AMLO's Crusade Against a System Stacked for Crooks

AMLO's Mexico navigates a web of contradictions. His government touts anti-corruption wins, while the Church faces unsettling allegations. The president defends free speech but criticizes journalists, invoking heroes of the past.

AMLO's Crusade Against a System Stacked for Crooks
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador addressing the nation during the Morning Conference at the National Palace. Credit: Andrés Manuel López Obrador

The sun bled a dusty pink over Mexico City as a familiar figure stepped behind the podium in the National Palace. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist firebrand known simply as AMLO, began his daily press conference, the mañanera, with customary fervor. It was March 5th, 2024, and he wasn't holding back.

“Zero Impunity,” he declared, the words rolling off his tongue with a familiar, almost weary determination. His administration, he claimed, had honored its anti-corruption pledge, citing the recent string of extraditions. Drug runners, conmen, even a few crooked politicians had been delivered into the unforgiving maw of US justice.

It was a show of strength, a performance intended to reassure the Mexican people that their government was cleaning the house. Luis Rodríguez Bucio, the Undersecretary of Security, played his supporting role flawlessly. He rattled off a laundry list of recent arrests, each name a victory for a system desperate to prove its worth. There was the case of Nelly “N”, a chilling reminder of crimes against the most vulnerable, and the shadowy Arturo “N”, allegedly connected to the sinister forces undermining society's foundations.

AMLO then changed gears. His brow furrowed, his voice tightening in anger. With a sense of dramatic flair, he shifted the conversation to those who would thwart justice. The heroes of the morning gave way to the villains: not the criminals themselves, but the judges who coddled them. This was the heart of his battle, the reason his “Zero Impunity” mantra felt so hollow to many ordinary Mexicans.

He railed against “activist” judges, painting them as elite guardians protecting a rotten existing state of affairs. Judge Juan Manuel Alejandro Martínez Vitela, who had shockingly acquitted a man accused of a horrific crime against a child, received particular scorn. The president didn't stop there. Emilio “N”, the former Pemex director living a life seemingly far removed from a prison cell, was a symbol of the privileged scoffing at the rule of law.

AMLO's attack on the judiciary wasn't some newfound obsession. His clashes with figures upholding established Mexican legal traditions have been a constant throughout his tumultuous presidency. His critics accuse him of populist overreach, of undermining the very foundations of Mexican democracy by attacking the independence of courts.

Yet, to his supporters, these judges are relics of a broken system, protectors of a ruling class that long ago abandoned ordinary Mexicans. The outrage directed at judges like Vitela is a reflection of this deep-seated distrust. It is both fueled and legitimized by AMLO, the man who rose to power on a promise to shake up an establishment that has left millions yearning for change.

Inside Mexico's Candidate Protection Scheme

Rafael Ojeda Durán, the Secretary of the Navy, stands before a room filled with attentive minds. His presence commands respect, a testament to the gravity of the issues at hand. With a demeanor as calm as the sea on a windless day, he delivers his report on the state of security affairs. Thirteen active missions, he announces, involving the National Guard and the Armed Forces, are currently underway. These missions, scattered across the vast expanse of Mexico, represent a concerted effort to combat the scourge of organized crime.

The Secretary's words hang heavy in the air as he delves into the specifics of these operations. Well over 4 thousand troops have been deployed to support customs security, with 21 border and 11 interior regions receiving heightened attention. His mention of highway robberies sparks a ripple of concern among the gathered officials, a reminder of the challenges that persist despite their best efforts.

But it is when Ojeda Durán turns his attention to the clandestine methamphetamine laboratories that a collective gasp echoes through the room. From February 20 to March 4, he reveals, 24 laboratories were dismantled, thwarting the production of a staggering 126.76 tons of methamphetamine. The economic impact of such a seizure is not lost on anyone present – more than 32,350 million pesos diverted from the coffers of organized crime. It is a victory in the ongoing battle for control over Mexico's future.

Rosa Icela Rodríguez, the Secretary of Security, Security, and Citizen Protection, steps into the spotlight. Today, she speaks of a different kind of protection – that of the candidates vying for power in the upcoming electoral process.

