During the first part of his mandate and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, AMLO has managed to maintain social peace and largely avoid the problems faced by his counterparts in other countries in the region.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador continues to maintain a legislative majority after the midterm elections. Photo: EFE.
As Latin American presidents fight a pandemic that has hit their peoples and economies worse than any other region, one thing that unites them is their lack of popularity.
Sebastián Piñera in Chile and Iván Duque in Colombia have approval levels close to 18 percent, in Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro is at 24 percent and in Argentina, Alberto Fernández at 32 percent, according to recent polls. Peru has had four presidents in one year. Almost everywhere, the region is experiencing social unrest.
Long and inefficient shutdowns, scandals over early vaccines for the well-connected, overburdened public health systems, and inadequate support for the most vulnerable have fueled popular discontent. Even before the pandemic, most Latin Americans had little faith in their governments.
“In May, eighty percent of Latin Americans said their country was on the wrong track,” said Jean-Christophe Salles, head of polls for Latin America at Ipsos. “In this context, Latin American presidents show very low approval ratings.”
The exception, he clarified, is Mexico.
Near the middle of his six-year term, this Sunday President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his allies won a series of governorships and a new legislative majority – victories that their counterparts in the region could only dream of.
As he celebrated his electoral successes at a press conference on Tuesday, López Obrador heard his ministers announce that nearly one in three Mexican adults had been vaccinated and that schools were reopening.
“When faced with the pandemic and the economic crisis … what did the elites ask for”? asked the president. “To rescue those above – but we chose to support everyone from below, because that is the way it should be, for the sake of humanism, social justice and security.”
López Obrador is famous for his rhetoric and his clever message hides some more uncomfortable truths: the exacerbated death toll in Mexico during the pandemic is one of the highest in the world, and the government’s rejection of increased debt has limited its ability to support those who have suffered the most from the pandemic.
Much of López Obrador’s approach to the pandemic has been idiosyncratic: He initially ignored him, imposed closures slowly and with fewer restrictions than others, and resisted squandering stimulus spending.
According to a Financial Times analysis of data comparing mortality rates with the historical average, Mexico has suffered the fifth highest percentage of excess mortality since the beginning of the pandemic.
For Alicia Bárcena, director of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America (CELAC), the government of Mexico has remained much more popular than its peers due to “the perception of the veracity of the commitment that the government has declared since its inauguration. to give priority to the needs of the poor ”. Additionally, unlike some of his predecessors, López Obrador is seen as “an austere leader who is not corrupt or corruptible.”
“For the majority of the population, people who are not used to their government treat them well, this president arrives with a message that says’ I am here for the people and I am not an elite government,” he says. Stephanie Brewer, director for Mexico at the Washington Center for Latin America. “Regardless of whether his policies are the best, people feel that he is on their side.”
A recent World Bank survey found that fewer households in Mexico experienced food insecurity or declining income than in most countries in the region.
Martha Bárcena, former Mexican ambassador to Washington, says López Obrador has prioritized vaccinating the most vulnerable and has turned many hospitals into special treatment centers for Covid-19. “The poorest and most vulnerable saw that they were cared for in conditions similar to the middle and upper class,” he added.
As they contemplate the protests in the Andes, even some of the businessmen who have criticized López Obrador most harshly admit that they have a reluctant respect for the social peace that has been achieved in Mexico in the midst of the pandemic.
“We may not like López Obrador’s economic policies – in fact, we hate them,” said a banker in Mexico City. “But we have to recognize that it has produced some years of political stability, which has spared us the disaster that today engulfs many countries further south.”
Copyright – The Financial Times Limited 2021
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