Mexico: the country of the 100,000 dead

Mexico recently passed the 100,000-murder mark. López Obrador said a strategy of “hugs, not bullets” would reduce violence. But three years later it doesn’t seem to be working.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, wants to help the world’s poorest people. And this week he made a daring and generous proposal at the United Nations in New York. But the president wants to change the world even though he cannot fix the main problem in his own country: Mexico has seen 100,000 murders during his nearly three years in office.

López Obrador’s reception in New York City was almost cinematic. Hundreds of Mexican immigrants applauded him and entertained him with mariachis as he walked in front of his hotel, raising his hands to mimic a hug from a distance. A wall separated him from the crowd, and a watchful group of bodyguards protected him. But the support and affection of the people was indisputable. There’s no doubt. A poll says it, that is a very popular president.

López Obrador is known in Mexico for his fight against corruption and his slogan, “For the good of all, but first the poor.” That’s how he received more than 30 million votes in 2018. And this week, when it was Mexico’s turn to preside over the U.N. Security Council, AMLO took the opportunity to propose a global plan to assist the neediest.

His “fraternity and well-being” plan aims to provide a “dignified life” to the millions around the world who survive on less than two US dollars per day. And López Obrador wants to finance the plan with “an annual voluntary contribution of 4 percent of the wealth of the world’s 1,000 wealthiest people, a similar contribution from the 1,000 biggest corporations and contributions from the countries in the G20 group of 0.2 percent of their gross domestic product.

Good idea. But it will never happen. It’s almost impossible to write that list of the richest people, no one is offering to give away their money to the UN and no country is willing to give away part of its budget just because López Obrador asked.

They are the same good intentions we hear in his “hugs, not bullets” strategy against violence in Mexico. Or his ill informed and dangerous suggestion to Mexicans, at the start of the pandemic in March 2020: “You have to hug. There’s nothing’s going on.”

Despite the Mexican government’s rhetorical juggling and its partial statistics, Mexico – with the world’s 10 th largest population – ranks fourth in the number of Covid-19 deaths. More than 290,000 people have died in Mexico because of the coronavirus. And many of those deaths could have been avoided with better information and more preparation.

Just a question: Why did López Obrador wear a mask when he entered the Security Council chambers, but not when he attends many events in enclosed spaces in Mexico?

AMLO’s words are not magic. But when he speaks, he sometimes gives the impression he believes that his words, just because he speaks them, will become reality. And his wishful thinking has been there with the pandemic as well as the violence in the country.

Mexico recently passed the 100,000-murder mark. And we haven’t even reached the first three years of López Obrador’s government. Up to September, according to official figures, the number of murders had hit 97,532. And sometime in October or early November we hit the 100,000. The numbers that will corroborate that tragedy are about to be published by the National Public Safety System.

“The hugs have not worked,” a hotel owner demanded of the president after two people were murdered recently on the beach of a hotel in Puerto Morelos. “To be honest, they have not committed enough resources to controlling the lack of security.” How can Mexico promote tourism when you can be shot on a beach?

But the president does not want to listen. He is holding tightly to a failed strategy. “We are applying a new paradigm on the issue of security, in which paying attention to the causes of the violence is the central focus,” he wrote recently on Twitter. Again, it sounds very nice. And perhaps it might work in the very long run. Right now, it’s not working.

In Mexico, an average of 95 people are murdered each day. AMLO’s six-year term is about to become the most violent in the modern history of the country. No government in Mexico’s young democracy – from 2000 – has had so many dead in so little time. AMLO has failed in the key challenge of his presidency: protect Mexicans and stop their murders. If this continues, how many deaths will we have in 2024?

AMLO has not been an effective president. He has a hard time landing his ideas. Concrete solutions escape him. He is ambitious and even grandiose in proposing utopias – for example the dream of the Fourth Transformation – but he bogs down in the execution.

And since the historic nature of the Mexican presidency is to isolate the ruler, wrap him in a bubble and not tell him things he does not want to hear, López Obrador is increasingly removed from reality and from the Mexicans he so wants to protect. His long speeches and attacks during his morning news conferences – against feminists, journalists, business people, opponents and anyone else who thinks differently – are proof of his disconnect from the rest of the country.

It is very commendable that AMLO wants to help the poorest people around the planet. His speech at the United States is full of good intentions. But it is difficult to believe it will achieve anything globally when we remember that he is the president of a country with 100,000 dead in three years.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash

Previous ArticleNext Article
Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”