The business newspaper Financial Times has blasted President López Obrador for his response to the coronavirus pandemic, predicting that Mexico is likely headed for a much worse crisis in the coming years of his government unless he quickly changes course.
In an opinion piece published on Tuesday, the newspaper’s editorial board said that the coronavirus crisis has exposed “new and dangerous weaknesses” in López Obrador’s governance.
The board charged that he acted erratically in the first weeks of the pandemic, pointing out that he repeatedly violated his own government’s social distancing advice and even shook the hand of the mother of Mexico’s most infamous convicted drug trafficker, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
It also noted that he urged Mexicans to continue eating out at restaurants and hug each other “long after the rest of the world locked down.”
The president even suggested that coronavirus “fits perfectly” with his plan to transform Mexico, the board added, claiming later in its editorial that López Obrador has been relaxed about the country’s “dire shortage” of hospital beds and a coronavirus-testing rate that is among the lowest in the world.
“Mr. López Obrador’s bungled responses and erratic behavior in the first weeks of the pandemic suggest that the country is heading for a much worse crisis in the remainder of his six-year term unless there is a dramatic change of course,” the Financial Times said.
The board said that some of López Obrador’s behavior, “particularly the coronavirus denial and undermining of medical experts,” has been similar to the conduct of other populist leaders in the region, namely United States President Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, who described Covid-19 as “a little flu.”
However, in denying the need for a large stimulus package to rescue the economy from an inevitable coronavirus-fueled recession, AMLO, as the president is best known, is “in a class of his own,” the opinion piece said.
Even though “the market consensus is that Mexico will be among the countries worst hit by the pandemic because of its reliance on U.S. manufacturing, tourism, remittances and oil,” López Obrador has “ruled out extra borrowing, tax breaks or bailouts,” the Times said.
Mexico’s stance contrasts with that of the United States and Brazil, both of which have announced large countercyclical stimulus packages, the board said.
It noted that AMLO is instead betting that greater government austerity, increased oil production and an ongoing commitment to his administration’s large infrastructure projects will help Mexico through the crisis.
However, as a result of the government’s economic and health policy response to the coronavirus pandemic,“more and more voices in Mexico’s elite are speaking of a looming tragedy,” the Times said.
“Business leaders have proposed an alternative virus response plan. The odd dissenting voice within Mr. López Obrador’s governing alliance can sometimes be heard. But Mexico has an imperial presidency and an imperious president. Time is perilously short.”
Politicians from all political parties as well as state governors and business leaders should together formulate a “comprehensive economic and health” plan to confront Covid-19 and “press it upon their president,” the editorial board said, adding that legal action should be taken against his “more questionable” polices.
“The appalling human catastrophe of Venezuela stands as a clear warning of what another four and a half years of Mr. López Obrador could do to Mexico,” the Times concluded.
Mexico News Daily