President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has all the power. There is almost no opposition in Mexico. Mexico is today the closest to being a one-man country.
So, why do things do not improve or even get worse in Mexico? These are the costs of loneliness in power, bringing with it megalomania and paranoia.
It’s one thing to threaten a political adversary with freezing his bank accounts, and another is to have the ability to bring to fruition issues that can change the lives of Mexicans. Many of the problems facing the government have been created by AMLO himself, by believing that everything is a matter of will and good intentions.
The great legacy of this government would be to reduce corruption. I hope they succeed. But in many cases, AMLO’s government has used a machete when it really required a needle. Two very costly examples for Mexican women of AMLO not treading cautiously: cancelling childcare facilities and lowering the government’s budget for battered women’s shelters.
The Mexican health sector is currently being hit with these violent machete blows. There were for sure many corrupt drug pricing deals inherited from the past that were worth cancelling, but there is no evidence that AMLO’s government is now buying cheaper. Even more: hospitals have fewer medicines available, particularly for cancer patients.
In a context of medicine shortages, the AMLO government launched in January the world’s most ambitious free universal health project of the last decades. He did it without having published the project’s operational guidelines. It is not clear how much the project will cost or how it will be paid. But President AMLO wanted it immediately.
Amidst this crisis, the Mexican healthcare system will now have to face the Covid-19 epidemic. AMLO seems to want to paint a contrast with former president Felipe Calderón’s reaction to the H1N1 virus in 2009 by portraying a relaxed attitude towards the Covid-19 emergency.
Mexico’s undersecretary of health tells us calmly that 75 million people can be infected and “deaths can also occur.” If the death rate is 0.5 percent, it would mean about 325,000 dead.
China has managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 with draconian measures. Those who deny any kind of risk just need to see the current crisis in Iran.
Power does not know how to take blame for its own mistakes. Instead it imagines conspiracies. In AMLO’s words: “Conservatism, […] is very hypocritical. […] Sometimes it promotes these movements against progressive movements. Don’t forget what they did [banging] pots in Chile to prepare the coup against President Allende in ”.
It would be best for President AMLO to have some resistance within his own government and a better organized opposition. Both things would protect him from carrying all the weight of power alone.
* Carlos Elizondo Mayer-Serra is professor at the School of Government and Public Transformation at Tec de Monterrey, in Mexico City. A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition. Twitter: @carloselizondom