Defining the Candidacy of Félix Salgado Macedonio

Source: El Economista

03/09/21 (written by tmcginnis) – Félix Salgado Macedonio, former senator and now a registered candidate for the governorship of Guerrero for the 2021 state elections, faces multiple allegations of sexual assault, including two accusations of rape. Belonging to the ruling party MORENA (National Regeneration Movement), Reforma reports that Salgado Macedonio has received nearly unwavering support from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) prior to the party withdrawing his name. AMLO believes that it is up to the authorities and “the people” to resolve this matter, without the influence of politiqueros– political hacks and maneuverings. However, as noted by El País, President López Obrador is increasingly alone in that defense. Though MORENA eventually moved to pull Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy around February 27, the party is hardly able to truly impose itself on a candidate who has the support of the president. As a consequence, on March 4, the Electoral Institute of the state of Guerrero reversed the decision of MORENA and made his candidacy official. Thus, given the back and forth nature of defining Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, it remains critically important to evaluate the mounting pressures from opposition parties, civil society campaigns, and even internal party divisions that led to the aforementioned decisions.

Government Response

According to La Jornada, at one of his traditional morning press conferences held in early February, President López Obrador reiterated his prior position on the matter, stating that the allegations and mounting oppositional pressures against Salgado Macedonio are products of the electoral season. In early January, he expressed that “when there are elections or [political] competition, it’s about discrediting the opponent in one way or another” (author’s translation). Resorting to previously observed strategies, AMLO has blamed the opposition and denounced “political lynchings,” as well as what he perceives as malicious media campaigns. According to the relevant minutes of a February 18 press conference compiled by El Universal, in response to questions regarding the reactions of various feminist groups and sectors that have denounced the candidacy, AMLO responded by arguing that those groups have the right to demonstrate and express themselves, just as the voters in Guerrero who support Salgado Macedonio have their right to elect him as their representative. He continued, defending the decisions made by the polls and the people of Guerrero. “First you have to trust the people, the people are the ones who decide” (author’s translation).

AMLO’s support should come as no surprise when considering possible motivations. For example, the president’s ability to govern comfortably hinges on the June 6 election, given that the entire Chamber of Deputies, 30 of the 32 state congresses, 15 governorates, and thousands of local offices will be renewed. 

However, though AMLO endorses Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, he faces divisions on the matter within his own party. For example, among the most vocal, Olga Sánchez Cordero, the Secretary of the Interior and the first woman to hold the aforementioned position, stated that the respect for a woman’s right to live a life free of violence remains a critical precondition for political candidacy. Moreover, according to Animal Político, she sustained that political parties remain responsible for evaluating whether prospective candidates are qualified and comply with the established 3 out of 3 (3 de 3) rule regarding gender-based violence: candidates have not been sentenced for 1) familial violence, 2) sexual violence, or 3) non-compliance with the payment of alimony. Approved by the National Electoral Institute (Instituto Nacional Electoral) in late 2020, this initiative is supposed to protect women and ensure that positions of power are not held by abusers and violators. However, as elucidated by the case of Salgado Macedonio, many of the complaints have been ignored or not prioritized in a timely manner.

Additionally, according to El Universal, Senator Germán Martínez asked that Salgado Macedonio resign on his own volition and submit himself for investigation, arguing that this predicament should not fall on the National Regeneration Movement as a whole. “You don’t deserve it [the candidacy], women don’t deserve it, Guerrero doesn’t deserve it” (author’s translation). 

In a significant show of internal party division, El País reports that over 100 deputies from the National Regeneration Movement signed a joint letter addressed to party leadership to withdraw the candidacy of Salgado Macedonio. Subsequently, this letter was ratified by an additional 100 party affiliates and supporters of President López Obrador.

Civil Society Response

Source: El Universal

According to Reforma, many prominent actresses, writers, and activists took to social media to spearhead online campaigns against President López Obrador’s endorsement of Salgado Macedonio. As noted by MSN, tens of thousands of women, either through means of protest or social media, demanded that the president “rompa el pacto” — break the “pacto machista” or sexist pact that permits this level of impunity for male authorities. Activists even transformed the meaning of AMLO’s response — “ya chole” (translated as “enough” or “give me a break”) — which he used when continuously questioned about Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, into a trending hashtag to express both disgust and dissatisfaction with misogyny, femicide, and indifference toward female voices. 

