Pueblo of Mexico ‘Guardian Angel’: AMLO, full speech in the Zócalo
December 2, 2019
Translated and edited by Pedro Gellert for CubaNews.
SPEECH DELIVERED BY ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR, PRESIDENT OF MEXICO ON THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF HIS INAUGURATION
The change we are undertaking is on the horizon. In the neoliberal period, laws were made without considering the public interest. Now, the purpose behind the reforms to the Constitution is to guarantee the country’s development and the population’s well-being. For example, the main reforms and laws approved by the legislators have been those aimed at fighting corruption; the austerity law; asset recovery legislation to reclaim and return to the people what was stolen; the reforms to Article 28 of the Constitution to prohibit tax rebates; the classification of fuel theft, tax evasion, and electoral fraud as serious crimes; the elimination of presidential immunity so that the president can be judged for any crime while still in office; presidential recall referendums; popular consultations; the new labor legislation that guarantees free, secret, and direct voting in the unions; the health law to guarantee all Mexicans free medicines and medical care.
There is also the cancellation of the misnamed educational reform, as well as the constitutional reform that allows members of the Army and Navy to participate in public security tasks and creates the National Guard. In addition, I have sent Congress a reform bill to enshrine in the Constitution the right of senior citizens and people with disabilities to obtain a pension and for poor students at all levels of schooling to receive scholarships. In reality, these modifications represent a new Constitution that reflects the demands and will of the people who decided to undertake the Fourth Transformation of the country’s public life in a legal, democratic, and peaceful manner.
As I have said many times, the main task of the government is to do away with political corruption. We are putting the house in order from the highest levels of power. That is why we are cleansing the government from top to bottom, just as we clean the stairs.
The theft of fuel has been reduced by 94 percent, and tax waivers and write-offs for large business and financial corporations has been prohibited. All government purchases are being made in consolidated fashion and under the coordination of the Chief of Staff of the Finance Ministry. This year, the savings obtained in preventing corruption in the acquisition of goods and services will reach 200 billion pesos.
The budget of the President’s office decreased from 3.6 billion to 800 million pesos, a 75 percent decline. This is, in practice, republican austerity.
The formula of ending corruption and reducing the cost of government allows us to finance the budget without increasing taxes, without boosting fuel prices, and without indebting the country. The resources earmarked to finance social programs come from what is saved with the fight against corruption and with the elimination of luxuries and opulent expenses.
We are implementing a new productive policy to support the popular economy, strengthen the domestic market, promote projects for regional development, encourage the participation of private enterprise, and intensify efforts to attract foreign investment.
In order to strengthen the popular economy, we have prioritized agricultural recovery. Direct economic support for planting crops has been provided to 2 million ejidatarios and comuneros (small-scale, semi-communal peasant farmers-TN) and small landowners; this includes members of indigenous communities and sugar cane and coffee growers. The program of uncollateralized, paperwork and interest-free loans for cattle raising was launched, benefitting 7,734 producers. This year, the Planting Life program is being applied in 575,000 hectares and has generated 230,000 permanent jobs. Next year it will be extended to more than one million hectares and create 430,000 jobs. The planter who cultivates his own plot of land will receive a 5,000 peso-per- month subsidy.
Thus, will are rooting young peasant farmers to the land, we are reducing migration, we are producing lumber, fruits, and food, we are rehabilitating the rain forest and woodlands, and are rescuing and protecting the native flora and fauna. In short, life is being planted. We are also preventing the overexploitation of aquifers and promoting population growth in the Southeast, where 70 percent of the country’s water is located. The use of transgenic corn seeds and the exploitation of hydrocarbons through the practice of fracking has been banned. We have supported fishermen by simplifying procedures to obtain permits with sustainability rules and we are granting them direct financial assistance.
This year, the decentralized public agency for food security Seguridad Alimentaria Mexicana (SEGALMEX) was created to administer the policy that we established of guaranteed prices and supplying the population with foodstuffs.
With the Interest-Free Loans for Well-Being program, 356,500 credits have been granted, without interest or complicated paperwork, to small merchants, businessmen, artisans, and those who earn their living as best they can.
