By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has been having a bad week.
As Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola astutely pointed out in his Wednesday, May 26, column in El Universal daily newspaper, so far this week, AMLO’s so-called Fourth Transformation (4T) national redux has been leveled by a triple political whammy as a perfect storm of his absurd “pet projects” came face-to-face with Mexico’s economic and political reality — all this, less than two weeks away from what will be the nation’s largest elections in history.
The first blow came on Monday, May 24, when the president tried to put a positive spin on his administration’s unexpected buyout of the Dear Park refinery on the Houston Ship Channel.
But, as Loret de Mola noted in his column, instead of showcasing the government’s “success” in working to make the country self-sufficient in gasoline production, the massive $600 million purchase of the remaining 50 percent of the Texas refinery (the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, already owned the remaining shares) only served to highlight the outlandish failure of AMLO’s overpriced Dos Bocas refinery.
“The failure of Dos Bocas was exhibited by the government itself, as if that were not enough, in the stellar morning conference on Monday,” wrote Loret de Mola.
“But in the very same breath, AMLO recalled that Dos Bocas is going to cost $9 billion. In other words, the (already-functioning) refinery in Texas was 85 percent cheaper than the one (the president is building) in Tabasco. And the two refineries are the same size. They have the same production capacity: 340,000 barrels a day.”
Loret de Mola then asked rhetorically how AMLO planned to justify the exorbitant price tag of his Dos Bocas whim during the economic crisis that the nation is currently facing.
“The main supplier of crude to the Deer Park refinery is Pemex,” Loret de Mola said.
“With this operation, the government is ensuring Pemex will have sales. So let the country be plundered, but let Pemex be salvaged. That seems to be the premise (that AMLO is operating under).”
Just one day later, AMLO met yet another potential political Waterloo in the downgrading of the Mexico’s airspace ranking by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), from a category one to a category two.
On Friday, May 21, when López Obrador bragged about his Santa Lucía airport being a marvel, “the Reuters news agency warned that there would be a drop in Mexico’s air safety rating,” Loret de Mola recalled.
“After months of expressing its concerns to the Mexican government, the FAA determined the Mexico was not able to address those concerns. Very Fourth Transformation. Already in a state of emergency, the federal government tried to avoid the FAA downgrade by commissioning Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard to do everything possible to stop the decision. Ebrard couldn’t prevent it.”
As a result, on Tuesday, May 25, the U.S. aviation authority of the United States — the most important in the world — downgraded Mexico due to a lack of personnel, training and processes.
“What are the consequences of this degradation? Many and very bad,” Loret de Mola continued.
“First, if the government fails to reverse this degradation, it is probable that the General Felipe Ángeles airport in Santa Lucía will not be able to receive flights from the United States … And, second, Mexican airlines will not be able to increase their flights to the United States, where they have a large part of their market. They will not even be able return to the number of flights they had before the pandemic. They will only keep the ones that they have currently, which represent about 65 percent of the fights they had to the United States before the pandemic.”
Loret de Mola went on to point out that this will severely hinder Mexico’s already-sluggish economic recovery.
“In the third place, several (Mexican) airlines have recently purchased new planes,” he continued.
“Those planes will no longer be able to fly to the United States. And lastly, air ticket prices will inevitably rise for consumers.”
On the bright side, Loret de Mola said that he had confidence that the matter would eventually be resolved, not by the inept and belligerent AMLO administration, but by private sector investors who have in the past helped to smooth out the consequences of López Obrador’s economic and political blunders.
However, in the meantime, he noted, Mexico is now in the same FAA ranking as the likes of Venezuela, Ghana, Pakistan and Barbuda.
And then there was AMLO’s third strike at the political bat.
Just last week, he and his blatantly incompetent Economic Secretariat boasted that Mexico had in the last trimester managed to “attract the largest foreign direct investment in the last 20 years,” registering a whopping 15 percent surge in international capital.
But as it turned out, the president’s bombastic bluster was simply not true.
On Tuesday, May 25, the Central Bank of Mexico (Banxico) denied the president’s and Economy Secretariat’s claims, stating that they had been “based on preliminary, incomplete figures.”
“In fact, foreign direct investment fell 29 percent (during the first quarter), which was the worst figure in the last 26 years,” Loret de Mola said, quoting Banxico data.
And AMLO’s run of strikes this week didn’t end there.
Another one of the president’s pet projects is his controversial Tren Maya tourist train, which, as F. Bartolomé remarked in his Wednesday, May 26, Templo Mayor column in Reforma newspaper, requires a special type of fuel.
That fuel is in short supply, so the Tren Maya seems to be facing a serious fuel problem that could lead to the go-nowhere train having no way of getting there, not to mention the fact that there don’t seem to be a lot of tourists anxious to take a ride on the railway, when and if it ever gets going.
Yes, AMLO seems to be batting a thousand this week, and with so many strikes against his administration, it may just be time for the president to step away from the plate and let someone with political savvy run the country.