Like those teenagers unable to detach themselves from their mobiles, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) can’t stop speaking in public. Either in the morning, at a cabinet meeting, or at a political rally he just can’t.
The implications of AMLO’s addiction are many. The first is the waste of his time, that of his team and that of the country in general chattering about absurd topics like the alleged raffle of the Presidential plane or the religious stamps protecting him against coronavirus. Instead of talking, AMLO should be analyzing he best course of action against the epidemiological and economic crisis that has come upon us, relying on experts.
The second problem is the signal of carelessness that AMLO sends to the Mexican population when refusing to use hand sanitizer and when he continues in tours and public meetings across the country. For many Mexicans the conclusion is obvious: The problem is not so serious.
The third problem with AMLO’s behavior is that it sends the message to the world that in Mexico the crisis is going to be long and deep. If not even the President takes precautions regarding coronavirus contagion, how can we make US authorities believe that a serious dialogue can happen on how to manage the border in these times?
The fourth problem is that he can get infected himself. It would be a serious problem for the country that AMLO ended up hospitalized. The virus could also spread through his cabinet which gathered in the same public space during the Oil Nationalization anniversary last week.
Addicts have a hard time seeing the consequences of their actions. They care about the immediate pleasure of the drug. AMLO seems to have that behavior.
Surely he felt very good when he said that the Mexican economy should not be shut down since it would affect “many people who seek their livelihood on street jobs.” But if the coronavirus expands with the speed that has been seen in other countries -and that many experts fear- the Mexican poor will be the most affected both in their health and in their pocket. A cruel paradox is that the Republicans in the US are now willing to distribute money as if they were social democrats, while the AMLO-loving Mexican Left has a government worthy of the praise of the Physiocrats: “Let it be and let it go!”
Fortunately, a section of the the Mexican people was wise and knew it was time to retreat. However, these social efforts yield much less results if they are not coordinated by a government capable of understanding the nature of the challenges it faces.
* 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