Things aren’t perfect but the foundations for the transformation of Mexico have been laid, President López Obrador declared Tuesday in a speech to mark his second anniversary in office.
Before a small audience of government officials and special guests in the central courtyard of the National Palace in Mexico City, López Obrador enumerated a laundry list of achievements since he was sworn in as president on December 1, 2018 but conceded that “not everything is perfect.”
In a 40-minute address that was strikingly similar in content and tone to his second annual report speech on September 1, the president admitted that homicides, femicides and extortion have all increased on his watch – although the incidence of most other crimes has decreased – and acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the nation in both economic and health terms.
“When the novel coronavirus pandemic arrived in the country in March we, like almost all other countries, were forced to implement mitigation measures that paralyzed the economy,” López Obrador said, noting that GDP declined and unemployment increased in both the formal and informal sectors.
However, the economy is growing again and more than 550,000 of 1.1 million formal sector jobs that were lost have since been recovered, he asserted, emphasizing that the government concentrated its economic response to the crisis on helping the nation’s poorest and most marginalized rather than large companies and the wealthy.
The president acknowledged that more than 100,000 people have lost their lives to Covid-19 but said that thousands of others have been saved, highlighting that the government “reconverted” 971 hospitals to attend to coronavirus patients.
“We have ensured that no patient has missed out on medical and hospital care,” López Obrador said.
While he recognized some of the challenges the government has faced and a few of its shortcomings, the president said that “the most important thing is that the foundations for the transformation [of Mexico] have been laid.”
Explaining what the foundations consist of, López Obrador said the constitution is now respected, people’s freedoms and the right to dissent are guaranteed, there is “full transparency” in the operation of the government, human rights are not violated, the government no longer represents a minority but rather “Mexicans of all classes, cultures and beliefs,” the country is governed with austerity and “moral authority,” corruption is not tolerated, impunity is not permitted and everyone is respected but the poor come first.
He claimed that the government has fulfilled 97 of 100 commitments he made in a speech on the day of his inauguration in the zócalo, Mexico City’s central square.
The only three commitments that have not yet been fulfilled, López Obrador said, are decentralization of the federal government (the government plans to move some departments from Mexico City to regional cities), development of renewable energy through the rehabilitation of hydroelectric plants, and discovery of the truth about what happened to the 43 teaching students who disappeared and were presumably murdered in Guerrero in 2014.
“But we have also done many other things that are not on the list of commitments,” he said, citing public transit projects, airport upgrades and highway improvements among other accomplishments.
The vast majority of the president’s speech was self-congratulatory and designed to emphasize the differences between the current government and those that preceded it, which López Obrador regularly claims were corrupt and served the nation’s wealthy elite to the detriment of the masses.
He focused heavily on the government’s efforts to combat corruption – which he described as a “plague” – and its implementation of austerity measures, declaring that 1.3 trillion pesos (US $65 billion) was saved over the past two years in “purchases and contracts” alone.
Among a long list of others achievements outlined by the president were the creation of the National Guard; not increasing public debt, taxes or fuel prices; the delivery of welfare programs that benefit 70% of Mexican families; increasing the minimum wage; the construction of new public universities; canceling the previous government’s Mexico City airport project; beginning construction of the Santa Lucía airport, the Maya Train and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec trade corridor; and establishing a free zone in the northern border region.
He also highlighted that on his watch no new mining concessions have been granted; the peso hasn’t depreciated; a new program to search for missing persons was introduced; victims of flooding were assisted; a government department to auction off goods seized from organized crime was created; the new North American free trade agreement, the USMCA, took effect; the federal Attorney General’s Office became fully independent; and a virtual eduction system was developed so that students could continue studying amid the pandemic.
López Obrador claimed that his government has made progress on the goal to “rescue” Pemex, the state oil company, and the Federal Electricity Commission, which he claimed were on the verge of disappearing due to corruption and a “privatization onslaught.”
Mexico will be self-sufficient in fuel by 2023 due to the construction of the new refinery on the Tabasco coast and upgrades to the six existing refineries, he said.
Turning to public security – Mexico’s most pressing problem, at least outside pandemic times – López Obrador asserted that human rights are now respected in the fight against organized crime.
“Federal forces don’t commit massacres or finish off the wounded,” he said.
The president said that in the final two years of the presidency of Felipe Calderón, 2011 and 2012 – “in the middle of the war against drug trafficking” – almost 2,500 people were killed in clashes between the military and criminal groups and 1,750 civilians were wounded and/or detained.
In the two years since the current government took office, only 507 people were killed in such confrontations and 631 civilians were wounded and/or detained, he said.
“Unlike before, the number of deaths is lower than the number of people wounded and arrested,” López Obrador said. “That shows that we are moved by a conviction for justice, not extermination, and that in the reestablishment of security we prioritize respect for life.”
The president thanked the military – whose integrity has been under the microscope recently due to the arrest in the United States of former army chief Salvador Cienfuegos – for its “unconditional support,” noting that in addition to public security work it is carrying out a range of other non-traditional tasks including infrastructure construction and management of the nation’s ports.
“The armed forces are beginning a new stage in their service to Mexico,” López Obrador said.
He noted that half of his cabinet are women and highlighted that for the first time ever women occupy the positions of interior minister and security minister.
Since taking office, López Obrador said, he has visited all 32 states of the country and insisted that he retains the strong support of the Mexican people.
Two recent polls showed that the president has an approval rating of about 60% but López Obrador wryly told those listening to his address that he had “otros datos,” or other information – a term he frequently uses when confronted with information he doesn’t agree with or which portrays his administration in a negative light.
He claimed that 71% of Mexicans support the government and want it to continue governing.
“The support of the majority of the people is fundamental. As president [Benito] Juárez said, ‘with the people everything, without the people nothing,’” López Obrador said.
“Friends, thank you for your confidence. … Love is repaid with love. I haven’t failed you and I won’t fail you. Let’s all continue promoting what is good, uplifting the homeland and making history. ¡Viva México!”
Mexico News Daily