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The president speaks at the National Palace on Thursday. The president speaks at the National Palace on Thursday.

Improved security and no new crime gangs, AMLO declares

'No one can say I haven't fulfilled my commitment to banish corruption'

The federal government has improved Mexico’s security situation, President López Obrador declared Thursday in a speech to mark the third anniversary of his triumph at the 2018 presidential election, even though homicide numbers remain at near record levels.

“There is governability in the country. In public security matters we’ve also made progress, even with the complexity of the problem we inherited,” he said during a 40-minute speech at the National Palace in Mexico City.

“The criminal groups were already formed when we arrived in office in December 2018; I don’t believe that new groups have been created in these 2 1/2 years,” López Obrador said.

The president asserted that homicides have decreased 2% “in the time we’ve been in government” but didn’t specify the period with which he was making the comparison.

Homicides in fact reached a record high of more than 34,000 in his first full year in office – 2019 – and only declined 0.4% last year. They did, however, fall 2.9% in the first five months of 2021 compared to the same period of last year.

López Obrador also said that kidnappings, vehicle theft and home burglaries have declined by 41%, 40% and 26%, respectively.

Extortion, femicides and robberies on public transit have increased by 26%, 14% and 9%, respectively, he added.

Although he has continued to use the armed forces for public security tasks and created a new security force, the National Guard, the president asserted that his administration’s security strategy is different from those of his predecessors, which relied heavily on the military to suppress organized crime.

The government is combatting criminal organizations such as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel not by “declaring war on them” but with “other more humane and effective means,” López Obrador said, apparently referring to the government’s social programs that ostensibly address the root causes of violence, namely poverty and lack of opportunity.

“Violence cannot be confronted with violence,” he said before highlighting that the government is “attending to young people” with programs such as Youths Building the Future, an apprenticeship scheme.

The electoral season leading up to municipal, state and federal elections on June 6 was the most violent on record but López Obrador instead highlighted that there were no massacres that sowed fear among citizens before they were due to go to the polls.

“… There were no massacres, violence wasn’t unleashed against innocent citizens to fill them with fear. In Guerrero, for example, no candidate suffered an attack and almost the same thing happened in the majority of states,” he said.

However, a report by risk analysis firm Etellekt, which tracks election campaign violence, shows that politicians and candidates were murdered in more than 20 states in the lead-up to the elections, including Guerrero.

While AMLO, as the president is widely known, appeared to be referring to an absence of politically motivated massacres, there were almost 40 acts of violence in the first six months of this year considered massacres because five or more people were killed, the newspaper Reforma reported.

Speaking before an audience that included members of his cabinet and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, the president also said that Mexico is recovering from the dual health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, the intensity of the pandemic has waned considerably in recent months as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out across the country and the economy is predicted to grow by almost 6% this year after a slump of 8.5% in 2020.

AMLO, whose party Morena remains the dominant political force in Mexico despite losing its supermajority in the lower house of Congress on June 6, thanked health workers for their tireless work during the pandemic, acknowledging that they risked their lives to save others.

The federal government faced widespread criticism for not implementing a strict lockdown early in the pandemic, not testing extensively and not advocating forcefully for the use of face masks but López Obrador said that his administration had done “everything that is humanly possible to combat this pandemic and save lives,” including adding hospital beds, increasing the health budget, hiring more health workers and obtaining 57.3 million vaccines to date.

No person sick with Covid was left without a hospital bed, a ventilator or medical personnel to look after them, he said.

The president also highlighted a range of other government achievements including a 44% increase to the minimum wage; stable fuel prices; progress on major infrastructure projects such as the new Mexico City airport and the Maya Train; and the implementation of social programs, including the tree-planting employment scheme Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life).

In his 2 1/2 years in office, López Obrador has sought to dominate Mexico’s political discourse with his daily morning press conferences but he said today that he doesn’t possess nor aspire to have a “monopoly on the absolute truth.”

“… Our adversaries, I reiterate, will always receive from the government I represent respect and freedom to … the right to speak out without limits, repression or censorship. The times have changed,” he said.

“… Today we celebrate three years since the historic triumph of our movement and I still remember on December 1, 2018, on my way to the Chamber of Deputies to be sworn in as president of the republic, a young man approached us on a bicycle and shouted: ‘Don’t fail us,’” López Obrador said.

“I believe … I haven’t disappointed … that young man, nor those who voted for me three years ago. There are possibly those who imagined that [my government] would be different, those who have reached the conclusion … that they don’t share my ideas and don’t like my style of government, my style of governing. But nobody … can say that I haven’t fulfilled my commitment to banish corruption and use my imagination, experience and position for the benefit of the people and the nation,” he said.

“[More] achievements are in sight. Despite the pandemic and the suffering it brought, people haven’t lost their faith in a better future.”

With reports from Reforma 

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