Mexico, Politics


The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is wrong when he brands journalists who legitimately question the failures and contradictions of his government as mercenaries and coup mongers.

There is no international conspiracy or media campaign against him. AMLO should govern for all of his six-year term. What is true is that journalists are doing their jobs. And that means reporting the facts – real facts, not his facts – and challenging those in power.

Lopez Obrador’s attacks on a group of journalists – including me – were sparked by news reports questioning members of his family. The presidential attacks on the news media were undoubtedly a failed attempt to shift the attention away from that issue. But the basic problems of his government go much further than possible personal issues, and are plainly visible to everyone.

My main criticism of the López Obrador government is based on the terrible violence lashing Mexico. Based on government data, the president has failed in his principal duty: to protect the lives of Mexicans. His six-year term is on the way to becoming the most violent this century.

It’s not me saying that. It’s the Secretariat for Security and the Protection of Citizens. Each day, on average, 93 Mexicans are murdered. Since AMLO took office – from Dec. 1 2018 to Jan. 31 of this year – 107,879 Mexicans have been murdered. The presidential strategy of “hugs, not bullets” has not worked. Worst still, half-way through his term, he is not ready to correct course. The results of this inability to rectify might be measured in thousands more deaths.

The violence has hit journalists especially hard. Thirty-one journalists have been murdered since AMLO became president, according to the organization Articulo 19. These were not government crimes, of course. But the impunity and the lack of protections for the work of journalists is almost total.

The situation is so dire that on the same day Russia invaded Ukraine, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken went on Twitter to express his concern over the deaths and threats to Mexican journalists. The White House added shortly afterward that the concern was based on “facts.” The Mexican government protested in a note to Blinken that only Mexican citizens can hold it accountable.

To report on the violence in Mexico is not to attack. It is to highlight the country’s main problem. That is what journalists do. Maybe the president does not want us to talk about the violence lashing the country? Impossible. This apparent presidential wish reminds me a lot of the Disney movie Encanto and the song “We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no.” But in real life we do have to talk about what is killing so many Mexicans.

My mantra is, to more personal attacks, more journalism.

It is easy to know how I’ve earned my living: I’m an immigrant with a very visible job. I left Mexico to escape censorship, and since January 1984 have worked at Univision in the United States. I have written 14 books and publish a weekly column in dozens of newspapers around the Americas. When I started working in US television AMLO was barely 30 years old. I have always been an independent journalist, and I want to continue to be an independent journalist.

Over nearly four decades I covered several wars, terrorist attacks, catastrophes and elections, and interviewed some of the most disparate personalities in history, from the left (Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales, Daniel Ortega …) to the right (Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Alvaro Uribe, Benjamín Netanyahu…). And I think I have made both sides uncomfortable. Donald Trump had a bodyguard throw me out of a news conference, and the dictator Nicolas Maduro detained me in the Miraflores Palace, stole our TV equipment and later deported us from Venezuela.

I write this to uphold the theory that our role as journalists is to provide a counter-balance to power. We must always be on the other side of power, no matter who that is. Just as we now criticize López Obrador, we did so before, criticizing the brutal and murderous PRI regimes and the presidents who came later. I strongly criticized Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, and neither of them granted me an interview while in power. I even wrote a column calling Peña Nieto “the worst president” in Mexican history. Can I be any more balanced?

President López Obrador knows that perfectly well. I have covered AMLO’s career for decades – has our interview in 2017, and I have asked questions at three of his morning news conferences at the National Palace. It’s difficult to believe all that would have happened if he did not believe that I am a trustworthy journalist. I am still exactly the same. But he is not. Far from it.

The only value for journalists is credibility. Nothing more. Nothing less. And Italian author and correspondent Oriana Fallaci had a powerful prescription for protecting that credibility: “To me, being a journalist means being disobedient. And being disobedient means being in opposition. In order to be in opposition, you have to tell the truth. And the truth is always the opposite of what people say.”

I hope to always follow her advice.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

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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.”