Mexican President AMLO Defends Santa Muerte

Mexican President AMLO Defends Santa Muerte April 23, 2024

This morning Mexican president Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) became the first Mexican president to speak positively of Santa Muerte, the New Religious Movement which went public in Mexico City in 2001. Previous presidents had either ignored the skeletal folk saint or in the case of Felipe Calderon actually declared war on her as religious enemy number one of the Mexican state in its battle against the drug cartels.

The Mexican president stated in his morning address to the nation that the Santa Muerte tee shirt controversy is about ‘religious freedom’ and urged citizens to ‘be respectful of believers and non-believers’. AMLO declared that Mexican citizens are free to use images of Santa Muerte to support him. “I am very respectful of what citizens do, they have the right,” he declared this Tuesday during his morning press conference at the National Palace.

AMLO’s remarks were in response to photographs of tee shirts that bear the image of Santa Muerte along with the text “a real man never speaks badly of Lopez Obrador,” which went viral on social networks. The photograph was even shared by the official X account of his ruling Morena political party.

Amidst the controversy the president argued that the issue “has to do with religious freedom” and urged citizens to “be respectful of believers and non-believers.” “In this country we are free to have the religion that most closely adheres to our faith and we are also free to not have religion and we must be respectful of believers and non-believers,” he expressed.

The Mexican president attributed the controversy that arose after his party shared the image to the current election season. “Due to the season, now everything becomes newsworthy,” he said. After the image was released, opponents criticized it being used to support the president, while supporters argued that it is just a meme.

The Mexican head of state was referring to the controversy that erupted last Saturday, when his party, Morena, posted the tee shirt with Santa Muerte on its official X account. The publication aroused criticism from opposition presidential candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, who questioned the dissemination of the figure of Santa Muerte, a skeletal folk saint not recognized by the Catholic Church who is at the center of the fastest growing New Religious Movement on the planet.

The defense of Santa Muerte in the name of freedom of worship by the Mexican president was politically strategic in the sense that there are millions of devotees and sympathizers and the great majority are working class, who form the core of support of both the Mexican president and his Morena party whose presidential candidate, Claudia Shienbaum leads her rival, Xóchitl Gálvez, by at least 20 points in current polls.   

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