A spokesperson for Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador challenged news reports that an aqueduct inaugurated last week remains incomplete and inoperative at a daily morning press conference in Mexico City Wednesday.
Elizabeth García Vilchis opened her weekly segment titled “Who’s who in the week’s lies” with a rebuttal to recent articles in Reforma, El Norte and other Mexican newspapers which claim that the aqueduct in the northern state of Nuevo León remains far from finished.
“According to these newspapers, the event presided over by President López Obrador and [Nuevo León] Governor Samuel García … was a simulation,” Vilchis said.
The El Cuchillo 2 aqueduct, a 58-mile pipeline built to supply the metropolitan area of Monterrey, has been proposed as the government’s primary answer to the worst water crisis the region has seen in decades.
During last week’s inauguration, Germán Martínez Santoyo, head of Mexico’s national water agency Conagua, said that the water they released that day would take seven to 10 days to travel through the entire system and be injected into Monterrey’s distribution network.
The newspapers cited anonymous sources working on the project who said there were still at least six months of work to do on the waterway before completion. Vilchis called these “phantom anonymous sources” and likened the articles to something imagined by a “screenwriter of fiction.”
López Obrador countered these reports on Monday by saying that “the pipeline is completely finished.”
Reforma responded on Tuesday by saying that neither the president nor García nor the Conagua authorities “have explained the evidence discovered after the inauguration … that El Cuchillo 2 still has unconnected sections.”
During her rebuttal Wednesday, Vilchis showed a video that claimed that the primary pipeline is fully connected and that water had filled around 32 miles of the aqueduct as of that morning. By Thursday, the video stated, water should make it to the end of the line and be ready to fill pipes in Monterrey.
The system’s initial flow of around 265 gallons per second will be improved to over 1,300 gallons per second by the end of the year, the video stated.
A spokesperson for Conagua told Courthouse News that the main pipeline was completed by the inauguration and that the work still to be done consists of these improvements to the system that will increase capacity.
The claims to the contrary and photos of disconnected pipes published by Reforma and other papers are either lies or “old” pictures, the spokesperson said.
López Obrador has shown a penchant for inaugurating incomplete projects during his administration. Also last week, he launched the “first leg” of an interurban train between Mexico City and Toluca, in neighboring Mexico State, that as of yet cannot take passengers to the urban center at the other end of the line. It will likely be completed next year.
Inaugurated in July 2022, the Dos Bocas oil refinery in the southern state of Tabasco has yet to begin operating at full capacity. Energy Secretary Rocio Nahle said last week that the facility operated by state-owned company Pemex should come fully online by the end of the year.
And Mexico City’s new airport AIFA lacked some guardrails, escalators, transportation services and certification to host international flights on an opening day full of pomp and circumstance in March 2022.
Premature inaugurations are part of López Obrador’s “ritualistic” communication strategy, according to Mariana Sánchez Santos, a doctoral student and adjunct lecturer at American University.
“He’s really good at putting pictures in our minds,” Sánchez said in a phone interview. “And he’s constantly speaking to his audience, the everyday people.”
While these inaugurations may create controversy, this often works in his favor. By putting himself at the center of these controversies, he can implement his discourse — what Sánchez called “a great notebook of populism 101” — and play the victim to buttress support for his image and agenda.
“Every time a news outlet or someone says no to him, he will say, ‘Oh, those are the conservatives and they’re against me and my project, and I am here because I am part of the people. I’m part of you guys and you put me here, and they’re not allowing me to finish this work,’” she said.
And while López Obrador spends most mornings railing against the administrations of his predecessors and claiming his is different, Sánchez pointed to several examples of similar inaugurations of unfinished works by previous presidents.
“This is not new,” she said, mentioning a hospital inaugurated by former President Enrique Peña Nieto that was to all appearances ready to receive patients, but lacked beds when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Mexico.
Former presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón as well as several state and local politicians have also implemented this tactic, she said.
As for why, one reason could be budgetary in nature. By inaugurating public works, government agencies can retain what funds remain for projects as new budgets get hashed out.
The upcoming 2024 presidential election is another likely reason. The Mexico Constitution limits presidents to a single term, but López Obrador has invested lots of time and energy in his party’s candidate, former Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum.
“Everything he is doing right now is going toward that goal,” Sánchez said. “He’s been in campaign since day one.”
Source : Courthousenews