By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Anyone who knows me or reads me on a regular basis knows I am not a great supporter of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, aka AMLO. (See my column “A Dictator by Any Other Name,” which ran today, Sept. 14, in Pulse News Mexico.)
But just as it is incendiary, inaccurate and manipulative for AMLO to constantly refer to all conservative thinkers or critics as “corrupt, greedy and immoral” — which he does on a near daily basis in his morning press conferences (spiel jams) — those who have jumped on the occasion of the military closing of the National Metropolitan Cathedral in front of Mexico City’s main square Zócalo late Sunday, Sept. 13, are intentionally or unintentionally misinforming their audiences in order to manipulate public sentiment.
That is NOT what happened.
What did happen is that, since it was finally decided (pretty much at the 11th hour) that the Zócalo would be kept closed during the Sept. 15/Sept. 16 Independence Day celebrations in order to prevent large congregations of people forming in close proximity, which would almost certainly lead to a subsequent surge in covid-19 cases in the city, the military was ordered to secure the premises of the Zócalo and its surrounding areas.
Since the Metropolitan Cathedral happens to open directly onto the Zócalo, it was included in the areas to be quartered off.
All of which would have been fine and relatively routine, except for the fact that there is a standard protocol that is supposed to be carried out whenever the cathedral must be closed by the government for whatever reason (this has happened on numerous occasions in the past).
That protocol specifies that should the government need to close the cathedral, the Catholic Archdioceses must be informed prior to the act.
Since the decision to close the Zócalo was essentially last-minute and since those who are familiar with AMLO and his rather rambunctious way of doing things, know full well that the word “protocol” does not exist in his daily vocabulary (“protocol” for AMLO means whatever he feels like doing, in whatever way he feels like doing it), this traditional courtesy to the Archdioceses was omitted.
Dismayed by the oversight, the cathedral’s hierarchy issued a public statement apologizing to its congregation for not being allowed to offer religious services as programmed due to the unforeseen closure of the premises by the military.
And, then, certain interested parties with conservative agendas ceased on the opportunity to stir up anti-government sentiment and to interpret the incident as an assault by AMLO’s administration to cloister the Catholic Church and deny religious freedom.
Within hours, social media in Mexico was abuzz with the “news,” and thousands of devout Catholics were up in arms defending their beloved cathedral and right to religious piety.
One friend of mine called me late at night Sunday crying because she feared that the government was going to soon close down all Catholic churches in Mexico.
I managed to convince her that what she had read and heard on the internet (sadly, her main source of “news”) was taken out of context and that she need not worry.
But for the next 24 hours, my phone and computer were flooded with unsolicited and mostly unsourced accounts of AMLO’s army “storming and occupying” the National Cathedral.
This is just one more example of how unscrupulous or ill-informed communicators stir controversy and release misinformation in order to manipulate public sentiment.
At the risk of being redundant, let me repeat myself: The Mexican Army did NOT storm and occupy Mexico’s National Cathedral.
The issue was a matter of a process that was poorly handled by the government, but with no intention of censoring religious freedom.
Any information to the contrary is simply an attempt to further divide an already-politically and socially divided country, a cheap shot against the AMLO administration.
Let me also add that López Obrador and his government have committed plenty of legally questionable acts and probable violations of the Mexican Constitution (again, see my article “A Dictator by Any Other Name“).
There is no need to divulge false information or to take facts out of context in order to disparage his administration. There are plenty of real issues for which he can be reprobated.
Twisting the facts about an unfortunate but relatively insignificant event in order to defame the president and stir resentment and disdain against the government only serves to discredit the author of the so-called news story.
…Sept. 14, 2020