The construction of 109 concrete roads is progressing in the municipalities of Oaxaca. We supply the resources to the authorities of local indigenous communities selected through ancestral customs, they manage them honestly and, as a result, employment is provided to women and men in the same villages. With these small but important work projects, migration is reduced and family and community life is strengthened.
It must be recognized that a major factor in strengthening the economy promoted from below, with the people and for the people, has been the contribution of our living heroes, the Mexican migrants, who in the first nine months of this year sent remittances to their families to the tune of 26.98 billion dollars, the highest amount in history.
At the same time, we seek to strengthen the domestic market through a policy of wage recovery and a strategy of massive creation of productive jobs.
Thus far this year, according to data from the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), 648,000 new jobs have been created. This is without taking into account those created by the Planting Life, Young People Building the Future, and the road construction with labor power programs and others that, together, surpass one million additional jobs.
The minimum wage increased by 16 percent, something that had not occurred in 36 years of neoliberalism. According to the IMSS, during our administration, the average salary obtained by its 20,727,424 affiliates increased to 11,352 pesos per month.
We have healthy public finances. From January to October, tax collection increased by 139.70 billion pesos compared to last year, that is, 1.6 percent in real terms. In October, annual inflation was 3 percent, the lowest since September 2016.
During our time in office, the peso has strengthened 4 percent against the dollar and the stock market has appreciated 2 percent. The economic growth that we hope for has still not taken place, but there is a better distribution of wealth; the public budget does not remain in the hands of a few, but reaches the majority of the population. We have completed a year in government and unlike other beginnings of the six-year presidential administrations, we have not rebated or condoned taxes to those who financed the election campaigns; we have not privatized public goods or properties nor have we declared war on anyone, just on corruption and impunity.
We have rigorously fulfilled all financial commitments. Salaries, benefits and pensions have been paid to workers and budgetary outlays have been paid to states and municipalities on time. There has been no further delay in paying suppliers. In addition, we have complied with recognizing and dealing with the enormous debt we inherited of 10.8 trillion pesos. So far we have paid 454 billion pesos in interest alone.
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We have begun basic engineering studies for the Mayan Train, and they will be completed on December 13 in order to carry out the bidding process on this important work project that will benefit five states in southeast Mexico. I would like to clarify that the project will depend on the outcome of the consultation we are conducting in the municipalities where the new railroad will pass through.
To further the integral development of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, work is already proceeding on the expansion of the port of Salina Cruz and the same will be done in Coatzacoalcos. Work has also begun on the modernization of the container freight train line that will connect the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
A free zone will be established in this stretch of land; that is, taxes and energy prices will be reduced in order to promote the installation of industrial parks that will generate jobs with good salaries.
We are successfully facing the obstinate attitude of the corrupt conservatives who resorted to legal sabotage in the construction of the new Felipe Ángeles airport, for which they filed 103 injunctions with the aim of preventing us from beginning work in Santa Lucía. But reason and the law prevailed and work on the project has begun. The military engineers have assured me that we will inaugurate the new international airport on March 21, 2022.
Since January of this year, the free zone program began along the 3,180 kilometer border with the United States. There, the Income Tax was reduced to 20 percent; the VAT was cut from 16 to 8 percent; fuel was made cheaper and the minimum wage was doubled.
The company Telecomunicaciones e Internet para Todos, a subsidiary of the Federal Electricity Commission, was created and the concession was obtained to offer nonprofit Internet service for all throughout the country.
We are proud to report that for the first time in 14 years, we halted the progressive decline in oil production. In 2018 oil production had decreased by 200,000 barrels per day and thus far during this current administration, not only have we not seen a fall in output, but by the end of the month we will be extracting an additional 50,000 barrels per day.
The country’s six refineries are being refurbished. Their production rose from 32 to 40 percent of their capacity. Construction has already begun on the new refinery in Dos Bocas, Paraíso, Tabasco.
The investment for the construction and maintenance of highways and rural roads is 42.5 billion pesos, of which 20 billion pesos are earmarked for the conservation of the country’s road network, something that had never occurred before.
