Things That Matter

Mexico’s Drug Violence is Only Getting Worse During the Coronavirus Pandemic and It Doesn’t Show Signs of Stopping

As much of the world stays indoors to combat the pandemic, crime has fallen drastically in many places. In Chicago, drug arrests have dropped by 42% in the weeks since the city shut down, the Associated Press reports, while in Los Angeles, the rate of key crimes plummeted 30% after March 15. There are similar reports coming out of cities from across Latin America.

Unfortunately, the drop in violence hasn’t occurred in Mexico – a country that recorded its deadliest month ever in March (not counting the deaths caused by Coronavirus). While many Mexicans have followed the strict social-distancing guidelines promoted by the government, this hasn’t translated to a drop in crime.

Violent crime reached record highs across Mexico in March.

March was one of the deadliest months in Mexico’s modern history – and it wasn’t because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Drug-related violence continues to rage out of control across much of the country, suggesting that coronavirus-related social distancing measures were not enough to curb the violence. Other countries in the region saw a sudden fall in crime as the virus spread.

The country saw 2,585 murders in March, an average of around 83 per day, according to data on victims reported by state prosecutors and the federal government. That was the highest monthly number since June 2019. 

President Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who took office in December 2018, acknowledged on Friday that violence driven by organized crime had persisted in March, despite the government’s introduction of measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, such as suspending classes and urging residents of the capital to stay home. 

“It seemed in late March, when the coronavirus had become more widespread, that we would have a considerable reduction (in violence),” he said during his regular morning news conference.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way.”

Violence has flared throughout the country, but it has been especially intense in the central state of Guanajuato.

In this central state, home to two major tourist attractions (the pueblos of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende), criminal groups have battled over lucrative territories rife with theft from oil and natural gas pipelines.

The bloodshed has hit shocking levels in the city of Ceyala – home to a major automotive manufacturing plant – with gunmen engaging security forces in shootouts, blockading streets and torching businesses.

Experts blame the growing violence on the recent crackdown by government forces against fuel theft. The crackdown has weakened local cartels and caused the powerful Jalisco New Generation cartel (CJNG) to move in and attempt to take its territory.

AMLO came into power on a platform of “Abrazos No Balazos” but many are doubting that as an effective strategy against the violence.

The president promised to solve Mexico’s security woes by tacking what he considered the root causes of crime: poverty and corruption. But the strategy has so far failed to rein in the violence.

In a statement to The Guardian, Francisco Rivas, director of the National Citizen Observatory, said “The [anti-crime] strategy isn’t a strategy. The national guard isn’t pulling its weight because building an institution is difficult and expensive. Budget cuts to public security have been brutal. These all have serious effects.”

Then AMLO stirred up even more controversy when he decided to visit the mother of drug kingpin, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. He even broke social-distancing protocols by greeting her with a handshake. The president downplayed the meeting as little more than a courtesy to a mother who hasn’t seen her son in years.

Some Mexicans worry that coronavirus will only add to the likelihood that more and more of the nation will slip into lawlessness.

Billions of dollars are at stake as the economy winds down: Some tourist destinations, including Los Cabos, are closed temporarily because of coronavirus restrictions.

All-important remittances — money sent from migrants working in the U.S. back to their often-struggling families in Mexico — are being affected. Remittances reached an estimated $35 billion in 2019, or about 2.7% of total GDP, and they are expected to decline by at least 10 percent this year. Plummeting oil prices are a factor, too.

Meanwhile, crime rates rise.

“As millions of Mexicans lose their incomes, as kids potentially lose their parents, the social fabric will further fray,” said Shannon O’Neil, a senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan foreign-policy think tank and author of Two Nations Indivisible. “The same goes for police forces and the national guard, if members fall ill. The combination may increase lawlessness in a country already teetering.”

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The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

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The President Of Mexico Has Tested Positive For Covid-19 After A Year Of Downplaying The Virus

Hector Villas / Getty Images

Since the very beginning of the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has largely downplayed the severity of the crisis. Despite record-setting deaths across Mexico, the president continued to hold large rallies, rarely uses face masks and continues to be very hands on with his supporters. Many of his detractors grouped him in with Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jaír Bolsonaro in his poor response to the pandemic.

Mexico’s President AMLO has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing light symptoms.

In a tweet on Sunday evening, AMLO revealed that he had tested positive for the Covid-19 virus. From his official Twitter account, he said his symptoms were mild and that he was receiving medical treatment.

“I regret to inform you that I have contracted Covid-19. The symptoms are mild, but I am already receiving medical treatment. As always, I am optimistic. We will move forward,” Lopez Obrador wrote.

