How long does it take for a president to accept responsibility for what happens in the country? After his first day in power, or the first year? Two years? There’s no rule here.
But to claim, like President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, that what happens in Mexico in his fifth year in power is not his fault, and to blame the country’s main problem on the previous governments, doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is a feeble excuse. After all, that’s why we elect a new president – to fix the problems of the past.
The truth is that López Obrador has been unable to deal with the problem of violence in Mexico. He admitted that just a few days ago, when he said, “Now they say to us, ‘What an outrage, that the current government is the one that has more murders.’ Yes, but why don’t you show the chart on murders, so the people can see the country they left us?”
Without a doubt, they left a country in very bad shape when López Obrador was sworn into office in 2018. But he’s leaving it in much worse shape. Those are the facts. His facts. From his government.
From December of 2018 until April of 2023, 146,407 Mexicans were murdered, according to the executive secretariat of the Public Safety System. That number is already far more than the 124,478 murders during the six-year presidential term of Enrique Peña Nieto. And more than the 121,683 murders during the Felipe Calderón presidency, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Geography.
Yes, the government of López Obrador, who has a bit more than one year left in power, is already the most violent this century and surely the most violent since the Mexican Revolution and the Cristero War. That’s what I told López Obrador in person during his morning news conference on Sept. 22 2022. But he insists on seeing things in a different way.
It is true that there is a downward trend on the number of homicides in Mexico. There were 34,720 murders in 2019, for example, and 30,969 in 2022. But the numbers under his rule remain so high – far higher than the 22,541 dead in 2016 and 28,870 in 2017 – that it is inevitable to conclude that his strategy of abrazos, no balazos – hugs , not bullets – has been a complete failure.
That will be the key challenge for the next president of Mexico, to stop the violence. AMLO is so obsessed and committed to his failed security strategy that he refuses to correct it or try something different. And it’s the country that loses. More than 80 men, women and children are murdered every day in Mexico, where some regions suffer under an absolute absence of government authority.
This week, when the president met with his Morena political party’s four corcholatas – Mexican slang for declared presidential hopefuls – is a good time to recognize that AMLO will not be the one who solves the problem of violence in Mexico. The sad part is that dozens of Mexicans will continue to be murdered every day unless he admits his mistake and looks for other solutions.
That is why all presidential hopefuls, regardless of party, should be asked if they are ready to break with the president on the issue of security, and look for alternatives. To militarize Mexico – as AMLO has done so irresponsibly – has set the country on fire rather than pacify it. And the worst part is that it will cost a lot of work and effort to return the soldiers to their barracks. They have tasted power, and if other Latin American countries are an example, they will not give it up easily.
When López Obrador was barely in his first month in office, in January of 2019, he was very optimistic. “In 100 days,” he said, “we’re are going to improve on this issue of security.” And it did not happen. Today we know it was the start of the most violent government in modern Mexican history. Unfortunately, the president’s popularity has not translated into concrete results in the fight against the high crime rate.
AMLO is also wrong when he believes that those of us who criticize him – because of his lack of significant results on the security issue – do so because of politics. He does not understand that our principal social responsibility as journalists is to question those who have power. And he has a lot of power. I don’t criticize only AMLO. I have been an independent journalist with Noticiero Univision since 1986 and covered decades of abuses in Mexico. Too bad he can’t remember those reports, or doesn’t want to remember them, because we interviewed him many times. The criticisms have been balanced. In these same pages, for example, I published a column criticizing Felipe Calderón – one of many – titled The President of the Dead and another titled Peña Nieto: The Worst President.
I understand perfectly that the PRI and PAN parties handed Lopez Obrador a battered country, with a lot of corruption and inequalities. It was decades of stealing and abuses. But we vote for candidates precisely because they promise to fix the problems of the past with solutions in the present. To blame previous governments for your mistakes doesn’t help anyone and only allows the problems to grow.
For you candidates: if you win the presidency, at what point will you start assuming responsibility for what your government does or does not do? That is the question. Mexico needs a president who accepts responsibility from the first day.