The construction of the Emisor Oriente Tunnel has been completed. With this project, floods will be prevented in a good part of the Valley of Mexico. The Guadalajara Light Train will also be completed this year and the Toluca-Mexico City train is still under construction.
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The participation of private enterprise in the development of Mexico is a positive and necessary reality. A few days ago we agreed on a joint plan for the construction of infrastructure with 134 projects and an investment of 709 billion pesos. I would also mention that an agreement was reached with national and foreign companies that installed gas pipelines. It was agreed to recognize the contracts signed by the previous administration but rates were reduced and a savings of 4.5 billion dollars obtained for the CFE. This arrangement also guarantees the supply of gas, a key raw material for the generation of electricity and for the development of Mexico, for the next 20 years.
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In the first 9 months of this year, 26 billion dollars entered the country in foreign investment, the highest figure in history. From January to October 2019 our exports totaled more than 384 billion dollars, a 3 percent increase over the same period last year.
This year, tourism has grown compared to 2018. From January to September, 32.8 million international tourists arrived, 7.6 percent more than in the same period last year, injecting more than 18.56 billion dollars in the economy, 11.3 percent more than last year. I would like to emphasize the effective and timely intervention of the Ministry of the Navy to keep our beaches in the Caribbean free of sargassum seaweed. I would like to add that we are already the main trade partner of the United States and I feel that the new trade treaty will be approved, sooner rather than later, in the congresses of that country and Canada.
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We are committed, above all, to achieving a higher goal, namely, the general well-being of the population, material well-being and well-being of the soul, spiritual well-being.
At least half of Mexican households receive benefits from at least one social welfare program. Among the indigenous peoples, 95 percent of households already have access to at least one of the support programs and the figure will soon reach 100 percent.
I am pleased to report that eight million senior citizens have received their pensions of 2,550 pesos bimonthly, double what they obtained previously. This support will increase in accordance with inflation and includes both those who receive a contributory pension and those who had no income; in other words, it became a universal right.
Assistance is also provided to 790,000 people with disabilities, especially poor children, with a subsidy of 2,550 pesos every two months. Soon we will reach one million beneficiaries.
Scholarships of 1,600 pesos bimonthly are also being granted to poor preschool, primary, and secondary school students. In the case of high school students, the support is universal; that is, it is granted to all adolescents between the ages of 15 and 18 on average; and at the higher education or university level, 300,000 young people are being assisted with scholarships of 2,400 pesos per month. In total, more than 10 million students are receiving a scholarship, which means an annual investment of 60 billion pesos.
The Young People Building the Future program has provided work as apprentices to 930,000 youth who were previously discriminated against and characterized as ninis (those without work and who are not studying-TN). The federal government grants them a monthly scholarship of 3,600 pesos to train for a year in companies, workshops, public institutions, and social organizations, which facilitates their successful insertion into the labor market and prevents them from falling prey to crime.
The National Reconstruction Program serves the population affected by the earthquakes of September 2017 and February 2018, and has provided financial support for housing to 13,805 families. Schools and clinics and hospitals are under reconstruction and progress is being made in the restoration of temples and other structures or spaces catalogued as historical heritage sites.
We have begun the Urban Improvement and Housing Program, both in cities on the northern border and in tourist development poles, to reduce the contrast between luxury hotels and marginalized neighborhoods.
This program is bearing fruit in Tijuana, Mexicali, San Luis Río Colorado, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Acuña, Piedras Negras, Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros, as well as in marginalized neighborhoods in four tourist centers: Los Cabos, Bahía de Banderas, Acapulco, and Playa del Carmen. To date, 18,455 housing units have been built or refurbished, and the introduction of water, sewage, and pavement has begun, as well as providing the property deeds for homes in low-income neighborhoods in 14 cities. The INFONAVIT government housing agency has restructured 147,523 housing loans for the benefit of workers who paid debts that grew instead of decreased. Those who have covered 90 percent of their credit will have the remainder forgiven and will be able to receive their property deed. This modality has benefited 31,000 families. In addition, no one has been evicted from their apartment or housing, as was the case when the so-called overdue loan portfolios were sold to “coyotes”, collection offices or influence traffickers.
