Photo: Reforma

By RICARDO CASTILLO

Over the past week, the ultra-conservative daily Mexican newspaper Reforma has been stabbing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) with a wooden knife.

In Mexican journalism, it is deemed that wooden knives do not penetrate deep enough to kill you, but for sure getting “stabbed” with one is a nagging nuisance. Persons who criticize politicians use the so-called “little wooden knife” or “cuchillito de palo,” in Mexican slang, to irritate their target.

Reforma has done this quite a few times. Yet it is currently carrying out a campaign to incessantly nag AMLO to the point that on Friday, Sept. 11, he called the daily “a filthy rag.”

The story that annoyed AMLO was about events at his birthplace, the Macuspana municipality in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco.

On Sept. 3, Macuspana Mayor Roberto Villalpando Arias turned in his resignation, claiming a covid-19 contagion. Immediately afterwards, the Tabasco state congress fired the entire city council, appointing a triumvirate to govern the municipality. Among those expelled was AMLO’s sister-in-law, Concepción Falcón Montejo, wife of the president’s brother Ramiro López Obrador.

Reforma has been playing the story up on a daily basis, claiming there was a fraud of 223 million pesos in the ousted administration.

“They erase 223 million pesos from AMLO’s homeland,” read the blaring top headline in Reforma last Friday, Sept. 11. This irritated AMLO to no end, and he not only called the plush print daily “a filthy rag,” but also accused it of “vile journalism” and of receiving orders from former Mexican President and top AMLO foe Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

“They belong to the same mafia,” AMLO claimed.

To makes matters worse for the president, the resigning mayor and the 11-member municipal council were all members of his National Regeneration Movement (Morena).

Upon seeing the headline, AMLO tweeted: “This is a classical case for the journalism mafia. According to the maxim, slander, when it does stain, smears. I was not informed of this.”

Immediately, AMLO’s press secretary, Jesús Ramírez Cuevas,  said that he had checked with the Tabasco governor on the issue, and the governor had said that the resignation of the entire municipal council is not related with the alleged 223 million peso embezzlement. He added that whatever information is being published on the Macuspana municipality issue “has not been confirmed.”

However, this is just one case among the many clashes between AMLO and Mexico’s establishment journalists.

Another noise-making clash surged between AMLO and journalists about two weeks ago, when anti-AMLO publishers, historian Enrique Krauze and Nexos culture magazine editor Héctor Aguilar Camín launched a frontal attack against AMLO (again), this time blaming him for “destroying democracy” for trying to impose censureship.

Beleaguered by the constant onslaughts, AMLO, with the help of his close ally and representative, Jesús Ramírez Cuellar, threw a giant stink bomb at them, the smell of which lingers on across Mexico’s political panorama even today.

Ramírez presented a report saying this it was tracking 12 years of publicity and advertizing income received by Nexos and Free Letters, owned by Aguilar and Krauze, respectively, who received many millions during the National Action Party (PAN) rule from 2000 to 2012. The two intellectuals allegedly received millions in tax money subsidies, and AMLO – “a dictator,” some journalists claim – stopped the dough from flowing into their pockets.

“That’s why they are so mad,” Ramírez said.

Specifically, Ramírez said that Krauze received subsidies for his editorial Clío to the tune of 119 million pesos “in advertising alone” between 2006 and 2018, as he did other services for the Mexican government, publishing Free Letters in Spain, which allegedly netted his editorial 185 million pesos. Krauze, separately, did historical television.

Camin’s Nexos, meanwhile, allegedly sold the government 7,000 subscriptions of Nexos literary magazine, which were delivered through the Mexican Post Office to bureaucrats nationwide. “Aguilar Camin’s income in those years, from 2005 through 2018, 140 million pesos, an average of over 10 million pesos a year,” Ramírez claimed.

But that’s not all folks!

Another anti-AMLO newspaper, El Financiero, a Monday-through-Friday newspaper allegedly covering finance, but also covers politics and is owned by Bloomberg News, allegedly borrowed $100 million through the National Financial Bank (Nafin) through its umbrella company Comtelsat, according to Ramírez’s allegations.

Ramírez said the newspaper still owes 2.12 billion pesos guaranteed by several buildings. In the past, it was not important whether the newspaper had to pay back borrowed money from Nafin, but now the administration is urging them to pay.

“So what is happening here is that we are hitting them where it hurts the most,” Ramírez said, “in the wallet.”

…Sept. 15, 2020

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