Killing and dying is too easy in Mexico. Because of the violence or because of Covid-19. And the dead are so many that suddenly it seems normal when someone is murdered or dies from the Corona virus. The sad reality is that something could have been done to avert so many deaths, and it was not done.
Let’s start with the violence lashing Mexico. “This year there will be results,” President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told me during his news conference on Jan. 15 2020. And there were. But not what he and many Mexicans expected.
The year 2020 saw 969 femicides, according to official figures from his own government, reported by the federal Ministry for Safety and Citizen Protection. One more than the 968 reported in 2019.
The same year also saw 34,515 murders reported. That’s a few less than the 34,648 reported in 2019. Of course, we must celebrate each and every human life preserved. But the number of murders last year is still brutal. Extremely high. We cannot accept it as normal. Even less so in states like Guanajuato, where homicides rose from 3,540 in 2019 to 4,490 in 2020.
Those are the facts. There are no others. Mexico is a supremely violent country, and nine out of every 10 murders went unpunished in 2019, according to the Impunidad Cero organization. The message to criminals is unequivocal: if you kill in Mexico, nothing will happen to you.
Despite all of this, AMLO believes things are getting better. “My objective and honest estimate is that we have advanced a lot,” he said in a year-end report. “We’re still missing many things, but there have been significant advances. Starting at six in the morning, we have security meetings with the entire cabinet.”
It’s not the first time AMLO emphasized how hard he’s working on the issue.
“Nowhere in the world is there a president or a prime minister who deals with the problem of insecurity and violence like we do,” he said in December of 2019. “From Monday through Friday, from six to seven in the morning.”
The problem is that spending many hours on an issue is not any kind of guarantee of effective solutions. No country anywhere on the planet can consider 34,000 murders in one year as a success.
It’s the same with Mexicans killed by the corona virus. It’s impossible to claim that Mexico made the right decisions when it has more than 155,000 dead from Covid-19. That number is higher than the 154,000 dead in India, where the population is 10 times larger. What’s more, Mexico ranks 18th highest in the world for Covid deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the prestigious Johns Hopkins University.
The obvious question: How many deaths in Mexico could have been avoided if more preventive measures had been adopted months ago?
The World Health Organization recommended using masks to reduce Covid-19 transmission in June 2020. The president himself should have set the example for using masks in public places. But that still has not happened. López Obrador caught the virus a few days back, and I wish him a prompt recovery.
Because of all of the above, the dead are following us in Mexico, and sometimes they don’t leave us in peace. “You will not die without returning,” Carlos Fuentes wrote in The Death of Artemio Cruz. Octavio Paz also wrote about this. “Dying and killing are ideas that almost never leave us,” he wrote in Labrynth of Solitude. Death “is present at our feasts, in our games, our loves and our thoughts.”
And now, with cursed intensity, in our streets and our ICUs.
To normalize death from violence or the corona virus is the worst thing that can happen in Mexico. We must rebel against the idea that that is normal and there’s nothing we can do. Let me be brutally clear: it is not normal to have 34,000 deaths from the violence and 152,000 from the Corona virus in one year. It is not.
The issue is to make it difficult for death. Push it away. Don’t open spaces to it. Say, enough! And the first step for finding a real solution is to accept total responsibility, and responsibility for the dead. The government of López Obrador, already in its third year, cannot continue to blame previous presidents for what’s happened during his rule.
These are his dead.