Politicians, leaders of civil society organizations and others took aim at President López Obrador after he said Thursday that his government looks after criminals by avoiding armed confrontations.
Speaking at his regular news conference, López Obrador highlighted that the number of people killed in armed clashes between the military and cartels has declined since he took office.
“Before it was kill them in the heat of the moment and they finished off the wounded,” López Obrador said, referring to killings by the armed forces after former president Felipe Calderón launched a militarized war on cartels in late 2006.
By avoiding confrontations, he continued, “we look after the members of the armed forces … but we also look after the members of the gangs – they’re humans [too].”
The national leaders of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) were among the political figures that criticized the president for his remark and policy of “looking after” criminals such as cartel henchmen.
PRI national president Alejandro Moreno asserted that the role of the armed forces is not to look after criminals but to “serve, protect and defend the nation.”
“Our army has always been a source of pride, the degradation to which it is subjected today is regrettable,” Moreno tweeted, referring to incidents such as the disarmament of soldiers by criminals and the use of intimidation to drive them out of a certain areas, as occurred in Michoacán this week.
“Never before had soldiers, marines and [air force] pilots suffered humiliations like those they face today. They give their lives for our country and citizens, the least that the federal government should do is … respect their commitment,” said the PRI chief, who is also a federal deputy.
PRD national president Jesús Zambrano claimed that the federal government chooses to look after criminals rather than confront them because they are its allies.
“Morena is organized crime,” he wrote on Twitter, referring to the ruling party that López Obrador founded. “And who protects society Andrés Manuel?” Zambrano asked.
Former president Vicente Fox claimed that AMLO’s remark confirmed that Mexico is a “narco-state” under his leadership, while National Action Party (PAN) Senator Josefina Vázquez Mota countered that criminals should be brought to justice rather than looked after.
— Vicente Fox Quesada (@VicenteFoxQue) May 12, 2022
“Citizens demand security and an end to impunity. Enough of this violence against journalists, women and the army itself,” tweeted Vázquez, who was the PAN’s candidate at the 2012 presidential election.
“There have been more than 120,000 homicides [since López Obrador took office]. No more hugs for criminals,” she wrote
Max Kaiser, a political analyst, head of the anti-corruption commission at the employers federation Coparmex and a former government auditor, charged that AMLO’s remark was “one of the most serious declarations” he has heard from a president.
“I’ve been dedicated to the study and analysis of politics, from within government and from outside, for 20 years,” Kaiser tweeted.
“I’ve seen terrible, inexplicable, frustrating things that make you very angry [but] today is the first time I feel physically disgusted … by what I see,” he wrote.
The director of the National Citizens Observatory, a crime watch group, said López Obrador’s defense of the army in justifying its decision to not use force against a group of presumed criminals that ran soldiers off a checkpoint in Múgica, Michoacán, on Tuesday showed that the government endorses impunity.
⚡️Civiles, presuntamente vinculados al Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, “corretean” a elementos de @SEDENAmx en Nueva Italia; Michoacán. Extraoficialmente se habla de 10 elementos lesionados tras una volcadura. El ejército mexicano no ha emitido postura
— Roberto Ruiz (@roberto_ruizg) May 11, 2022
The conduct of the army was “shameful,” Francisco Rivas Rodríguez told the El Universal newspaper, adding that their actions showed that Mexico is “being pushed around” by organized crime groups and has been overtaken by them.
“What is exposed is that citizens don’t have anyone to protect them,” he said.
“The response that the president gives is one of impunity,” Rivas said. “It’s a response that doesn’t recognize … that the institution of security is failing. Before … saying that they’re protecting the rights of criminals he should think about … what should and shouldn’t be done when it comes to complying with the law.”
The president of government watchdog group Causa en Común said that López Obrador’s remark will only encourage criminals to continue breaking the law.
“It’s not the first time that the president has declared himself in favor of criminals, he’s made a lot of declarations,” said María Elena Morera. “What he hasn’t done is make declarations in favor of victims,” she said.
It seems that the president “doesn’t understand that criminals dismember people and burn, torture and terrorize entire communities,” Morera added.
“Some of them are very bloodthirsty and despite all that he says we have to look after them because they’re human beings too. … I think it’s extremely serious that the president makes these declarations.”
Ordinary citizens were also critical. “These declarations are an embarrassment for the country,” said Twitter user Mara Vega.
“And the citizens? Who looks after us?” asked Rafael Avante.
With reports from El Universal