With meticulous precision, Rodríguez outlines the candidate protection scheme, a collaborative effort between her department, the Secretariat of National Defense, and the National Guard. For those who dare to step into the political arena, she assures, there will be safeguards in place to shield them from harm.

The names of those under protection will remain shrouded in secrecy, she declares, a pact forged with the electoral authorities to ensure the integrity of the process. Yet, behind closed doors, each candidate receives personalized attention, their safety a top priority in a landscape fraught with peril.

#Narcopresidente and the Digital Battleground

AMLO is no stranger to controversy, of course. He's a populist titan, stirring the hearts and ire of millions in equal measure. But the 'narcopresidente' campaign is different. It's a beast born in the murky underbelly of the internet, where truth and fiction blur into an indistinguishable mess. The President sees the hand of his opponents in it, a desperate attempt to claw back power as election season looms.

“The people are calm, safe, happy,” AMLO proclaims, the weathered lines on his face a stark contrast to the smooth pixels of his enemies' disinformation. His critics may sneer at this optimism, but he sees it as a defiance in the face of those who wish Mexico ill.

He knows that 'narcopresidente' isn't just a hashtag; it's a weaponized narrative. They try to bury him in a digital avalanche of accusations, the insidious implication that he's allied with the violence tearing at the country's fabric. But he won't be buried — he'll turn it against them.

AMLO's eyes flash. “Bot farms,” he accuses, painting a picture of shadowy rooms where anonymous fingers tap out lies for hire. “140 million people exposed to this poison,” he says, the number both staggering and meaningless. It's not the reach of the message he fears, it's the erosion of trust it represents.

He speaks of “a world upside down,” a world where the very ground beneath our feet shifts with digital trickery. The threat is not new, but he's savvy enough to know it has found fertile soil in Mexico's own divisions. His opponents dismiss it as paranoia, but he's seen the power of manufactured rage before. It's the same force that toppled governments elsewhere, and it is gnawing at the roots of his own.

AMLO's weapon is simple: authenticity. He rallies against deceit, urging his opponents to “visit the towns, present proposals, convince…” His voice takes on a preacher's cadence. Lies are the “social sin,” he proclaims with moralistic fervor. His brand has always been built on a man-of-the-people image. These attacks, crude as they may be, allow him to amplify it further.

Enter Rosa Icela Rodriguez, the Secretary of Security. It's a surreal interlude in the ongoing digital warfare. The talk shifts to candidates for office, not from the 'narcopresidente' smears, but from the very real dangers Mexico poses. Seven candidates under protection, fourteen more in the pipeline. These numbers ground the narrative, reminding everyone that while the bots rage online, blood can still spill in the streets.

AMLO, ever the master of optics, knows the value of this juxtaposition. He paints his opponents as puppeteers of digital illusions, while real threats to democracy loom. It's a shrewdly cynical move, but one in tune with his persona.

The Ecclesiastical Tightrope

President López Obrador addresses a topic of paramount importance: the relationship between the state and the Catholic Church. In a country where religion permeates the cultural fabric, his words carry weight. With measured cadence, he articulates the principle of freedom, asserting that every citizen should possess the unalienable right to express themselves, assemble, and associate freely. It's a stance that stands in stark contrast to recent controversies surrounding allegations of collusion between certain clerics and organized crime—a topic not easily broached in the corridors of power.

“We have an excellent relationship with the Catholic Church and with all the churches,” he declares, his tone resolute yet conciliatory. “We are not here to engage in disputes with the clergy.” This diplomatic overture underscores the precarious balance between state governance and religious influence—a balance that has defined Mexican politics for centuries.

The conversation shifts to a broader critique of power dynamics within Mexican society. President López Obrador, known for his populist rhetoric and impassioned appeals to the masses, takes aim at the entrenched interests of the conservative elite. “The people are our priority,” he asserts, drawing a clear line in the sand. “Previous administrations catered to the powerful, leaving the common folk to fend for themselves.”

In his trademark style, he invokes the ancient Greek concept of 'cratos' (power) and 'demos' (people), juxtaposing the aspirations of the elite with the needs of the populace. It's a narrative that resonates with many Mexicans, weary of entrenched inequality and systemic corruption. Yet, amidst the rhetoric, there's a recognition of the daunting task ahead. “We cannot undo centuries of oppression overnight,” he concedes, acknowledging the weight of history upon his shoulders.

