By RICARDO CASTILLO
During his second annual State of the Nation Address on Tuesday, Dec. 1, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said that, thanks to the mega energy projects his government has implemented and the financial rescue of the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) oil interest, the country will cease importing gasoline in the year 2023.
“This will happen because we will become self-sufficient in gasoline production, with the operation of the new Dos Bocas refinery and the modernization of the six currently existing refineries,” he said.
Speaking in the patio of the National Palace in a 42-minute speech two years to the day after taking office for a six-year term, and immediately following a solemn ceremony with a bugler playing taps to honor those who have died from the covid-19 pandemic, AMLO outlined some of his government’s most importance accomplishments, including: the creation of Mexico’s National Guard (GN), a centralized military/police organization that he formed to replace the Federal Police force; the use of public referendum consultations to encourage citizen participation in government; the passing of a bill that allows for a presidential recall; the elimination of presidential immunity; and the establishment of a more efficient tax-collecting system.
AMLO specifically praised the National Guard, which, he said, “has turned out to be a great source of support (for the Mexican people.”
“It is professional and disciplined, with 98,000 agents deployed in 176 regional squadrons across the nation’s 32 states,” he said.
AMLO went on to add that the GN is still being formed and by next year. it “will wield 266 regional coordination offices, with a total of 150,000 police, officers and upper commands.”
Thus far, 87 barracks have been built to house the GN troops and there are 85 more barracks slated to be built in 2021, he said.
The president also spoke about the myriad of social programs he has implemented, aimed primarily at the nation’s poorest and most-marginalized communities, including Sembrando Vida (a reforestation program), Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro (a works program for underprivileged youths), a pension program for the elderly, a pension program for special needs children, scholarships and the creation of a universal healthcare system.
AMLO also lauded his government’s efforts to “rescue” the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which, he said, along with Pemex, underwent severe undermining moves toward privatization during previous administrations.
AMLO said that his government has now completed most of the process of transformation that it committed to achieve, and that 97 of the promises he made during his 2017 presidential campaign have now been fulfilled.
Economically, AMLO said, Mexico is now starting to recover from the financial crisis caused by the pandemic.
AMLO said that he deplored the surge of unemployment that resulted “when the country hit bottom last April due to the covid-19 pandemic,” with the sudden loss of 1,117,584 jobs.
Of the jobs lost during the pandemic lockdowns, he said, 555,600 have already been recovered, and by March 2021, most of the rest will be reinstated.
He said that the government’s objective now that the economy is moving again is to bring the workforce up to 20 million in 2021.
The president likewise acknowledged the importance of the $40 billion in remittances sent back each year by migrant workers in the United States, which he pointed out benefits 10 million Mexican families, with an average of $650 annually.
Turning to the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the deaths of more than 100,000 Mexicans, AMLO said that his Fourth Transformation administration has chosen to confront the spread of the disease with “nonconventional methods that have allowed us to come out of this crisis little-by-little.”
“Confronting the economic crisis brought about by covid-19 has been far less painful than confronting the ailment’s contagion,” he said, obviously moved by the massive loss of life.
But despite having inherited a health system marred by corruption, he said, his government has managed to construct 130 new hospitals and refurbish 971 to accommodate the still-surging flood of covid patients.
AMLO also noted that his government is in the process of building 140 public universities and has created 7,200 graduate-level scholarships for scientific research, as well as doubling the number of medical specialization slots.
López Obrador said that 46,783 impoverished Mexican communities now have access to the internet, and by the end of 2022, every Mexican territory will be connected to the world wide web.
Regarding international affairs, López Obrador assured his cabinet, which attended the ceremony, that Mexico “has no conflict with any nation in the world.”
“Mexico is a free, respected sovereign nation,” he said.
And on the highly questioned issue of security, López Obrador went on to enumerate a long list of partial successes regarding a number of criminal activities, including an increase on murders carried out by organized criminal gangs.
AMLO flatly denied any allegations to having links to aiding and abetting criminals.
“In my administration, authorities do not associate with criminals,” he said.
“There is no impunity for anyone, and although we have a long way to go to bring peace to the nation, we have the figures to prove that the trends in rising crimes have been reverted.”
He did, however, acknowledge that, in the last year, there has been a surge in the incidence of femicides.
López Obrador praised the nation’s armed forces, which have taken on many additional responsibilities, such as building the new airport in Mexico City and assuming the management and security of all ports to prevent tax evasion and contraband.
At the same time, the president underscored his administration’s successful war on fuel thefts, which he said was rampant when he took office.
Fiscal fraud and other “harmful (economic) practices that proliferated under the old regime” have been contained, he said.
The president justified the elimination of 109 state-sponsored trust funds (fideicomisos), which he said have been “managed at will and without “transparency.” Their disappearance, he said, represented an additional 64.4 billion pesos to the government.
“With this formula of combatting corruption and governing without luxuries, we have kept our plea not to lead the country into more indebtedness,” AMLO said.
“And the resources we have saved have been earmarked, without middlemen, to the social pyramid. In addition, we have given preference to the poor and middle classes. This economic policy has allowed us to finance social programs for the benefit of our people.”
As a result of his ambitious Republican Austerity program, AMLO said that his government has produced a savings of 1.3 trillion pesos in federal expenditures and contracts.
Consequently, he said, government salaries have been met in full and in a timely manner.
By the same token, AMLO said that neither federal taxes nor the price of gasoline have increased, and the national minimum wage has grown by 30 percent in real terms.
…Dec. 2, 2020