By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Halfway through his six-year term, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) may claim that nearly 60 percent of Mexicans still support him and his leftist Fourth Transformation (4T) administration, but it’s the remaining 40 percent he needs to worry about.
Not only did his National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party lose significant political terrain in the June 2021 midterm elections — including its former two-thirds majority in the lower house Chamber of Deputies — but, now, blue collar workers, gas distributors, teachers and parents of children with cancer are taking to the streets to protest their inconformity with his autocratic government.
Just this week, the president has had to deal with an onslaught of mass protests and work shutdowns in at least five states.
In Tabasco, AMLO’s home state, ICA Flour workers stopped construction of the Dos Bocas oil refinery — one of López Obrador’s three pet megaprojects — in protest over alleged extortion and the denial of overtime payments.
The work stoppage at the $8 billion government project led to an armed intervention by the Mexican Navy, drawing unwelcome media attention to what AMLO had hoped would be the flagship of his resurrection of the state-run oil venture, Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex), currently the most-indebted public oil company in the world, with over $117 billion in outstanding financial obligations.
The more than 5,000 disgruntled workers did not take kindly to the military presence, responding by throwing rocks at the ICA construction machinery and dispersing testimonials on social media telling how they were forced to pay commissions to their ICA-appointed labor boss in order to keep their jobs.
The tensions came to a head on Wednesday, Oct. 13, when police and naval officers released used billy clubs and teargas on the protestors, sending at least three to the hospital.
Then there are the natural gas concessioners in Mexico City, who are angry at the president for his make-shift Gas Bienestar distributor, which they said is keeping them from making an honest living and preventing them from earning profits.
After the administration refused to hear the concessioners’ complaints and their demand for a one-peso-per-kilo price increase, the gas distributors took to the capital’s streets with their tanker trucks, blocking main arteries and causing citywide traffic jams.
After two days of major traffic chaos, the gas distributors on Wednesday, Oct. 13, decided to up the ante, saying that they would stop working indefinitely if the government didn’t give in to their demands.
So much for Gas Bienestar…
In Mexico’s coastal state of Guerrero, public health workers, police officers and other public servants were all up in arms on Tuesday, Oct. 12, demanding overdue salary and benefit payments, shining a less-than-favorable light on AMLO’s buddy-buddy and Guerrero de facto governor, Félix Salgado Macedonio (his daughter officially holds the title, but he pulls the strings), who was forced out of the June 2021 race because he had been accused of sexual assaults and rape by at least six women.
And just north of Guerrero, in the state of Michoacán, hundreds of teachers continue to block railways and highways over unpaid government wages, bringing the entire state’s economy to a standstill and cartel leaders fight territorial wars that have forced entire villages to flee the region.
Further south, in the state of Oaxaca, home to some of the largest indigenous communities in the country, street vendors were also protesting on Tuesday, Oct. 12, demanding the right to sell their wares in tourist corridors, after having been driven from those sites by an ordinance from the governor.
Nationwide, parents of children with cancer have been protesting for months demanding medications that the AMLO administration refuses to provide, and this week, even more parents joined in the demonstrations, calling on the government to provide covid-19 vaccines for all children over age 12 (which AMLO and his team of pseudo-medical experts have said they do not need).
Yes, AMLO likes to claim that 60 percent of Mexicans still support his government, but judging by the tone of angry protests nationwide, the likelihood of him retaining that popularity rating is rapidly dwindling.