The vast majority of the poor cannot use the banking system. To remedy this situation, the federal government has created the Banco del Bienestar social welfare bank, whose main purpose is to allocate resources via cards to beneficiaries of the social programs. Next year, the Banco de Bienestar will increase the number of its branches from 433 to 13,000 throughout the country.
These offices will operate in integration centers located in areas with large populations in order to then serve more than 180,000 communities in the country with less than 2,500 inhabitants.
In the last six-year presidential administration, the so-called “educational reform” was imposed, which generated a bitter social conflict and led to unjustifiable repressive measures. Our government is committed to improving the quality of teaching and the material conditions of the country’s schools, to guaranteeing access to education for all young people, and to reversing legislative adulteration. Following an intense process of dialogue and reflection, the schools, the Federal Executive branch, Congress, and the national teachers’ movement reached a broad agreement that led to the approval of a new legal framework for public education.
With the new 2019-2020 school year, the School is Ours program began, which provides resources for the construction, repair, and maintenance of public schools to the Participatory Management School Committees, made up of students, teachers, and parents from each school. With this program, each school will receive its annual budget.
Resources are beginning to arrive directly from the federal treasury to the school, without intermediaries or cumbersome paperwork procedures. In the first stage, 103,000 of the 173,000 existing schools will be served. The amount of resources per school was defined as follows: for schools with from five to 50 students, 150,000 pesos per school year; from 51 to 150 pupils, 200,000 pesos; more than 150 students, 500,000 pesos. The initial budget is 21 billion pesos and we are reaching agreements with the state governments for the latter to contribute half the amount. Most have responded well and the first to accept was the governor of Puebla, Miguel Barbosa. The delivery of financial resources to 14,000 school committees has already begun.
The strategy for rescuing historical memory and promoting reading is functioning. The Fondo de Cultura Económica publishing house has issued 29 books by great writers in the Vientos del Pueblo collection with press runs of 40,000 copies, reaching a total of 1,160,000 copies. These books are sold at affordable prices ranging from 9 to 20 pesos. In addition, 8.5 million copies of the Castilla Moral (Moral Primer) of Alfonso Reyes were reprinted.
We made progress in supporting universities and public research centers with financial resources. This year, the National Council for Science and Technology, the CONACYT, has allocated more than 2.25 billion pesos to basic or frontier science. In addition, 24,453 new scholarships were granted to graduate students.
The Benito Juarez Garcia Universities for Social Wellbeing began their activities in March 2019 with one hundred campuses. Altogether, they serve 39,600 students from marginalized areas who receive scholarships of 2,400 pesos per month. These universities are staffed by 815 academics and administrative employees.
This coming January, the University of Health will start operating. It is designed for the training and education of doctors and nurses and is promoted by the Mexico City government.
The opening of what had been the former official residence of Los Pinos to the population has allowed 2.8 million people to visit the old presidential mansion and a project is already being developed, in coordination with the City Government, to convert the Chapultepec Forest and the land where the Army Weapons Factory was located into an artistic and ecological space of 800 hectares. Soon, very soon, it will be one of the most important cultural sites in the world.
We have created the National Institute of Health for Well-Being, which has begun to resolve four basic demands: supply of all medicines in hospitals and clinics located in the most remote communities of the country; the assignment of doctors, nurses, and paramedics in all population centers; the refurbishing and expansion of the health infrastructure, including the improvement of medical equipment, and the basification of more than 80,000 employees who have been working for a long time as casual workers and paid by fees rather than fixed salaries. The health budget will be increased by 40 billion pesos to guarantee quality level and free medicines, clinical analysis, and medical and hospital care, to all the inhabitants of Mexico as soon as possible. A national information campaign on addictions has already been launched, basically focused on young people, to provide orientation on the tremendous harm caused by drugs.
All types of sports are being promoted. The athletic delegation that represented Mexico at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, in July and August, won the largest number of medals in competitions outside the country. The 546 athletes and their coaches were given financial support for one year.
We did the same with the Paralympic athletes, who won 55 gold medals (a historic record), 58 silver medals, and 45 bronze medals.
The financial resources provided to athletes and the poorest villages in Mexico come from the sale of movable and immovable property seized from common and white-collar crime, and are delivered by the newly created Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People.
