By RICARDO CASTILLO
Ever since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced in a tweet on Sunday, Jan. 24, that he had tested positive for coivd-19 and had gone into quarantine, countless rumors have been flying across the media and gossip mills as to the validity of his announcement.
Some critics suggested that AMLO had not, in fact, contracted the virus (since most of the people with whom he came in close contact during the 72 hours prior to his tweet did not test positive) and that he was using the “quarantine” as a front to travel abroad secretly — including claims that he flew to Russia (where he met with Vladimir Putin to contract the purchase of 24 million doses of the yet-unproven Sputnik 5 vaccine), Venezuela, China, Iran or Cuba.
Others alleged that AMLO’s health is far graver than reported by his physicians.
One Mexican news website, Punto por Punto (PxP), in an article written by reporter Juan Bermúdez, even went so far as to claim that AMLO did not have the covid-19, but that he had been interned at the Mexico City Military Hospital with a stroke.
Different claims and unfounded accusations spread like wild fire until, finally, on the evening of Friday, Jan. 29, the National Palace released a video of the president in which he spoke to the Mexican public about his health and about baseball, his favorite sport.
Nevertheless, since there were no references by AMLO in the video to current news that would verify that it was not shot ahead of time, some critics continue to claim that his covid infection is a hoax.
In the 13-minute video, AMLO looked shaken, but obviously showed no signs of brain damage as the PxP news item had claimed.
As of Sunday, Jan. 31, PxP had not removed the item from its webpage.
Sánchez Cordero Takes the Stage
Mexican Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero stepped in for AMLO during the daily morning press conferences at the National Palace last week, and is expected to continue to do so as the president convalesces.
Sánchez Cordero promptly adjusted to the daily routine after a haphazard first day on Monday, Jan. 25, when reporters went into a disorderly binge of opinionating rather than asking questions.
Sánchez Cordero promptly grabbed the helm of the conferences, with a soft-spoken and get-to-the-point approach, but hardly with the charismatic presence that AMLO commands.
It was also feared that because she had been in contact with the president shortly before he announced his covid infection that she, too, might have gotten coronavirus.
She announced Thursday, Jan. 28, however, that she had undergone two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and had registered negative in both.
She said that the last time she had personal contact with López Obrador was on Friday, Jan. 22.
She is expected to continue at the helm of mañanera press conferences for as long as López Obrador is out of circulation, which will probably to be for another week.
Canada Bans Flights from Mexico
As of Sunday, Jan. 31, Canadian airlines Air Canada and WestJet suspended all flights from and to Mexico and the Caribbean on orders from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Also, as of this week, international flights will only be able to land at the Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal airports.
Passengers travelling into Canada will have to undergo a covid PCR test and keep at least a three-day quarantine in a government hotel, at their own expensive, for a hefty 2,000 Canadian dollars minimum, followed by a two-week quarantine at home.
Andorra Seizes Mex Funds
The Principality of Andorra, a tiny nation of 80,000 inhabitants straddled between northern Spain and France, confirmed over the weekend that it has confiscated over 2 billion euros belonging to Mexican nationals.
The seizure was made by the Private Bank of Andorra based on government charges that the cash was the product of money laundering.
The seizure rang bells in Mexico as the alleged culprit for the deposits is none other than Juan Ramón Collado, who previously served as former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s most trustworthy lawyer.
Collado is currently being detained in Mexico, charged with organized criminal activities and the improper appropriation of funds.
During the Peña Nieto regime (2012-2018) Andorra was seen as a fiscal paradise, until in 2015, its government clamped down on banks.
It’s the Economy, Stupid
In the worst of economic years, Mexico’s National Institute for Statistics and Geography (Inegi) reported Friday, Jan. 29, that the nation showed a surplus of more than $35 billion in 2020, the largest in the nation’s history for a year.
But in its annual economic report, the Inegi also said that the Mexican economy ended up last year with a minus 8.5 drop in its gross domestic product income.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), meanwhile, said that the nation’s budget for 2021 is “conservative” and that the nation will boast “a weaker recovery” as the outstanding debt, partially inherited from past administrations, went up by almost 10 percent to a whopping 63 percent the total GDP, a situation that may only get worse during 2021.
As a whole, the 50 banks operating in Mexico reported profits for 102 billion pesos in 2020, down 39.5 percent from the comparable figure for 2019, according to the National Banking and Stocks Commission. That represents the steepest drop since the 2008 monetary crisis.
The states of Quintana Roo and Baja California Sur were hardest hit, with a minus 28.4 percent deficit and minus 24.5 percent deficit, respectively, for the first three quarters of 2020, while Mexico City’s growth was down by 11.6 percent.
The Inegi blamed the losses on the pandemic and subsequent drop in tourism.
On a separate note, Economy Secretary Tatiana Clouthier said she was assured by López Obrador that both the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) and the Federal Commission for Economic Competition (Cofece) were not in his chopping block list of institutions to disappear as part of his government downsizing moves. Clouthier said AMLO told her that “neither the IFT or the Cofece will be touched.”
Both autonomous entities are considered as key negotiating bodies under the trilateral United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), she said.
“We don’t want to start relations with (U.S. President Joe) Biden with a trade brawl,” Clouthier said.
The Grupo Mexico subsidiary Mexico Construction Company just got awarded the “5 South Stretch” of the Tren Maya consturtion in the Yucatan Peninsula.
The government contract is worth circa $865 million.
This particular rail track will stretch from Tulum to Playa del Carmen, in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo, according to the National Tourism Fostering Fund (Fonatur).
The Mexico Construction Company belongs to tycoon Germán Larrea, who already operates several cargo railroad lines in Mexico.
FRENA Stopped Again
The Mexico City government announced it had “retired” some 100 tents from the main square Zócalo belonging to the National Front to Stop AMLO (FRENA).
The clearing of the tents, according to a city ordinance, was to prevent covid-19 contagion in the area, as well as to keep street dwellers from sleeping overnight.
The tents were part of an ongoing protest by FRENA to remove in the López Obrador from the Mexican presidency.
City officials claimed that nobody was occupying the tents at the time they were removed.
…Feb. 1, 2021