The inauguration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) exactly two years ago was already an inauspicious event when it finally occurred because he had been de-facto leader since his electoral victory on July 3, 2018. On that day, the outgoing administration meekly ceded all powers and prerogatives and AMLO started his demolition derby, only 12 days after his election, by canceling, the largest infrastructure project in Latin America – the new Mexico City airport – with an immediate cost of US$9 billion.
The alleged reason for this act of vandalism was that the project was ridden with corruption, none of which was ever presented to the courts, let alone proven. AMLO has used his fight against corruption as one of the main leitmotifs of his narrative but he has not documented any of it nor won a single court case, he is happy just condemning the “guilty of dishonesty” from his daily bully pulpit of more than 500 early morning “press conferences,” which are in reality daily exercises in propaganda, fake news, insults and lying.
So far, 37,000 lies have been detected, according to the SPIN Workshop of Political Communication, which has been carefully documenting AMLO’s conferences and speeches.
He has never accepted any of the accusations of corruption in his own administration – which are growing like mushrooms after the rain – as the result of cutting the anti-corruption laws and procedures to assure transparency and accountability. AMLO’s formula to fight corruption is the aura of his own supposed cleanliness, which he hopes will cover everyone who joins him. This is a complete fabrication since he has even accepted that a video showing his own brother receiving bags of cash, is fine since they “were donations of the people for his good cause.” Thus, any corrupt acts that would be considered crimes in any other government, are justified if they are done by him or his entourage.
While AMLO talks and talks, creating a bubble of fantasy achievements, his administration spoils everything it touches and is creating a disaster of biblical proportions for Mexico. Examples include:
- The management of the pandemic has been tragic. Bloomberg recently ranked 53 countries according to their management of the plague. They devised a Covid Resilience Ranking based on 10 key metrics, from growth in virus cases to the mortality rate, testing capabilities and the vaccine supply agreements countries have forged. The capacity of the local health-care system, the impact of virus-related restrictions like lockdowns on the economy, and citizens’ freedom of movement were also considered. Mexico ranked last – behind Bangladesh, Nigeria and Iran.
More than 100,000 officially recognized deaths must be multiplied by 2.5 to account for all the “abnormal deaths” that the government is not counting as Covid-related. What is AMLO’s response when asked about the situation? “We are doing great; we are an example for the world community,” as he said in his pathetic homily in the recent G-20 meeting.
- Two years ago Mexico had a functional health care system. It had many shortcomings but was capable of distributing drugs and vaccines throughout the country and could help 40 million people not protected by the public health entities that cover those employed in the economy’s formal sector. Today that system is gone. The partnership with the national pharmaceutical industry is in shatters because AMLO wanted a state monopoly to buy and distribute all the material. The public health service is overwhelmed and adrift.
- The performance of the economy has been dismal, despite a dead cat-bounce in the third quarter of this year, with GDP estimated to fall 12% annually. A good part of this drop is due to the closure of the economy to ameliorate the consequences of the plague, but the damage done by anti-growth public policies is worse and will be more pervasive. AMLO is trying to reconcentrate all energy activities under the mantle of Mexico’s two bureaucratic behemoths: Pemex in the petroleum sector and CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) in electricity. Both entities are bankrupt, have no future and will continue to lose value.
- There has been a frontal attack on the private sector, both foreign and domestic, that has brought investment to a halt, with businesses fleeing the country. Best Buy, for example, just announced it will leave Mexico by the end of the year. Ongoing investments have been canceled by the whim of the president, including a Modelo brewery that had already invested $900 million, because “there was not enough water” despite detailed plans of Constellation Brands to ascertain that the supply of water to the community would increase, not drop.
- One new assault on the economy is an attempt to outlaw outsourcing, a practice that allows both business and the government, to entrust activities that are not part of their core business to firms that specialize in such services. It is estimated that more than five million workers operate in this system, which explains the rapid increase of workers leaving the underground economy and joining the formal one, where they receive fringe benefits, health coverage and also pay taxes. As usual, AMLO accused companies in this sector of corruption, without a shred of evidence. He has sent a bill to Congress which – if approved – would add many more workers to the 12 million newly unemployed thanks to the dramatically shrinking economy.
- Violent crime has continued to climb, with homicides expected to reach 41,000 in 2020, a 17% annual increase. Other violent crimes are also trending upwards, including assault, kidnapping, extortion, blackmail, disappearances, etc. What does AMLO say about his strategy of “embraces and not gunshots” to confront this mayhem? “It is working, we are going well.”
- AMLO had not gotten into much trouble internationally, an area he does not understand or like. One exception was when he adopted a submissive position to US President Donald Trump, a stance that offends most Mexicans who have been insulted and reviled by Trump over the last five years. AMLO took the position of doing whatever the US leader wanted, including accepting thousands of refugees from all nations ejected by the US and deploying 35,000 troops along its borders to block Central Americans from reaching US territory. Now AMLO has upped the ante by refusing to congratulate president-elect Biden and finds himself in the good company of leaders of Russia, Brazil, Iran, and North Korea. This position might lead to dire consequences for Mexico in the near future.
This multifaceted disaster shows that AMLO has no idea how to govern and is surrounded by inept individuals who have no idea how to manage the institutions they control. This is not surprising since the president has insisted that the standard for his public officials, disregarding the complexity of their chores, must be “10% of competence, 90% of honesty, and blind loyalty.”
Evidence of anarchy is everywhere: blackmailers blocked freight trains in several parts of the country, generating billions of dollars in losses, and no one in the government does anything about it.
In another example, a band of thugs took over highway tollbooths and collected tolls for themselves. The national guard merely observed from a distance and did nothing. Lastly, a gang of violent feminist protestors took over the headquarters of the Human Rights Commission and remained there for months, destroying archives and property. I could cite hundreds of other examples of the absence of authority. Only last week two prominent entrepreneurs in the tourism and restaurant business were executed.
I could go on with hundreds or more instances of the complete absence of authority, in a clear signal that breaking the law is acceptable, which will induce other groups to take advantage of the vacuum. I am afraid that a situation like this will only lead to more violence, less investment and job creation, increased capital flight, eventually leading to a financial crisis, and in the end to complete anarchy, in a country of 130 million people adjacent to the US.
Is there any chance that AMLO, when confronted with a worsening panorama, will change course? None, since he lives in a separate reality and is firmly convinced that all the problems of Mexico were caused by “neoliberal policies.” In the many years he has been in the public sphere, first as a public agitator and extortionist, city major, and permanent campaigner, he has held the same delusions, which no hard evidence to the contrary will alter in the least.
The curse of Mexico is here to stay with dismal consequences for its people.