The federal executive branch has undertaken a change in the public security policy model. Between 2006 and 2018, the government sought to resolve public insecurity and criminal violence through the deployment of the military and police forces, without addressing the root causes of the problem. The result was catastrophic and that strategy left in its wake a frightening toll of dead, disappeared, and injured; a human rights crisis; an unprecedented institutional decomposition; and very serious damage to the social fabric. The country still suffers the consequences of that erroneous policy.
It should not be forgotten that on January 2, 2007 in Apatzingán, Michoacán, Felipe Calderón, in an attempt to legitimize himself after the electoral fraud, ordered the participation of the Armed Forces in what he called the “War against Drug Trafficking”. This irresponsible decision led soldiers and sailors into a head-on battle against organized crime, under the slogan “cleaning up” no matter what, with executions, massacres, or extermination. In the military high command, the officers were told: you finish them off and we’ll take care of human rights. The best proof of this authoritarian approach is that this six-year period has the highest fatal casualty rate in combat since the Mexican Revolution. This indicator is obtained from the average number of alleged criminals killed or taken down in confrontations, compared to the number of those wounded and detained presented by the military forces to the authorities. In just two years of Calderón’s government (2011-2012), there were 1,898 confrontations in which 2,459 people died, 231 were wounded, and 1,519 were arrested; that is, the number of deaths was 709 higher than the number of wounded and arrested.
By the same token, in the last three years of the Felipe Calderón administration (2010-2012), the number of military and navy personnel killed in confrontations reached 154, an average of 51 per year, while in 12 months of our government, we can only regret that 15 members of the Armed Forces have lost their lives. Although the data speak for themselves, it is obvious that this absurd and deranged strategy will not be repeated and that the life and prestige of the members of the Armed Forces will never again be irresponsibly put at risk, much less used to commit excesses and execute illegal and inhumane orders.
The validity of the new security policy was clearly demonstrated in the response to the terror crisis experienced on Thursday evening, October 17, in Culiacán, Sinaloa, on the occasion of the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán, son of Joaquín Guzmán Loera. In that true test of fire in which criminals took to the streets with high-caliber weapons and a high risk was posed, we preferred to halt the operation and release the suspect to avoid a massacre in which hundreds of individuals, mostly civilians, innocent people, would have lost their lives, according to the calculation of the Armed Forces. Our adversaries may say that we displayed weakness, but nothing is worth more than people’s lives.
The rationale for this new strategy is contained in the Development Plan, but I would like to reiterate that among the main actions to achieve peace is the creation of better living and working conditions, in order to address the root causes of violence: unemployment, poverty, marginalization, and the lack of jobs and educational opportunities for young people.
The new public security strategy also includes zero tolerance of torture and any other human rights violations. We are devoting time and resources to the search for those who were disappeared as a result of political violence. We will not rest until we know the whereabouts of the young people of Ayotzinapa. Protection is being provided to 365 journalists and 721 human rights defenders. Forty-seven political prisoners have been released and we will continue to free those still unjustly imprisoned, in accordance with applicable legal dispositions. Rescue operations have already begun for the remains of the 63 miners whose bodies have not been recovered since 2006 in the Pasta de Conchos Mine, Coahuila.
The Army and the Navy have not been used and will not be used to repress the people. The state is no longer the main human rights violator. I would like to thank the soldiers and sailors who have accepted the challenge of guaranteeing public security with full respect for human rights and with the regulated use of force for their support. The loyalty of the Armed Forces of Mexico is not in doubt; as a uniformed people they are participating fully, one hundred percent, in the transformation of the homeland.
I wish to reiterate that the decrease in crime in the country is our main challenge, but we are sure that we will bring calm to Mexico with the support of the people and with the coordinated work of the entire government, with perseverance, professionalism, honesty, and, above all, with actions guided by the principle that peace is the fruit of justice.
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The government of Mexico offers cooperation, friendship, and respect to all the nations of the world and particularly to the brother countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.
