MEXICO CITY – A leaked recording apparently showing Mexico’s environment minister criticizing the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has again revealed internal turmoil as the president tries to confront dual health and economic crises.
López Obrador said Thursday that he had not spoken with Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Victor Manuel Toledo since the recording emerged a day earlier.
Speaking from the northwestern city of Ciudad Obregon, he said Toledo had not presented his resignation, but said high Cabinet turnover isn´t necessarily a bad thing.
In an audio recording circulating on social media, a person who appears to be Toledo complained that other Cabinet secretaries have blocked efforts to protect the environment and were promoting the interests of farming and mining industries.
He was especially crticial of López Obrador´s chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, who he said had accumulated vast power and was the primary obstacle to any sort of environmental agenda, including a transition to renewable energy.
“We´re trying at Semarnat (the name of his agency), but we are not in a government that is totally on our side,” he said, adding that the administration “is a government of brutal contradictions.”
Neither Toledo nor Semarnat have commented on the recording.
Asked by reporters Thursday, the president said, “In our Cabinet there is freedom and there is disagreement and there isn´t a single mindset.” He said it´s his job to hear everyone out and make the best decision.
Environmental groups have been critical of numerous policies pursued by the administration, including a massive new oil refinery and a tourist-oriented train that will run through Mexico´s most biologically diverse jungle. His administration has also ruled against renewable energy projects as it struggles to revive the state-run oil industry.
On Wednesday, the president dedicated a new dam in Sonora state that is flooding thousand-year-old Indigenous sites containing rock carvings and the remains of pre-Hispanic dwellings.
If Toledo were to resign, he would join a growing list of Cabinet members to exit. Two weeks ago, Transportation Secretary Javier Jiménez Espriú resigned after López Obrador decided to put the navy in charge of Mexico´s seaports.
Toledo´s predecessor resigned after a scandal about trying to delay a commercial flight. In 2019, Treasury Secretary Carlos Urzúa resigned over disagreements about staffing decisions.
But on Thursday, López Obrador turned to history, referencing the Cabinet of Benito Juarez, the 19th century leader who is Mexico’s most revered president.
“There hasn´t been a better Cabinet and they resigned constantly,” López Obrador said.