President Andrés Manuel López Obrador waves a starting flag Monday during a ceremony in Lazaro Cardenas, Quintana Roo. Lopez Obrador kicked off Mexico’s return to a “new normal” with his first road trip in two months. AP Photo / Victor Ruiz

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is in Merida today, part of a road trip that takes place as Mexico gradually begins to ease coronavirus restrictions.

He was driven from Cancun last night and slept at the airbase adjacent to the international airport, waking in time for a 6 a.m national security meeting with the armed forces, the governor and other state and federal officials. That was followed by his daily early-morning press conference at the same location, broadcast on social media. Gov. Mauricio Vila Dosal was also invited to address reporters, speaking mainly about strides in security, but also asking AMLO to investigate the CFE and high electric bills.

“We know of the effort being made to provide the state with natural gas and that there may be an opportunity to produce cheaper energy, but we ask you, President, because it is one of the main needs that Yucatecans are facing today and that it has worsened due to the pandemic,” said Vila Dosal.

López Obrador took a car 1,000 miles from Mexico City over the weekend rather than flying to promote the construction of one of his signature infrastructure projects, the Mayan Train, for which the governor expressed support.

“We thank you very much for your determination to carry out the Mayan Train project that here in Yucatan … that we see as an opportunity to attract more tourism and more economic development, and which also comes with the economic situation that the coronavirus has generated. It is a very good time to reactivate public works, which although it will not be enough for all the havoc, it undoubtedly helps the economic reactivation that all of us here in Yucatan and Mexico long for.” 

While in Cancun on Monday, the president was hopeful about the quick return of tourists when the resort officially reopens next week. Gov. Carlos Manuel Joaquín Gonzalez vowed to suspend the reopening if there’s a new surge in infections.

An Associated Press reporter noted empty beaches and closed-down bars and restaurants.

On Monday’s leg of the tour, López Obrador highlighted a couple of hot spots, including the Pacific Coast beach destination of Acapulco and his home state of Tabasco.

“We’re going to carefully return to productive activities,” he said.

Later in the day during a visit to a military base on Isla Mujeres, López Obrador warned that if there were new outbreaks and a surge in infections, restrictions would be tightened again.

López Obrador planned to spend the week promoting the start of construction for the Mayan Train, which will whisk tourists from resort destinations like Cancun into the interior of the Yucatan Peninsula. It has been criticized as an environmental threat and faces opposition from indigenous communities, but he says it will create 80,000 jobs.

Mexico’s Social Security Institute said in April that the country lost 550,000 jobs during the epidemic and López Obrador recently said another 400,000 were lost in May. Mexico’s central bank projected last week that the economy would shrink as much as 8.8% this year.

On his way to Cancun, López Obrador stopped at his ranch in Chiapas and recorded a video he shared on social networks. He tried to highlight positive economic signs, noting the peso has regained a bit of value against the dollar and the price of oil has risen slightly.

“I wanted to give you good news,” López Obrador said. “There is economic recovery. The model we are using is showing us results.”

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