In keeping with our exemplary tradition of offering safe haven to those politically persecuted from around the world, we decided to grant humanitarian and political asylum to the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, and his Vice President, Álvaro García Linera. Evo is not only our brother who with dignity represents the majority indigenous people of Bolivia. Evo was the victim of a coup d’état. And from Mexico to the world, we declare: democracy yes, militarism no.
Mexico’s membership in the North American region, together with the United States and Canada, is an unavoidable historical, cultural, political, and economic reality. The relationship with the first of these countries, with which we share more than three thousand kilometers of border, is marked by a history of invasions, territorial dispossession, and interventions, but also by an intense economic, cultural, and demographic exchange.
The Executive Branch strives for the bilateral relationship with the northern neighbor to be developed with adherence to mutual respect, cooperation for development, and negotiated solutions to common problems, among which the most significant are undoubtedly, the migratory phenomena from south to north and the expressions of transnational crime, namely, trafficking in persons and the transfer of arms, illicit drugs, and foreign currency.
Our government now defends Mexicans in the United States with full respect for the sovereignty of that country and with all the legal instruments at its disposal. The main such instrument is the network of consulates, which will operate as ombudsmen for migrants, within the framework of international conventions and U.S. laws, to prevent or remedy violations of the rights of Mexicans.
Here we once again express our condolences to the families of the victims of the collective murder in El Paso, Texas, and reiterate our condemnation of this hate crime motivated by racism and xenophobia, as well as the demand that the person responsible for this abominable aggression be punished in accordance with the law.
We also thank President Donald Trump for his solidarity expressed in the crisis of violence in Culiacán and after the sad and painful events in which three women and six children from the Mexican-American families LeBarón and Langford lost their lives. We recognize that in both cases he offered us help and respected our sovereign right to decide independently and freely. The government of Mexico will fulfill its responsibility to ensure justice.
In terms of immigration policy, we have formulated a radical change with respect to what was done in the recent past. Our purpose now is to ensure that no Mexican citizen is forced to leave his or her place of residence due to poverty, marginalization or public insecurity.
The Executive Branch has sought to involve the United States and the sister countries of Central America in this solution in order to participate together in the elaboration of mechanisms for economic reactivation, well-being, and development with the final purpose of ensuring that all people can work, study, have access to health care and well-being where they were born; that migration be optional, and not forced by hunger or violence.
When it comes to good leaders, as José Martí said, “years go by maturing, not aging”. This applies to our special guest, Pepe Mújica, former president of Uruguay.
A year ago, in this same place, I presented one hundred commitments to the people of Mexico. Today we have fulfilled 89 and only 11 are pending.
There is no doubt that in these first 12 months we have come a long way, but we are still in a process of transition. The old has not yet died and the new has not yet been born. However, we are not simulating, a new way of doing politics is underway, it is no longer more of the same, now we are guided by honesty, democracy, and humanism.
How much time will we need to consolidate the transformation? I think one more year, that is, in December 2020, the foundations for the construction of a new homeland will already be established. By then, it will be practically impossible, under any circumstances, to return to the era of infamy that the neoliberal or neoporfirista period (referring to the period of President Porfirio Diaz’s rule, broadly considered to be repressive and violent-TN).
I am sure that when we complete two years in government, the conservatives will no longer be able to reverse the changes or, to not be so categorical, they would have to make a tremendous effort and be very shamefaced to return to the dark days of corruption, of boilerplate contracts, of tax condonations, of electoral frauds, of abandonment of young people, of racism, of contempt for the poor, and of cold-blooded killings. But what I most desire with all my heart is that by then we live in a better society: freer, fairer, prosperous, democratic, peaceful, and fraternal.
During my long public life and, above all, in the most difficult moments, I have always had a guardian angel called the people. You have always supported me and sustained me. To the people I owe everything that I am, so I will continue to listen and serve them, and I will never, ever betray them.
Thank you for the protection and support I receive from you and many people. I am a mere leader; the people are the great lord, the master, the sovereign, the ruler, the one who truly rules and transforms.
I do not forget and I always remember what President Benito Juárez said with such depth and simplicity: “with the people everything, without the people nothing”.
Long live the Fourth Transformation!
Long live Mexico!
Long live Mexico!
Long live Mexico!
Zócalo – Mexico City, December 1, 2019