Despite his diagnosis, the president plans to continue business as usual. He plans to continue with his duties from the Palacio Nacional, which include conducting a planned phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the topic of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine Monday. He added on Twitter, that “I will be conducting all public affairs from the National Palace. For example, tomorrow I will take a call from President Vladimir Putin, because irrespective of friendly relationships, there is a possibility that they will send us the Sputnik V vaccine.”

AMLO has taken a very hands off approach to his country’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

AMLO, 67-years-old, has rarely been seen wearing a mask and continued to travel extensively across the country aboard commercial flights – putting both his health and those around him at risk.

He has also resisted locking down the economy, noting the devastating effect it would have on so many Mexicans who live day to day. And because of that, Mexico has one of the highest death rates in the world. Early in the pandemic, asked how he was protecting Mexico, AMLO removed two religious amulets from his wallet and proudly showed them off.

“The protective shield is the ‘Get thee behind me, Satan,’” AMLO said, reading off the inscription on the amulet, “Stop, enemy, for the Heart of Jesus is with me.”

In November, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, urged Mexico’s leaders be serious about the coronavirus and set examples for its citizens, saying that “Mexico is in bad shape” with the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to experience the worst effects yet of the global health crisis.

Credit: Ismael Rosas / Eyepix Group/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Thanks to a lack of national leadership, Mexico is one of the 17 countries that has reported more than one million cases of Covid-19. Since early October, newly confirmed cases and deaths have been reaching record levels, with recent daily numbers some of the highest since the beginning the pandemic.

According to Johns Hopkins University, Mexico has recorded at least 1,752,347 Covid-19 cases and 149,084 people have died from the virus in the country.

In hardest-hit Mexico City, nearly 30 public hospitals report they have reached 100% percent capacity, and many others are approaching that mark. The city’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, has urged residents to not go out unless absolutely necessary. In December, Mexico City and the state of Mexico were placed into “red level,” the highest measure on the country’s stoplight alert system for Covid-19 restrictions. The tighter measures included the closure of indoor dining, with only essential sectors like transport, energy, health and construction remaining open.

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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

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Mexico’s AMLO Wants To Launch New Social Media Network For Mexicans After Twitter Banned Trump

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Love him or hate him, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has long called himself the voice of the people – and many Mexicans agree with him. That’s why his latest announcement against social media companies has many so worried.

In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s (along with many other social media platforms) announcement that they would be restricting or banning Donald Trump from their platforms, the Mexican president expressed his contempt for the decisions. And his intention to create a Mexican social network that won’t be held to the standards from Silicon Valley.

Mexico’s AMLO moves to create a social media network for Mexicans outside of Silicon Valley’s control.

A week after his United States counterpart was kicked off Facebook and Twitter, President López Obrador floated the idea of creating a national social media network to avoid the possibility of Mexicans being censored.

Speaking at his daily news conference, AMLO instructed the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) and other government departments to look at the possibility of creating a state-owned social media site that would guarantee freedom of speech in Mexico.

“We care about freedom a lot, it’s an issue that’s going to be addressed by us,” he told reporters. He also added that Facebook and Twitter have become “global institutions of censorship,” sounding a lot like the alt-right terrorists that stormed the U.S. Capitol.

“To guarantee freedom, for freedom, so there’s no censorship in Mexico. We want a country without censorship. Mexico must be a country of freedom. This is a commitment we have,” he told reporters.

AMLO deeply criticized the moves by Twitter and Facebook to ban Trump from their platforms.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

AMLO – like Trump – is an avid user of social media to connect with his constituents. He’s also been known to spread falsehoods and boast about his achievements on the platforms – sound familiar?

So, it came as little surprise when he tore into social media companies for ‘censoring’ Donald Trump, saying that they have turned into “global institutions of censorship” and are carrying out a “holy inquisition.”

Nobody has the right to silence citizens even if their views are unpopular, López Obrador said. Even if the words used by Trump provoked a violent attack against his own government.

“Since they took these decisions [to suspend Trump], the Statue of Liberty has been turning green with anger because it doesn’t want to become an empty symbol,” he quipped.

So what could a Mexican social media network be called?

The president’s proposal to create a national social media network triggered chatter about what such a site would or should be called. One Twitter user suggested Facemex or Twitmex, apparently taking his inspiration from the state oil company Pemex.

The newspaper Milenio came up with three alternative names and logos for uniquely Mexican sites, suggesting that a Mexican version of Facebook could be called Facebookóatl (inspired by the Aztec feathered-serpent god Quetzalcóatl), Twitter could become Twitterlopochtli (a riff on the name of Aztec war, sun and human deity Huitzilopochtli) and Instagram could become Instagratlán (tlán, which in the Náhuatl language means place near an abundance of something – deer, for example, in the case of Mazatlán – is a common suffix in Mexican place names.)

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