A New Hope For Mexico

AMLO after winning the Mexican presidential election in 2018

AMLO after winning the Mexican presidential election in 2018

Santiago Carbajal, Staff Writer

It has been over a year since Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) assumed the office of the President of Mexico after running for the third time in his political career. His victory, achieved with an astounding 48% of the vote, and a commanding victory in 31 of a total 32 States, resonated across Latin America and inspired hope for a new era in Mexican politics.
In the campaign trail AMLO made promises to rescue Mexico from the claws of political corruption and to fight the extreme wealth inequality that plagues the country. By presenting himself as a champion of the people, constantly criticizing the ridiculous spending of Mexican politicians and the wealthy elite of the country he gained huge popularity among Mexico’s working class. His supporter base had become tired of being at the short end of political decisions, and living in conditions that contrast heavily with that of Mexico’s top socio-economic classes. These criticisms, sometimes even crusades, gave birth to what he calls Mexico’s “4th Transformation” and gave rise to comparisons to other left-wing Latin American leaders like Nicolas Maduro and Evo Morales.

Andres Manuel seemed like the only clear choice for the majority of Mexicans in the political quagmire that was the 2018 presidential race. The working class, exhausted by years of corrupt presidents, a system that is not working for them, and a lack of representation and recognition, showed up to the polls in the millions.
Now, AMLO’s presidency was met by the Mexican government’s annual evaluation, in which the growth or lack thereof in the country is exposed. Has AMLO lived up to the hopes and expectations of the Mexican people?

Approval Rating
Let us begin by analyzing his approval rating. In the beginning three months of his administration the new president had an approval rating of 78%, unseen since the 1989 election of president Carlos Salinas de Gortari. However, after nearly a year of controversial decisions, inaction against violence, and stagnant economic growth, his approval rating stands at a 66% showing a decreasing trend.

Although a telling metric, AMLO claims that his mandate should not be measured by economic growth. He says that his decisions should be measured by other metrics that show the well-being of the people, metrics that have not been presented in any of his governmental reports thus far. Mexico’s central bank declares that Mexico’s current GDP growth lies at o.1%. A growth that contrasts heavily with an average of 2.2% in the two years previous to his assuming office. What is more worrying is that the metric of GDP growth set by Mexico’s central bank helps determine the country’s budget for the next year. A smaller budget as a result of decreasing growth might lead to funding cuts, most likely to the social programs which the president promised to revitalize during his campaign. As for employment in the nation, the current unemployment rate lies at 3.6% per a September 2019 registry. A registry of the same month for the year 2018 marked unemployment at 3.3%. Although there has been a minor increase, unemployment seems to be on the rise after years of constant decrease.

Workers in a Mexico City construction site

Perhaps the most controversial topic in Mexico today, violence is plaguing the streets of the Aztec nation once again. There was a total of 28,574 homicides in Mexico throughout the first ten months of 2019, leading the nation to have an average of 95 homicides every day. Another issue which the Mexican government is facing is violence against women, there was a total of 833 female homicides in the first 10 months of 2019. These months also saw a 5% increase in kidnappings, 12.72% increase in extortions, 2.79% in home robberies, 6.88% in passerby theft, and 3.93% in domestic violence. Despite increased pressure from his constituents, there have been no significant steps being taken by AMLO’s administration to combat violence. As a result, Mexicans have taken to the streets to protests against the government’s inaction. The most notable of these marches was a women’s march which resulted in Mexico’s most valuable monument and surrounding buildings being spray painted by protestors.

Women’s march protester holding a sing reading: “We’re not all here, the murdered ones are missing.”

War on Drugs
2019 saw AMLO make one of the most controversial decisions in the nation’s history in the war on drugs. On October 17th, the Mexican government began an operation to capture the son of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Ovidio Guzman. In the early hours of the day, Mexican military forces entered the city of Culiacan, Sinaloa and detained Guzman. They were immediately met with resistance from cartel forces, and engaged in a firefight in the city. People were stranded in the streets trying to avoid gunfire as they were caught off guard by the conflict during their morning commute. The cartel began breaking into the homes of military personnel and kidnapping their family members, threatening to act if the military didn’t withdraw from the city, and expand violent operations to nearby states. After seven hours of fighting, AMLO made the decision to release Ovidio Guzman, handing a huge victory to the cartels and letting the highest profile narco in the world loose. As was expected this decision received criticism from legislators, citizens, and even the President of the United States, who offered military assistance to the Mexican government. AMLO explained that he chose to release Guzman to prevent further violence in Culiacan.

Ovidio Guzman after being captured by Mexican foces.

So What Now?
Mexicans elected an administration that will define the nation’s path for the next six years. The massive change that AMLO promised in the campaign trail is yet to be seen, and Mexicans are growing increasingly impatient at the lack of action the government has taken to address the most important issues facing the nation. However, it must be noted that one year is not enough time to measure the success of a six-year-term presidency, and that many of the problems AMLO is now facing have been a thorn in the back of at least three Mexican presidents before him. As a citizen of this great nation I can only hope that this President takes the lead and improves the conditions for my fellow countrymen. The future of Mexico remains uncertain, and it is up to AMLO and his administration to write it.

AMLO during Mexican Independence Day celebrations on the 16th of September

What Do Mexicans Think?
In addition to the commentary and statistics I have provided I decided to ask Mexicans how they felt about the new president and his actions. Here are their thoughts:
“I voted for him thinking and believing firmly in the need for change in our country. I believe that he has taken good and bad decisions, however there are problems that transcend presidential terms and that every president has had to deal with. Still, AMLO is forced to do something about it, especially on key issues like violence, the economy, and education. I think that is where he has failed, as these are sensitive issues that affect us in one way or another. Now, to be congruent with my decision, I think that a year as president is a short period of time allowed to fix the issues that have been plaguing the country for many years. I trust that, as hard as it may seem, that everything can be better.” – Marco Campillo, Reporter at Milenio News

“Let me break it down for you. A weak state, economic recession, and buoying crime mean a total failure. I don’t know if it is incompetence or perversity, but what I am sure of is that there is a deep ignorance and indisposition to learn and recognize when things go bad. It isn’t hard to see why we’re in a hole; which is incomprehensible that this administration keeps on digging.” – Jorge Vela, Business Owner

“I did not vote for him. I think that his anti-corruption campaign is good for the country but insecurity is still a major issue. If there isn’t a surge in foreign investment and insecurity is not addressed, Mexico will face rough times.” – Pablo Carbajal Muciño, Business Owner

“I did not vote for him and I do not regret my decision. His policies leave much to desire in every aspect ranging from education, economy, health, employment, tourism, and safety. I see a dark future, especially in regards to safety. I hope that he would prove me wrong, but in the short period of time he has spent in power his promises remain unfulfilled.” – Martha Villafuerte, Mother of two