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Mexico: Protesters trap President Obrador in car

August 27, 2021

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador delivered a brief address via video call from his car during a two-hour standoff with protesters.

A screen in a conference room shows Lopez Obrador delivering his remarks via video call on his phone from a car
Lopez Obrador joined the press conference via video call Image: Juan Carlos Buenrostro/Presidencia Mexico/dpa/picture alliance

A group of protesters on Friday prevented Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from leading his usual daily news conference.

Lopez Obrador is rarely absent from the daily morning news conferences, which he has held almost every weekday since he took office in 2018. 

But on Friday, demonstrators gathered at the entrance of a military barracks in the southern Chiapas state, where Lopez Obrador was set to hold a Cabinet meeting and a press conference.

The standoff lasted for around two hours.

The Mexican president seen in a car with protesters in the background
Lopez Obrador did not engage with the protesters, Mexican media reportedImage: Daniel Diaz/dpa/picture alliance

What did Lopez Obrador say?

In a video message from inside his vehicle, the president said protesters refused to let him pass to pressure him into answering their demands.

"I cannot allow this because the president cannot be held hostage by anyone," he said. 

Lopez Obrador also stressed that he was a non-violent leader who avoided any use of force. He said that although he was stopped in front of a military barracks, he would not call out the army to disperse protesters.

"This is what [Nelson] Mandela did, this is what [Martin] Luther King did, this is what [Mahatma] Gandhi did, non-violence,'' he said.

What was the protest about? 

According to Mexican media, demonstrators protested against a legal reform by the previous administration that reduces the influence of teachers' unions.

Teachers and health workers shouted anti-government slogans. Some protesters scrawled the initials of the teachers' union, known as CNTE, on the president's vehicle with marker pens. 

CNTE has been known for blockading roads, railways and entire cities.

When past governments had cracked down on the teachers' union, Lopez Obrador praised the organization.

But on Friday, the president admitted that CNTE's leadership has was beholden to "special interests" in some states. "I cannot surrender to any special interest group," he added.

fb/dj (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)