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Mexican gov’t will help tourism industry deal with seaweed, president says

Mexico City, May 6 (EFE).- The federal government will provide support to local officials and the tourism industry as they work to clear seaweed from Mexico’s Caribbean beaches, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Monday.

“That zone is very important and we have to support that region because tourist activity has given much to Mexico,” Lopez Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, said during his daily press conference at the National Palace.

The president said that he planned to meet Tuesday with Rogelio Jimenez, head of the National Tourism Promotion Fund (Fonatur), to “help hoteliers, service providers and the government of Quintana Roo,” the southeastern state where beaches are covered with sargassum, a type of brown seaweed.

Lopez Obrador, founder and leader of the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena), said that the seaweed plague is not a normal phenomenon and vowed to seek an “explanation” from environmental experts.

“We are all going to help and support,” he said, though he ruled out using money from Fonatur, which he accused previous administrations of having used as a “slush fund.”

“Tourism is a very noble economic activity because it not only generates wealth, brings in foreign exchange, it creates many jobs and many people survive from that,” the president said, noting the tourist potential of Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.

The Morena leader expressed gratitude to the Mexican Caribbean region for its 30-year-long history of providing employment to people from impoverished neighboring states such as Chiapas, Tabasco and Campeche.

Experts have predicted that the amount of sargassum washing up on Mexico’s beaches in 2019 will be considerably larger than last year, when a then-record invasion of 170,000 tons seaweed kept thousands of tourists off the sands.

This year’s total is projected to be as much as 1 million tons.

During his wide-ranging press conference, Lopez Obrador said he was unhappy about the decision of the Senate to create a new presidential security body comprising soldiers.

“The people take care of the president, because whoever fights for justice has nothing to fear,” AMLO said.

On taking office Dec. 1, Lopez Obrador abolished the Presidential General Staff, an elite army unit responsible for the security of the head of state.

In lieu of armed bodyguards, AMLO is escorted by a squad of 10 male and 10 female “adjutants,” all of them university graduates, who operate under a standing order not “to mistreat people.”

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