By MARK LORENZANA
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on the night of Thursday, Sept. 15, led the reenactment of Mexico’s Cry of Dolores, which marked the 212th year of Mexican independence — and the first time in two years that the event was staged at the Zócalo main plaza in downtown Mexico City due to the covid-19 pandemic.
Accompanied by his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, who was decked in a baggy, full-length, rosa-mexicana pink dress, López Obrador stood at the balcony of the National Palace, waved the Mexican flag and rang the bell used in 1810 by Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo — who is also considered the father of the Mexican nation — to start the war against the Spanish Empire. AMLO was escorted to the balcony to do his “grito” or cry by six goose-stepping soldiers.
In front of an estimated crowd of 140,000 people — double the number of the last Mexican Independence Day celebration — AMLO reenacted Hidalgo’s cry of independence, but added his own personal harangues to his cry.
“Death to corruption, death to classism, death to racism!” López Obrador said, which earned criticisms from some political experts, considering that AMLO always unfairly labels his conservative critics during his daily morning press conferences as “corrupt,” “classist” and “racist.”
Also notable was the removal of journalists and cameramen from the event, who had always been traditionally situated directly in front of the National Palace balcony. This year, the press was replaced by members of the Mexican Army.
Adding flair to the festivities were the fireworks display and performance of the Los Tigres del Norte group from San Jose, California, a famous norteño band that was originally founded in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa.
The next day, on Friday, Sept. 16, López Obrador stood before thousands of military troops during the traditional Independence Day Parade, and thanked the Mexican Army and Navy “for their loyalty,” even as he affirmed that the Mexican National Guard (GN) will have a mission of “guaranteeing public safety with efficiency and respect for human rights.”
It seemed a fitting celebration for AMLO, as he had previously scored two recent victories in his aim to militarize the country.
Just days before, Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies — whose majority bloc consists of members of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) of AMLO — approved a proposal to use the Armed Forces for public security tasks until 2028, from the original 2024.
This came on the heels of the Mexican Senate approving a legislation transferring control of the GN to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), a contentious move that has sparked outrage from human rights groups and opposition lawmakers.
In 2012, in his second presidential run, López Obrador vowed that should he win, he would take the military off the streets and leave a civilian police force in its place. In 2016, he declared that coercive and militarized measures “don’t solve anything.” In his successful presidential campaign in 2018, he likewise reiterated his antimilitary stance, and said that he would instead implement social programs that he believed “will address economic causes of insecurity.”
He has since changed his tack, saying that he changed his mind when he saw that Mexico was “in a state of helplessness,” and that trying to keep the peace in the country under the old leadership of a “corrupt federal police” was “impossible.” López Obrador replaced the federal police — which was formed in 1999 under former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo — with the GN in 2019.
“I changed my mind once I saw the problem they had left me with,” AMLO said during one of his daily morning news conferences, referring to the previous government of Enrique Peña Nieto.
López Obrador has a penchant for blaming previous governments, especially the administration of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Friday’s parade, according to Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, saw several ambassadors left off the invite list, but with their military attachés attending in their stead.