A Tragedy Unfolds in Ensenada

It wasn't the heat, but President López Obrador's grim pronouncement that cast a pall over the day's proceedings. The investigation into the Ensenada incident had taken a somber turn – eleven soldiers dead, not in the line of duty, but during routine training in the deceptively beautiful Sea of Cortez.

Secretary of National Defense Luis Cresencio Sandoval, with the crisp efficiency of a military man, laid the facts bare. In skeletal phrases, he painted a picture of disobedience, of authority abused and misapplied. The investigation, it seemed, pointed towards the training center's director, an unnamed figure whose specter now loomed large over the tragedy. Seven young men dead, swallowed by the sea, allegedly because of his actions.

The case was a stark reminder that the ocean, even along Baja California's stunning coastline, was no playground. It was a force, ancient and indifferent, capable of shattering even the most disciplined lives with terrifying ease. The sea was uncaring, but here was a potential crime far more insidious: a failure of human care itself.

The official pronouncements were characteristically curt. 'Crimes,' 'prosecutors', 'federal jurisdiction' – words that crackled with bureaucratic menace. The language hinted at a complex legal web entangling the military and civilian spheres, a web that the Fiscalía General de la República (FGR) would have the unenviable task of unraveling.

The public, of course, demanded more than legal jargon. The names of the dead soldiers would emerge, and there would be obituaries, tearful relatives, a national outpouring of grief familiar to a country that has endured its share of tragedies. But beneath it all festered a deeper unease, a suspicion that something was profoundly wrong in the inner workings of the Mexican military.

For there is a peculiar sort of tragedy when the guardians themselves become the source of danger. Soldiers, particularly young ones in training, are both symbols of our collective safety and particularly vulnerable to the failings of those who command them. Their obedience is absolute, making the alleged abuse of authority all the more potent a betrayal.

Sandoval's promise of more information was just that – a promise. Mexico is a country with an uneasy relationship with transparency, particularly when it concerns the inner workings of its security apparatus. It remains to be seen whether the investigation will be allowed to play out in full public view, or if crucial parts of it will disappear behind the veil of 'national security.'

The Firebrand Priest and His Enduring Legacy

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, that tireless orator, has shifted his focus from the present to the past. His subject, with a touch of characteristic reverence, is José María Morelos y Pavón – priest, general, and one of the fiery hearts that forged the nation of Mexico.

It's a poignant juxtaposition: AMLO, the populist, invoking Morelos, a man whose legacy lies not in the corridors of power but in the burning pursuit of liberty and radical humanism. The story the President chooses to spotlight isn't Morelos the military strategist, but Morelos the scholar, who, in the midst of a brutal independence struggle, penned a document known as the Sentimientos de la Nación (Sentiments of the Nation).

The year is 1813. Imagine Morelos — not cloistered in scholarly quietude, but surrounded by the din of war. Spain's long grip on Mexico is faltering, initiated by the defiant cry of Miguel Hidalgo three years earlier. Hidalgo's fall pushed Morelos, the priest with the soul of a warrior, into the vanguard.

His Sentimientos isn't just a tactical blueprint. It's a manifesto ablaze with a vision of a new Mexico. It's an astonishingly modern document, startling even in our own jaded times.

AMLO highlights its audacity:

  • The irrevocable decree — Mexico, free from all foreign powers.
  • A chillingly clear-eyed assertion – sovereignty belongs not to kings, but to the people.
  • A call to regulate the extremes of wealth and poverty, the poison that Morelos saw festering in Spanish-ruled society.

And then there's that quote, the one AMLO reads directly from his well-worn book. It cuts through the centuries: “Only vice and virtue will distinguish one American from another.” It's a line that stings with its simplicity, its utter rejection of titles, ancestry, and colonial hierarchies.

Morelos wasn't merely a wartime idealist. The revolution he helped shape was, for all its chaos and bloodshed, surprisingly effective. It was also shockingly brutal. Yet, even when faced with the prospect of capture and execution, Morelos stuck to his core principles. His capture in 1815, and death at the hands of a Spanish firing squad, sealed his fate as a martyr and solidified his ideals.

