Here’s the bad news: The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is now the most violent in the modern history of the country.
During his government, more murders have been recorded than during the presidencies of Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón. And he still has two years left in power. His national security strategy is a failure.
In fact, that many murders during just one presidency had not been reported since the revolution and the Cristero War. And that’s based on official numbers.
There are no other numbers.
The information comes from AMLO’s own government. Since the president took office on Dec. 1 2018 and until August 31 of this year, 126,206 Mexicans were murdered, according to reports by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Safety System. We cannot accept those numbers as normal. Behind each murder there’s a name, a family and a life destroyed.
Those 126,206 murders during the López Obrador government already surpass the 124,478 murders during the Peña Nieto presidency, according to the same National Public Safety System. And they are more than the 121,683 murders during the Felipe Calderón administration, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Geography.
The president has sometimes blamed the two governments before him of creating the conditions for the current violence in the country. That’s possible. And he’s pointed to a tiny drop in the percentage of homicides. That’s also true. But the time for excuses is over. More than 30 million Mexicans voted for him to find a solution to the country’s main problems. He’s failed on the issue of violence.
The violence is, without a doubt, the principal challenge facing this government. AMLO has failed in his most important duty: saving the lives of thousands of Mexicans. We have to acknowledge, of course, that all these deaths cannot be blamed on the government, and that López Obrador himself is the most unhappy with these numbers.
But if his job was to pacify the country, it was too much for him.
During his daily news conference on Thursday – where I thanked him for the opportunity to ask questions without fear – I asked him to correct his strategy. But he did not want to. “We are not going to change the strategy because it is working for us,” he told me.
If something has failed for so long, why insist on the same thing? What he’s done so far – to militarize the country, put the National Guard under military control, the policy of “hugs, not bullets” and the focus on the causes of the violence – has not worked.
The numbers and predictions suggest a very bloody future.
In August of this year, 2,624 people were murdered. If that rate remains the same, the 25 months left in his government will see 65,600 murders, in addition to the 126,206 already recorded. In other words, if the situation does not change, and quickly, López Obrador could leave power on the first of October 2024 – the new date for the change in governments – with more than 191,000 dead. That would be his horrible legacy.
That deadly projection – 191,000 dead during one six-year presidential term – should give everyone a sense of urgency. But I don’t see it. Like in one of the stories by Juan Rulfo, too many people have grown accustomed to living with death.
His daily 6 am meetings with his entire security cabinet have been insufficient and not very productive. A lot of meetings at dawn do not guarantee positive results. No matter how many times AMLO says “We’re doing good,” many Mexicans know that’s not true.
Sixty-eight percent of those polled recently by the newspaper Reforma said the violence has increased. Only 10 percent said it had dropped. On the presence of organized crime, the replies were similar: 63 percent said it had increased, and only 9 percent believe it has dropped.
Facts are facts. No matter how hard AMLO tries to project a positive image of reality during his morning news conferences, the streets are very hard. Every day, 84 Mexicans are murdered, on average, based on the data from August.
But I don’t want to point only to what is wrong.
My proposal is for a national conference on violence, with the participation of Mexican and foreign experts. The Jesuit University System also has made a series of valuable proposals. We have to take an in-depth look at the problem and propose solutions, for the local and federal levels. But that requires a commitment by the president to at least consider the proposals that come out of it. It is, simply, for the good of all Mexico.
This is a national emergency. The goal is to avoid hitting 191,000 dead. In the meantime, the AMLO administration is already the most violent of our time. That is not, of course, what the president wants for his legacy. But his presidency will be remembered, in part, as the government of the dead.