened, and as a pro reporter all I can say is that at this writing, since the Conago meeting has not happened, it is not news, not yet, disclaiming Panizza’s claim on the future of the speed of information. It is not news if it has not happened.
The awesome side of AMLO’s conference in Querétaro was that he was on the podium running his daily press conference and next to his left was Domínguez Servién.
In case you did not read the Mexico News Roundup in Tuesday’s Pulse News Mexico, the top item on the roundup is precisely about Domínguez Servién firing his personal secretary of many years – and faithful friend, at that – Guillermo Gutiérrez Badillo after he is allegedly shown receiving bags of cash at Pemex in an anonymously released video. At the time of the 2013 video, Domínguez was the Querétaro senator for the National Action Party, and it implies – does not say – he sent Gutiérrez to collect a bribe for voting in favor of former President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Energy Reform.
From the start of the early morning press conference on Wednesday, you could sense the growling of the news hounds smelling fresh meat as the president introduced the personalities on stage.
The inevitable happened quickly, even before AMLO could react as local Querétaro reporters wanted to know if their governor received any of the money in the bags.
In an obviously prepped statement, Domínguez took the stand and read the following: “In a most perverse manner a video was shown in which a person in whom I had deposited trust and who has assisted me for years appears. I removed him from his post (as private secretary) and informed the appropriate authorities so that he can fend off the allegations for himself. As for me, I have nothing to fear, nothing to defend myself from, and nothing to hide.”
Domínguez went on to say, “The Lozoya video is an infamy. First, nobody wants to buy what you already have. Since I was deputy in 2008, I supported the Energy Reform proposed by the PAN and then as senator, I continued to believe the reform was the best for the republic.”
These statement morsels did not feed the news-hungry journalists and AMLO stepped in to sidetrack the questioning by the local media.
AMLO even went so far as asking as if they would agree that the governor could be queried at some other time so as not to disrupt the nature of the press conference. In response, AMLO got a loud “no” from the reporters, who knew for a fact that if they missed this chance to have the governor facemask-to-facemask, it would hardly ever come again.
Then AMLO went on overrunning the reporters.
“The governor has stated his case and has done it clearly and has said it’d be his only statement on the subject,” AMLO said.
“Why don’t we try to leave this issue for some other moment? Even for respect, for respect, for urbane politicking, there will be time to clarify even with the Fiscal General.”
It was here when AMLO asked the reporters if they wanted to lay off, which got the resounding “no” response.
Domínguez said from his seat, “that’s the only position I have, and I have been very clear.”
But that was not the end of the press conference. It went on for another hour. It was the end of the potential questioning barrage against a lame duck governor.
Another issue that you could call “suspect for the day” was the fact that the Querétaro governor’s seat will be up for grabs next year, and in the eyes of many, the video is a deadly blow for the Donínguez’s National Action Party hopes for repeat win. However, I will not go into that because that news has not traveled at all yet.
Then, AMLO went down the 57 Highway to San Luis Potosí to attend the National Governors’ Conference.
But in respect of time and politicking, you can read about it here mañana, after it has happened.
…Aug. 20, 2020