The inherent tragedy is that the Mexico of today doesn't fully live up to Morelos' vision. AMLO himself is keenly aware of this: corruption lingers, wealth inequality festers, and the ghosts of Spanish imperialism echo in the insidious influence of other foreign powers. To invoke Morelos is both a tribute and an implied critique.

Yet, there's a certain irony in AMLO using the Palacio Nacional, that bastion of established power, as a setting to revive this revolutionary thinker. Perhaps it speaks to an uneasy truth of revolutions themselves – the firebrands eventually must cede ground to pragmatists and politicians.

The tension is as old as history itself. But that doesn't diminish Morelos's enduring power, or AMLO's choice to, even briefly, set aside policy squabbles in favor of remembering the heart of what Mexico fought for. It's a unique touch in a news cycle saturated with the mundane. It's also a poignant reminder that in this age of cynicism and compromise, ideals sculpted in the heat of struggle can still inspire, even if their perfect realization remains almost beyond reach.

Dissecting the Narrative of Dissent

In his characteristically candid manner, President López Obrador dispelled the notion of a clandestine conspiracy orchestrated by Mexico's oligarchy. Instead, he attributed the dissent and criticism directed towards his administration to a confluence of conservative factions, each with its grievances and agendas.

“It is a conservative bloc that brings together many people for different causes against us,” the President remarked, his voice resonating with a blend of defiance and pragmatism. In a nation where political polarization runs deep, his words echoed a sentiment shared by both supporters and detractors – the acknowledgment of dissent as a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Yet, amidst the call for humility and honesty in the face of criticism, President López Obrador didn't shy away from shining a spotlight on what he perceived as an imbalance of power within Mexico's media landscape. With a hint of indignation, he called out prominent journalists, such as Jorge Ramos, León Karuze, and Carlos Loret de Mola, for their purportedly exorbitant earnings.

“Jorge Ramos earns 17 million pesos monthly, no way because of his great knowledge of journalistic management,” the President asserted, his words punctuated by a mixture of incredulity and disdain. The figures he divulged painted a portrait of privilege and influence that seemed incongruous with the principles of journalistic integrity and impartiality.

Salinas Pliego's Phantom 400 Billion

The stage is set by a seemingly outlandish claim: Pliego asserts that a staggering 400 billion pesos, earmarked for Mexico's older adults' pension program, has been criminally misappropriated by the Ministry of Welfare. It's an accusation that sparks shockwaves, implying corruption woven into the nation's very fabric. The sum, if accurate, could feed hundreds of thousands for years, or build schools and hospitals where they are sorely needed.

Yet, the President calls Pliego's bluff. AMLO doesn't denounce or rage; instead, there's a disconcerting calm. “You can't accuse if there's no evidence,” he asserts, wielding the weapon of transparency. The implication hangs heavy: if this audacious claim is true, AMLO promises to expose it on his very own, highly watched platform. Imagine the magnate's billions pitted against AMLO's weaponized populism – it's a battleground no media outlet would ignore.

This showdown, however, is about more than just the fate of billions. It's a duel of narratives, a microcosm of Mexico's socioeconomic rifts. AMLO, the self-proclaimed champion of the people, paints the picture of a righteous government diligently distributing resources to those most vulnerable. His social welfare programs, the very ones Pliego casts suspicion upon, are a crown jewel in his ongoing political revolution.

Then, there's Salinas Pliego – billionaire, media mogul, and a man known for his audacious public pronouncements. He thrives on controversy, a self-made maverick who decries what he sees as government overreach. His companies have faced criticism regarding both labor practices and tax structures. In this exchange, he is the voice of the wealthy, skeptical elite, questioning the efficiency – or even the intent – of a government that has been far from friendly to his interests.

But in this specific instance, something feels amiss. Pliego's grand allegations lack specificity. 400 billion missing from the public coffers? It sounds like the headline of a tabloid owned by his own media empire, not a meticulously investigated exposé. Is he playing a grand game of political chicken, relying on the sheer audacity of the claim to make it stick within the public consciousness? Does he genuinely believe his accusations?

And that, perhaps, is the more unsettling question. In a world awash with mis- and dis-information, where accusations fly faster than fact-checkers can move, the line between genuine social concern and power play blurs alarmingly. One day it's missing pensions, while the next, it could be rigged elections or foreign conspiracies. If enough mud is flung, some is bound to stick.

