Mexico News Roundup
By RICARDO CASTILLO
AMLO Welcomes Biden
Newly instated U.S. President Joe Biden’s inaugural speech on Wednesday, Jan. 20, was welcomed by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who said it was full of good news.
Asked during his Thursday, Jan. 21, press conference whether he felt threatened by Biden, AMLO responded: “We have nothing to object to. On the contrary, we agree that what he said is what should be done (in terms of bilateral relations).”
AMLO went on to say that, in Biden’s speech, “there were no threats against Mexico, to make things clear.”
“That is a good message to those who were betting that we were going to be confronted by the United States,” he said.
“That was the wishful thinking. (My opponents) always bet on confrontations, fights. Politics was invented, among other things, to avoid confrontation, avoid wars.”
AMLO likewise said that Biden’s inaugural speech was “full of good news for Mexico,” such as a proposed immigration reform which would help many Mexican nationals now living illegally in the United States.
He also applauded Biden’s announcement that he was pumping $1.9 billion to boost the pandemic-beaten U.S. economy.
“That will also help us a lot,” AMLO said, “so much so that that. among other things, our peso is already gaining ground against the U.S. dollar.”
The president declined to comment on work stoppage on Trump’s border wall, but clearly, it was welcome news all over Mexico.
Don’t Like It? Sue Me
Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero rebuked accusations from U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents regarding his dropping the case against former Mexican Defense Secretary General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, calling it “worthless in a court of law.”
Gertz Manero’s incursion into the media limelight came after heavy attacks by former DEA Operations Director Mike Vigil, who claimed the Mexican AG was pussyfooting on the issue.
Gertz Manero has repeatedly stated that the DEA accusatory file against Cienfuegos “was insufficient to show guilt” of the crimes the general allegedly committed.
Vigil disagreed and claimed in a radio interview that he was sure, if taken to trial, Cienfuegos would have been convicted for at least 10 years in prison.
As it turned out, former U.S. Justice Department chief William Barr decided to release Cienfuegos, who spent over a month in jail after his detention at the Los Angeles airport last Oct. 15, after Mexico complained that it had not been given a head’s up before the arrest.
Allegedly, the Justice Department release was conditioned on Mexico prosecuting Cienfuegos once he was repatriated, which did not happen and which led to bad blood between the two countries.
Notwithstanding, Mexico has held it ground regarding the decision.
Gertz Manero has gone so far as to challenge the U.S. Justice Department to file a suit before an international court to analyze his decision of not proceeding against Cienfuegos.
“It has the right to do so,” he said.
Thus far, Mexico’s Fiscal General of the Republic, as the Attorney General’s Office is now known in Mexico, questioned the manner in which the data in the Cienfuegos case was acquired, mostly through phone taps of two alleged drug traffickers, both killed by Mexican soldiers.
For starters, the legality of the recordings was not admissible in a Mexican court.
“We have advised the DEA’s current representative that the charges are not proceeding legally,” Gertz Manero said.
“We delivered copies to him of all the juridical arguments to that effect. In that way, the U.S. Justice Department can proceed against the resolution, challenge it even with the Attorney General, deliver evidence that it considers will serve the case. His challenge, along with any new evidence he delivers, will be analyzed.”
For Gertz Manero, the DEA had “the objective of raising a scandal” with the arrest.
“If not, it would not have handled it in the way they did,” he said.
“First, its agents kept the investigation secret during eight years. As they say, they separated the entire operation and waited for this person (Cienfuegos) to go to the United States. They did that to create a scandal as huge as the one they generated!”
For U.S. prosecutors, on the other hand, Gertz Manero let an alleged international drug dealer get off scot-free for his involvement in the extremely violent H-2 Cartel.
They also are now convinced that the officials at the DEA were justified in being wary of word getting back to their target from sources in the Mexican government.
Cash on Hand
Mexican Treasury Secretary Arturo Herrera said that the federal government has a reserve of $4 billion to purchase anti-covid vaccines.
He said that, so far, Mexico has spent 6.25 billion pesos (over $3 billion) in advance payments to secure delivery of the medications.
To date, the government has contracted for five million vaccines from Pfizer labs, but the administration is expecting other brands of vaccines will be on the Mexican market soon.
“We have a cash reserve in dollars to guarantee that not even currency exchange movements can cast a shadow of a doubt on our intent to buy,” Herrera said.
The government’s immediate objective remains to immunize, first, health workers on the anti-covid front and, second, seniors, who should be inoculated no later than March.
Governors in Discord
Ten Mexican governors, all members of the so-called Federalist Alliance, have asked the federal government to carry out the anti-covid vaccination through the 32 state governments and not through the 12-member brigades (composed of four members of the military, four government representatives, two “volunteers” and only two medical professionals) currently in operation.
“From the Federalist Alliance point of view, we insist in knowing the vaccination plan and want it executed through the national and state vaccination systems,” the governors claimed in a press release.
Their protest is based on the fact that “out of the 12 brigade members, only two are medical professionals” while four are members of the Army protecting the vaccine and security in the vaccination area and six more are record-keeping social promoters, who, they fear, may use vaccination for electoral purposes.
The Federalist Alliance filed its complaint with Mexico’s Interior Secretariat, which has not responded.
Mexico’s central bank, the Bank of Mexico (Banxico) made it public that the country’s international reserves up until on Jan. 15 amounted to $195.3 billion, up $20 billion in the first two years of the López Obrador administration.
The reserves are closely watched by international rating houses to gauge the state of the economy.
On a related issue, on Thursday, Jan. 21, AMLO recommended that the Mexican Chamber of Deputies preserve the autonomy of Banxico during the ongoing revision of a law revamping the bank’s structure to purchase dollars from private banks that have a surplus.
“We need to find a formula, and I am sure it can be done, without affecting the autonomy of Banxico and guaranteeing security for the financial sector,” AMLO said.
“I am thinking about financial stability. We don’t want legal changes to create problems with international financial organizations. That has to be avoided.”
…Jan. 22, 2021