AMLO Doubles Down after Twitter Forum Defends Loret de Mola
By KELIN DILLON
Following a Twitter forum held over the weekend in defense of Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola’s work and freedom of the press rights, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) – the main target of Loret de Mola’s fact-based reports – has come against the journalist once more in a public forum, taking to his daily morning press conference on Monday, Feb. 14, to attack Loret de Mola and his surrounding online discourse.
Just days prior to the event, AMLO released information about Loret de Mola’s salary to the public, calling him a “mercenary, a hitman, corrupt, in the strict sense not even a journalist” in the process. Before continuing to verbally admonish the Mexican press figure, López Obrador went to say he received the figures from “the people who help him,” though Loret de Mola characterized AMLO’s act as “a crime,” a claim fully backed up by Article 69 of the Mexican Tax Code, and said the executive’s actions could put him in danger.
In turn, supporters of Loret de Mola and freedom of the press alike took to Twitter on Friday, Feb. 11, in response to AMLO’s leak of the journalist’s private data, attended by influential public figures like Martha Debayle, politicians like former President Felipe Calderón, and fellow members of the press, including Denise Dresser and Raymundo Riva Palacio, with all using the communal hashtag #TodosSomosLoret. At its peak, the Twitter forum had a turnout of 68,000 users – 18,000 more participants than the average 50,000 viewers that tune in to López Obrador’s daily morning press conferences each morning.
Incensed by the forum’s success, AMLO once more took to his daily press conference – this time, the Monday, Feb. 14 iteration – to attack both Loret de Mola, the Twitter forum and Mexico’s journalism community as a whole, claiming “there were not many” who attended the online event and calling those that did “coup plotters” in the way of his administration’s so-called transformation of Mexico.
“They are nothing more than hitmen, mercenaries, sold and rented,” said the executive during the conference. “It’s a story that repeats itself every time a transformation is sought; corrupt, immoral conservatism is launched against those who seek the transformation.”
López Obrador continued to present corruption allegations against numerous politicians and public figures who attended the forum, saying “well, they are all Loret,” as a prod to the Twitter hashtag used to popularize the event and further looking to disparage the character of the journalist. AMLO then extended his rant toward internationally respected publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post, where Loret de Mola writes a column.
He then again remarked that he would have Loret de Mola’s income investigated by the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information and Data Protection (INAI) – an autonomous organization AMLO ironically once proposed to eliminate and absorb into the Mexican federal government – though those attending the executive’s press conference were quick to point out that could not be done as Loret de Mola is not a public official.
“All of these media have to do with the public, all of them, all of them, are entities of public interest, with concessions granted by the state,” remarked López Obrador on his intent to still pursue an INAI investigation, sparking even more concern about the continued safety of journalists within the country.
For his part, AMLO’s son, José Ramón López Beltrán, whose controversial residence in a million-dollar Texan mansion owned by a supplier to the Mexican state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) was revealed to the public by Loret de Mola, finally responded to the accusations brought against him and his financial status by the journalist through his own personal Twitter account.
“I am a private citizen, and I have no interference in the government of Mexico,” said López Beltrán. “My income comes 100 percent from my work in Houston. There was not and there will be no conflict of interest.”
Still, as Loret de Mola’s investigation alongside nonprofit Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) into López Beltrán’s finances was taken directly from matters of public record, skepticism remains about the veracity of López Beltrán’s self-defense.
Considering Mexico’s reputation and regard as the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, statements by the country’s executive adding negatively to the press’ already-precarious situation is unlikely to be well-received, leaving plenty left to unfold in this battle between Mexico’s freedom of the press and the ever-expanding will of López Obrador.