AMLO, with his uncanny political instinct, seems acutely aware of this. His response isn't about shutting down dissent; it's about making dissent accountable. The Morning Conference isn't just theater, it's a demand for evidence – bring receipts, or your words turn to mere noise. He frames it as a matter of civic responsibility: citizens, no matter their wealth or power, have an obligation to report substantiated corruption, and the government a duty to make public life transparent.

This confrontation won't be resolved today. The fate of Pliego's missing billions is still unknown, but something bigger has shifted in the discourse. The onus of proof now rests heavily on the shoulders of a man accustomed to shouting the loudest. In this era of performative politics, maybe it's a quiet revolution indeed.

Mexican Humanism and the Echoes of a Nation's Soul

AMLO, stands before gathered journalists, his cadence measured, his words carrying the weight of a philosophy rather than a mere political platform. He speaks of “Mexican humanism,” a concept both familiar in its sentiment and strikingly distinct in its framing. It is a vision of Mexico that feels as timeless as the ruins of Tenochtitlán and as urgent as today's headlines.

To understand Mexican humanism, AMLO explains, one must look to the ancient heart of the country. He conjures images of a time long before European ships ever saw the shores of Mesoamerica. He speaks of communal lands, not as a socialist ideal, but as the simple rhythm of life in pre-Hispanic communities. Individual ambition was tempered by the understanding that the well-being of the village was bound to the well-being of each of its members. This was Mexican humanism in its nascent form.

This connection with the past is hardly the stuff of dusty history textbooks. It's a philosophy alive in the communal land ownership systems—ejidos—that still exist today and continue to influence modern Mexican society. One senses in AMLO's evocation of the past a pointed contrast with the hyper-individualist tendencies sweeping much of the rest of the globe.

Alongside communalism, the President finds threads of enduring ethical principles – honesty and a deep sense of civic fraternity – woven into the tapestry of pre-Hispanic Mexico. The implication is that these aren't mere ideals, but values tested and forged over countless generations. This, AMLO seems to suggest, is where the quiet strength of Mexico lies.

Yet, Mexican humanism is not trapped in amber. It is a dynamic philosophy, one that draws on, as AMLO puts it, “the fruitfulness of our political history.” In the grand sweep of Mexico's story, he finds figures that ignite the national imagination: Hidalgo, the priest whose fiery call ignited the struggle for independence; Morelos, with his unwavering vision of justice for the common people; the unyielding spirit of Zapata fighting for land rights; and the quiet resolve of Cárdenas, who nationalized Mexico's oil reserves.

These men – revolutionists and reformers – aren't mere statues in the museum of Mexico's past. They are living figures in its present. Their struggles, the President argues, form the bedrock of Mexican humanism's modern incarnation. In speaking of them, AMLO is positioning himself not as creator of this philosophy, but as inheritor – a leader carrying on the task started by giants of ages past.

Mexican humanism, one gathers from the way AMLO frames it, is as much a guiding principle as it is a series of concrete policies. When he speaks of programs to aid the elderly and the vulnerable, it's not just about welfare or simple redistribution. These policies, he asserts, are born from the rich soil of this historical legacy. In a world where social programs are often debated in cold economic terms, here they take on an almost moral dimension. This, AMLO suggests, is the soul of his humanism – the principle of fraternity put into practice.

A cynic might dismiss “Mexican humanism” as mere political branding. Such cynicism misses the point. The philosophy AMLO outlines is surprisingly sophisticated even just as a concept. It's local and universal, grounded in Mexico's own past yet aspiring to principles shared by many across the globe. It has an intellectual edge honed by an avid (and sometimes idiosyncratic) reader of history. Most importantly, it provides a unifying story, a narrative for the nation that binds past and future, individual and society. In the complex game of modern politics, such stories are potent tools.

As the Morning Conference fades, one is left to ponder Mexican humanism and AMLO himself. Is it a brilliant political construct intended to mask a populist agenda? Or is there, within this sometimes-folksy leader, a genuine philosopher-king in the making? Perhaps, as with Mexico itself, the truth is layered, vibrant, and forever a work in progress.