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Column 120318 Thompson

Monday, December 3, 2018

Excerpts from the Inaugural Speech of Mexico's New President

By Barnard R. Thompson

On Saturday, December 1, 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obredor was inaugurated as President of Mexico, after his election victory of last July 1.  Following the formal induction ceremonies to his six-year term, AMLO, as he is popularly known, gave an hour-plus speech[i] before Mexico's newly installed congress of 628 deputies and senators, and some 400 invited guests.

While many parts of the speech by the 65-year old AMLO are citable, the following are a few excerpts – some with comments, that this observer found particularly noteworthy.

Early on in his speech, President López Obrador said: "Friends, through the mandate of the people, today we begin the fourth political transformation of Mexico….  A peaceful and orderly transformation, but at the same time radical and deep, as it will stop the corruption and impunity that impede the rebirth of Mexico."

He defined the three previous transformations as the independence era, with the "struggle to abolish slavery and attain national sovereignty," the reform period, and "the Revolution, (when) our people and their extraordinary leaders fought for justice and democracy."

AMLO said that Mexico's current crises "are not only due to the failure of the neoliberal economic model applied over the last 36 years, but too because of the predominance during that period of the dirtiest of public and private corruption.  In other words, as we have repeated for many years, nothing has damaged Mexico more than the dishonesty of (those who) govern and the small minority that has profited through influentialism."  And he added, "That is the main reason for economic and social inequality, and also for the insecurity and violence we suffer."

"In the neoliberal period corruption has become the principal function of political power, thus if I am asked to express the new government plan in a phrase I respond, put an end to corruption and impunity," said AMLO.

And all this time the now ex-president, Enrique Peña Nieto, sat on the dias two seats away, mostly stoic but often times looking uncomfortable.  After the speech, and after personally congratulating López Obrador, Peña Nieto couldn't get to the nearest exit fast enough.

Again, mentioning the inefficiency of the "neoliberal economic model" – which he criticized numerous times, the new President recollected that "for 30 years following the violent stage of the Revolution, from the (1930s) to the (1970s), that is to say for 40 years, Mexico's economy grew at an average annual rate of 5 percent."

He went on to say that economic growth rates from 1958 to 1970 were 6 percent, without inflation and without increasing the public debt.  From 1970 to 1982 the economy also grew by 6 percent annually, AMLO said, "however with unbalanced macroeconomic taxes/encumbrances, that is with inflation and indebtedness."

"Regarding the economic policy applied during the neoliberal period, from 1983 to date, it has been the most inefficient in Mexico's modern history.  In this time the economy has grown 2 percent annually."

On an economic note near the end of his speech, while praising the work ethic of Mexicans at home and abroad, the President said "out of need our migrant fellow countrymen have gone to the United States to earn a living, and now they are sending their families US$30 billion annually.  Those remittances are the main source of income of our country, money of major social benefit that we receive from abroad."

AMLO fiercely criticized Mexico's energy reform of four years ago, saying, "… it was affirmed that it was going to reap torrents of foreign investment, like never before.  The result is that hardly US$760 million have come in, representing only 1.9 percent of the incipient public investment made by Pemex during the same period, and barely 0.7 percent of the promised investment."

After expounding on the "seriousness of damages caused to the energy and national sectors during neoliberalism," AMLO went on to mention today's need to import corn, and more than half of Mexico's gasoline, diesel, gas, and electricity.

"During this period the purchasing power of the minimum salary has deteriorated 60 percent, and the salary to Mexicans is among the lowest on the planet," he said.  "We have twice as many ill with diabetes in comparison with Latin American countries.  During the neoliberal period we have become the second country in the world with major migration.  They live and work in the United States, 24 million Mexicans."

"When the six-year term of President (Vicente) Fox ended public debt … was 1.7 billion.  When (Felipe) Calderon left the debt had risen to 5.2 billion, more than 200 percent.  Now the debt is 10 billion.  (…)  Thus, now the public debt is not going to be increased.  This is our commitment," said López Obrador.

"My commitment, and I am a man of my word, is that the investments of national and foreign investors will be secure, and conditions will be created in order to obtain good yields, because Mexico will have honesty, a State of law, clear rules, a growing economy and trust."

The President continued, "We will foment productive projects with public and private investment, national and foreign.  These projects will be created like development curtains from the nation's south to north, in order to keep Mexicans in their places of origin.  We want migration to be optional, not obligatory."

Subsequently he noted: "As of January 1, (2019), the free zone will go into effect the length of … the border with the United States.  This 25-kilometer-wide strip will become the largest free zone in the world.  There, the same taxes will be collected and fuel prices will be the same as in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas of the USA."

AMLO also said that "the so-called education reform will be cancelled."

Speaking about law and order, justice and injustice, and violence, the President said: "Today a truth commission is being formed, to punish the abuses of authority in order to take care of the case of the disappeared young people of Ayotzinapa."

"We will also move towards a true democracy, doing away with the disgraceful tradition of electoral fraud.  Elections will be free and clean, and those who use public or private resources to buy votes and traffic with the poverty of the people, or use the budget in order to favor candidates or parties, will go to jail without the right to bail."

On another issue, AMLO said: "Administrative entities are going to be decreased in the country, and there will not be government offices abroad, excepting of course the embassies and consulates."

Regarding no government offices abroad, does that mean Mexico's National Aquaculture and Fisheries Commission office in San Diego, California, that mainly services the U.S. sportfishing industry and sport fishermen, will be closed?  And what about the PEMEX Procurement International office in Houston, Texas?  Or the ProMéxico promotional and development offices abroad, such as the one in Vancouver, British Columbia, considering the importance of Canadian mining interests in Mexico?

While acknowledging the many foreign dignitaries present, when AMLO came to Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, a negative uproar arose from the crowd.  As well, a few people went to the front of the Chamber with a large unfurled banner, which had been taped to a side wall, that read "Maduro, You Are Not Welcome."  Next others rushed in front of the banner to block the text from view with a white sheet, but they were quickly hustled away, and as AMLO continued with his speech the banner too disappeared.  During all of this some in the floor level congressional seats held up small signs saying: "Democracy yes, Authoritarianism no."

Having reiterated his plans, hopes and optimism, and saying under no circumstances might he seek reelection [a message to Maduro?], AMLO made an especially interesting comment about "always wanting the people to hold the reins of power in their hands."

Continuing, he stated: "In two and one-half years there will be a consultation, and citizens will be asked if they want the President of the Republic to remain in office or to ask for a leave of absence, because the people give and the people take away, and that is the only sovereign that must be complied with and obeyed."

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador concluded his speech by calling out "Viva Mexico" three times.

Looking ahead, one hopes that his transformation plans and programs for the future, those that are rewarding and friendly, will one day merit a fourth grito to the people of Mexico and the world.


[i] "Mensaje a la Nación durante la Transmisión del Poder Ejecutivo ante el Congreso de la Unión," 1 December 2018, Mexico City, Mexico

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Barnard Thompson spent more than 50 years in Mexico and Latin America providing multinational clients with in-depth information as well as actionable intelligence; country and political risk reporting and analysis; plus professional, lobbying and problem resolution services.

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