MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s minister of environment and natural resources resigned on Saturday, becoming the second top official in less than a week to step down from a government marked by the president’s key policy platforms such as austerity and the ending of privileges.
The former minister, Josefa Gonzalez Blanco, resigned after delaying the departure of a commercial flight in order to catch it.
The director-general of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) governmental body, German Martinez, also resigned on Tuesday after complaining that excessive curbs on public spending were affecting the health of millions of Mexicans.
The resignations are related to two key policies which President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has backed since he was opposition leader – ending privileges enjoyed by political leaders and implementing strict austerity.
In her resignation to the president, Gonzalez Blanco wrote that “we cannot fall short in anything, and when one commits such a mistake, one has to accept it and give up a responsibility. Although it could appear as a drastic and excessive measure, we do not have the right to commit mistakes.”
After acknowledging the sincerity of the minister, Lopez Obrador said he accepted the resignation because “the nation’s interests were above personal and group interests.”
Martinez’s exit from the IMSS, the government body responsible for the social security and health of more than half of all Mexicans, led to criticism of the administration’s health spending cuts.
Heads of around a dozen hospitals have complained about cuts worth millions of pesos in their budgets, with the government responding by quickly releasing funds and promising that not a single peso would be spared for health and education.
The environment minister’s resignation has its roots in the fight against privileges championed by Lopez Obrador, who has been firm about using commercial planes to travel across the country and selling all state aircrafts, including the presidential plane.
The leader also refuses to live in the former presidential palace, Los Pinos, which has now been converted into a cultural site open to the public. He lives in a modest house in Mexico City with occasional stays in the National Palace, he has said.
A first lot of vehicles have already been sold by the government and on Sunday dozens of other cars and residences owned by the presidency, some of them luxurious, are set to be auctioned at Los Pinos.
The Mexican government has established an institute to return this wealth to the people. It will be in charge of selling assets and using the funds to help the two poorest municipalities in the southern state of Guerrero.
Following Lopez Obrador’s policies, government officials and the president himself have been traveling on commercial planes and he can be seen entering and leaving airports like any other passenger.
Compared to the president’s stance, many users on social media saw the former environment minister’s decision to delay the plane as an act of transgression.
The Aeromexico flight between Mexico City and Tijuana was delayed for 38 minutes while waiting for Gonzalez Blanco to arrive, according to officials cited by the press and social media users.
“While starting a work trip I caused a delay for the passengers traveling in the plane and its crew. It cannot be justified,” she wrote in her resignation letter.
Gonzalez Blanco publicly repented violating the principles of Lopez Obrador’s political movement, called “fourth transformation.”
“Mexico’s transformation starts by personal conviction and the consistency of our acts,” she said.
“True change requires that nobody has privileges and personal gain, even while completing official tasks, should not be above the welfare of the majority,” she added.
“If one claims that officials are common citizens, they should learn to miss flights like everyone else,” Gonzalez Blanco concluded.
A social media user said he expected the former minister to apologize to passengers for making them wait.
“This is also corruption through using influence,” he said.