Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: pressidencia.gob.mx

By JESSICA GUERRERO

MORELIA, Michoacán — After years of evident indifference and lack of interest in the internal affairs of the central Mexican state of Michoacán, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) finally paid a long-overdue visit to the state last weekend.

And this time, he was neither defiant nor apprehensive about the trip.

On the contrary, he seemed happy and confident when he met with newly elected National Regeneration Movement (Morena) Governor Alfredo Ramírez Bedolla, for whom from the beginning of his political campaign AMLO had demonstrated unconditional support.

Despite the security crisis that has prevailed in the Mexico’s third-most-violent state over the last two years, it had been 10 months since López Obrador last visited the state.

And on his arrival in the capital city of Morelia this time around, AMLO said that now there is no longer anything to prevent  him from coming to Michoacán, referring to the continuous political clashes between him and the former governor of the state, Silvano Aureoles Conejo.

AMLO also addressed the conflict that the state government has been facing with the teachers’ union due to delays in salary payments for more than two months. López Obrador said that, although the federal government had already sent enough resources to cover the corresponding payments to the education workers, the local government apparently “spent the money on something else.” 

Meanwhile, hundreds of teachers and education workers have crippled the state’s economy by blocking crucial railroad lines.

And to make matters worse, Silvano Aureoles, who passed the gubernatorial gauntlet to Ramírez Bedolla on Oct. 1, apparently let the state government with a 20 billon-peso deficit. 

In order to help mitigate that problem, AMLO said that the payment of the teachers’ payroll in Michoacán, which until now had been the responsibility of the local government, will now be supervised by the federal government.

“This way,” he claimed, “we will stop depending on intermediaries and the funds will be sent directly to the teachers.”

Likewise, López Obrador announced with Bedolla Ramírez the implementation of a “Support Plan for Michoacán,” which will seek to address, among other things, the nagging security problems in the state, as well as health, education and welfare backlogs.

In terms of security, AMLO promised that more than 17,000 law enforcement agents from different offices, including  the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), the National Guard and the Mexican Federal Police, will be deployed in the state in coming weeks to tackle the growing crisis, with a special focus on the Tierra Caliente region, in the municipalities of Tepalcatepec and Aguililla, where a humanitarian crisis has recently erupted caused by clashes between organized criminal groups.

López Obrador likewise said that in-person classes will soon restart in Michoacán due to improved covid-19 infection numbers. The state had lagged behind in controlling the disease, which led to a two-month delay in starting person-to-person classes compared to the majority of the schools nationwide.

At the same time, AMLO promised that existing social welfare programs will continue to be implemented for vulnerable populations such as seniors, single mothers, people with disabilities and students.

López Obrador also said that a plan to move the head offices of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) from Mexico City to the capital city of Michoacán, Morelia — something that he promised to do at the start of his six-year term three years ago — is “still in progress” and will be completed no later than next year.

In conclusion, AMLO said, “From now on, there will be a close collaboration between the local and federal governments in favor of the people of Michoacán.”

But for many Michoacán residents, López Obrador’s sudden and radical change in attitude regarding finding viable solutions to the multitude of problems the state has faced is clear evidence that his previous indifference and delay in developing and implementing a security action plan and resolving the education crisis in the state were an intentional political strategy that inevitably harmed the citizens of Michoacán.

Still, for some residents of Michoacán, AMLO’s visit offered a ray of hope in the face of mounting adversity. 

In the end, promises cannot compare to tangible results.

Only time will tell whether López Obrador is really committed to solving Michoacán’s problems, or if his visit to the state was nothing more than another act of political theater.

 

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