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The Coronavirus Is Starting To Hit Mexico’s Poorest Communities And The Results Could Be Devastating

Mexico has been ravaged by the Coronavirus pandemic. That’s a fact. It now ranks fourth globally in terms of deaths related to the virus, with nearly 50,000 dead. However, many of those cases and deaths have largely been centered on the country’s large cities – including Ciudad de México, Guadalajara and Tijuana.

That appears to be changing as many of Mexico’s most remote and poorest pueblos – most inhabited by Indigenous communities – have started to see the virus appear on their doorsteps. With many rural pueblitos lacking access to healthcare and many having extreme rates of poverty, this could spell disaster for Mexico’s most vulnerable communities.

Mexico’s poorest village has its first case of Coronavirus and this could be devastating for locals.

Mexico’s rural pueblitos, largely home to Indigenous communities, had mostly escaped the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic. For months, as the virus raged across the country, Mexico’s Indigenous communities enacted their own checkpoints and lockdowns and roadblocks that helped contain the virus’ spread. However, that strategy seems to have reached a dead end as new reports of Covid-19 emerge from Mexico’s poorest and most rural communities.

In Oaxaca, the village of Santos Reyes Yucuná – which is Mexico’s poorest, reported its first case of the virus on July 17, four months after the pandemic reached Mexico. The virus took longer to find its way to this remote, Mixtec community located 140 miles from the state’s capital due to its lack of infrastructure, especially roads.

Santos Reyes Yucuná is especially vulnerable to virus. The government’s social development agency (CONEVAL) estimates that 99.9% of the 1,380 residents live in extreme poverty. The region has no hospital and most residents do not have health insurance or the means to travel to a hospital in another area. Another town in Oaxaca’s Mixteca region, Coicoyán de las Flores, is in a similar situation with similar levels of poverty. One case of the Coronavirus was reported last month and the patient, a 25-year-old woman, died. 

Last weekend, 23 new cases of Covid-19 were registered in the Mixteca region, for a total of 482 positive cases and at least 48 reported deaths. The area’s municipal seat, Huajuapan, has the highest number of cases at 30, with three people hospitalized. 

Many rural communities had been labeled ‘Communities of Hope’ and were allowed to reopen early to avoid severe economic costs.

As the Coronavirus first arrived to Mexico, many leaders of rural pueblitos were quick to enact strict preventive measures, closing food markets and installing health checkpoints and roadblocks. But as the economic effects began to be felt, the government launched a program known as the “Municipalities of Hope.”

The program included 324 towns that the government decided were eligible to reopen early. The plan allowed places with no Covid-19 cases – and with no cases in surrounding areas – to start lifting restrictions, in an attempt to mitigate the shutdown’s devastating economic impact.

But just a couple of months later, that list has dwindled to just a few dozen villages. One town – Ometepec, Guerrero, lasted less than 14 days on the list. “In just a few weeks, we went from zero to 47 confirmed cases and six dead,” said Ulises Moreno Tabarez, a postdoctoral researcher who lives in the town.

According to Dr Carlos Magis Rodríguez, a professor of medicine and a public health researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, a lack of serious lockdown measures doomed the strategy from the beginning. “If there were strict control of entrances and exits, a quarantine upon arrival, it could have worked,” Magis Rodríguez told Reforma. “The places this has worked are practically islands.”

But less than two months later, Mexico has become one of the worst-affected countries in the world.

Credit: Toya Sarno Jordan / Getty Images

As of July 29, Mexico has more than 400,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases and 44,876 people have died from the virus. Mexico now ranks 6th globally in number of cases and 4th in number of deaths. And these numbers are widely seen as under reporting the severity of the crisis. Mexico has one of the lowest testing rates in the world, at approximately 2.5 tests per confirmed case, compared with the U.S. rate of 12.52, the UK’s 22.57 – and New Zealand’s rate of 359.2.

Meanwhile, Mexico’s weak healthcare system is underfunded; hospitals attribute a large number of coronavirus deaths to faulty equipment and a lack of resources rather than the virus itself. The country is in no way equipped to provide unemployment benefits or stimulus checks to almost half of the population that lives in poverty. Furthermore, many informal workers lack health insurance. The country has very little in the way of a safety net, so many are forced to decide risking their health or risk going hungry.

Mexicans are not alone as countries across Latin America have failed to support their citizens.

Credit: Hector Vivas / Getty Images

Across Latin America, poor families have faced an impossible choice – between obeying quarantine measures and starving, or venturing out to work despite the danger of infection.

But unlike other leaders, Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has not introduced stimulus measures to help the most vulnerable communities, instead his government has pushed through a string of severe austerity measures – even as he emphasized the need for the economy to stay open.

The president has also downplayed the pandemic – claiming in April that Mexico had “tamed” the virus – and repeatedly emphasized the need for the economy to stay open, striking a notably more relaxed tone than warnings from the country’s Covid-19 tsar, Hugo López-Gatell.

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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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