We are all fed up with the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it is going to stay here a long time, with or without a vaccine. Our lives will take time to normalize, and it will take longer for the world economy to digest the aftermath of the general paralysis, something inevitable to contain the infection.
Within this global crisis, Mexico is one of three countries in the world that has faced the pandemic worst, and the one that has done the least to ease economic damage. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) still does not understand the size of what he is facing with or what we still have to face. He does not see the extreme gravity of throwing away public money in absurd projects, money Mexico so urgently needs to mitigate the crisis. AMLO does not see that he is risks Mexico’s governance if he does not change course drastically. He doesn’t understand that the dilemma he faces is not between adopting a sensible health policy and reopening the economy. The real dilemma is between, on the one hand, continuing with a policy that does not work and, on the other, imposing a national mask mandate, conducting massive tests, adopting tracing systems to quarantine only those sectors at risk, and thus reopen the rest of the economy.
The time has come to demand transparency from the AMLO administration. Judging by the recent massive demonstration in downtown Mexico City, Mexicans can mobilize to put pressure on this inept government. As I have written before, my criticism of the anti-AMLO movement known as FRENA comes from the fact that its demands do not make sense. Demands like asking for the resignation of a President like AMLO who swept to victory in the 2018 election and who maintains an approval rating of more than 60% threatens Mexican democracy. But those of us who are discontent with the current state of affairs are a large and growing minority of Mexican citizens. And because of that we have rights.
Let’s start demanding those things that are within reach and that are in our right to demand.
We ask that an independent auditor makes public the feasibility studies and the real cost of AMLO’s pet projects: the Dos Bocas oil refinery, the Mayan train and the Santa Lucía airport. We also demand to know the exact amount of funds and fate of the funds used to rescue Mexico’s state-owned oil company, also known as Pemex. We ask that the AMLO government makes public the alleged studies used in 2018 to stop the now-cancelled international airport in Texcoco (NAIM) and that AMLO’s allegations of corruption about the project be documented. Let’s make clear who in government decided that bed availability in public hospitals would be the key criteria to define success against the pandemic. Covid-19 will be the main cause of death in Mexico this year. The AMLO administration’s point person against Covid-19, Hugo López-Gatell, has incurred in criminal negligence and has costed more than 200,000 lives. We demand his resignation along with that of Irma Eréndira Sandoval, a steadfast AMLO’s defender, from the Ministry of Public Administration. Let’s strengthen this Ministry so that it promotes the value of responsibility among public servants and not just covers up its unethical actions. These shall be our first demands as Mexican citizens. Perhaps today we are less in number than AMLO’s supporters but there are so many of us that it is our right to be heard.
Now that AMLO is preparing to loot dozens of semi-independent public trusts, let’s demand transparency before it happens. We should ask for charges against those who incurred in corruption while managing such trust funds. But let’s defend others whose sole goal is that Mexico can pursue independent scientific research, distribute scholarships for students who deserve them, promote artistic creativity, and all the other things that allow us be part of the civilized world and humanity at a time of huge changes. Many of the resources in those trusts that the AMLO government wants to steal are not even ours: they come from international organizations that endowed Mexico’s best researchers and artists with resources that were trusted precisely to prevent them from being used for other purposes. After this, the AMLO government will try to raid Mexicans’ private pension funds (known as AFORES).
We cannot let government squander hundreds of billions of pesos that were originally to be invested in Mexico’s human capital and to develop a little knowledge to allow the country to compete internationally. This is even worse when we know that the AMLO will throw away these resources by distributing it to his party’s political clienteles and by spending it in flagrantly absurd pet projects. If we let this happen, we can make sure that after AMLO’s six-year term there will be no way to get Mexico out of underdevelopment and poverty. AMLO would be the greatest villain in Mexican history.
Let’s refocus our protest into things that are achievable and let’s protest as if our lives depended on it. Because, in fact, they do depend.
* Jorge Suárez-Vélez is an economic and political analyst He is the author of The Coming Downturn of the World Economy (Random House 2011). A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition. Twitter: @jorgesuarezv