Elena Poniatowska
Photo: Tania Victoria/Mexico City Culture Secretariat

By KYLIE MADRY

In a new interview with Mexican daily El Universal, renowned journalist Elena Poniatowska calls out President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), saying he brings the criticism he receives upon himself.

“He exposes himself (to attacks) more than any other president I’ve seen,” Poniatowska said in an interview published Wednesday, Oct. 21, “much more than (former Presidents Adolfo) Ruiz Cortines or Miguel Alemán (Valdés), or any other. He exposes himself to criticism daily, he’s in the public square daily,” she said, referring to the morning press conferences that have defined AMLO’s presidency.

Poniatowska is a well-known journalist in Mexico, getting her start writing for the Excélsior newspaper in 1953. The 88-year-old then went on to write about major events such as the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre and the 1985 earthquake that rocked Mexico City.

When asked whether AMLO’s shots at journalists he doesn’t like during his press conferences affected freedom of expression in Mexico, Poniatowska said, “No, because freedom of expression is something we all want to preserve … it’s the most important thing about a country.”

She went on to criticize other journalists who have fallen to corruption in Mexico, naming Excélsior’s Carlos Denegri and columnist Ernesto Julio Teissier, along with Isabel Arvide, an AMLO loyalist who was recently named consul general of Mexico in Istanbul, Turkey.

“It’s a mistake,” Poniatowska said, referring to Arvide’s appointment. “It doesn’t make the journalists union proud, and, really, it’s offensive.”

When entering the field, she said, there were three taboos in Mexican journalism: The Virgin of Guadalupe, the president and the money flowing through the political class. Now, according to Poniatowska, “that depends on each journalist.”

“I have a great admiration for criticism in journalism, and I think that’s what’s useful to us and what saves us,” she said, “because, at the end of the day, every journalist has a moral obligation when working at an outlet: to be loyal to the truth.”

And despite her criticisms of AMLO, Poniatowska doesn’t want to speak with the president. “The truth is, I don’t want to take his time,” she said. But “he has to accept (the truth),” the journalist said, “and if he doesn’t, he’s failing to uphold what he believes in: that this is a free and democratic country, in which everyone is free to protest.”

… Oct. 22, 2020

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