Source: Mexico News Daily

Why Salgado Macedonio does not have a sentence 

Mario Delgado, the National Regeneration Movement’s formal leader, defends Salgado’s candidacy on the grounds that he has not yet been convicted of any crime and therefore maintains his right to participate in electoral contests. With this in mind, the fact that Salgado Macedonio does not presently have a sentence raises several important points and inquiries about the effectiveness of Mexico’s current criminal justice system. Paola Zavala Saeb, a human rights lawyer and political analyst, makes several significant observations about the aforementioned issue, a few of which will be discussed here. 

Citing findings from a 2019 México Evalúa report, Saeb states that Guerrero represents one of the worst states with respect to confidence in criminal authorities. Furthermore, victims prefer not to report out of fear and Salgado Macedonio’s high-profile status compounds this issue even more. If victims do overcome their fears and proceed with filing a report, Guerrero lacks adequate legal representation. In fact, according to México Evalúa, there is only one legal representative for every 98 victims. Additionally, in Guerrero, only 1.6% of investigations pursued by the public prosecutor’s office lead to prosecution before a judge. Furthermore, nationwide, as detailed by Animal Político, between 2015 and 2018, as little as 5% of cases involving rape and sexual abuse received formal sentences, with only a fifth of complaints officially sent to the courts.

With the aforementioned challenges, it remains to be seen whether the accusations against Salgado Macedonio will be taken seriously and the protests of women heeded with equal weight. 

Sources

Angel, Arturo. “En cinco años, solo 5 de cada 100 denuncias por abuso sexual y violación terminaron en sentencia.” Animal Político. February 4, 2021.

Areta, Itxaro. “Sánchez Cordero dice que no violentar a las mujeres es condición necesaria para ser candidato.” Animal Político. February 18, 2021. 

Barragán, Almudena. “Más de 100 diputadas de Morena exigen que se retire la candidatura de Salgado Macedonio tras las acusaciones de violación.” El País. January 12, 2021. 

El Universal. “‘Félix, rompe el pacto’, pide Germán Martínez a Salgado Macedonio.” El Universal. February 18, 2021. 

El Universal. “La mañanera de AMLO, 18 de febrero, minuto a minuto.” El Universal. February 18, 2021. 

Manetto, Francesco. “El ‘caso Salgado Macedonio’ abre un frente en Morena ante las elecciones de junio.” El País. February 21, 2021. 

Martínez, Fabiola and Roberto Garduño. “Pueblo y autoridades deben definir candidatura de Salgado Macedonio: AMLO.” La Jornada. February 17, 2021. 

México Evalúa. “Hallazgos 2019: Seguimiento y evaluación del sistema de justicia penal en México.” México Evalúa. 2020. 

Peterson Farah, Diego. “#YaChole y el pacto.” MSN Noticias. February 20, 2021. 

Raziel, Zedryk. “Candidatura de Salgado divide a Morena y genera sospechas de encubrimiento.” Animal Político. February 17, 2021. 

Reforma Staff. “Las mujeres que acusan a Félix Salgado de violación.” Reforma. February 2021. 

Yucatan Times. “Morena ‘pulls’ Félix Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy after allegations of rape and sexual abuse.” Yucatan Times. February 27, 2021. 

Zavala Saeb, Paola. “7 razones por las que Salgado Macedonio no tiene sentencia.” Animal Político. February 3, 2021

12 Police Officers Arrested for Alleged Role in Migrant Massacre

03/02/21 (written by scortez) – In the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, 12 police officers were arrested on murder charges for the killing and burning of nearly 20 people. On January 22, the bodies of 19 people were found inside two cars in the municipality of Camargo. The events occurred on the side of a road that is commonly used by migrants attempting to reach the United States. At least 14 of those found in the vehicle were Guatemalan migrants, as well as two Mexican citizens—speculated to be the ‘coyotes’. Three victims remain unidentified because of the severity of their burns. According to the Washington Post, the truck was a part of a large convoy of vehicles transporting migrants from Central America across the U.S-Mexico border. The attorney general of Tamaulipas, Irving Barrios Mojica, charged 12 police officers of the Grúpo de Operaciones Especiales (Special Operations Group),commonly known as GOPES for their involvement in the massacre. The newly-formed GOPES is an elite police unit established to act as a fast-responding armed force to address the rising rates of organized crime and kidnappings in the state. In 2020, the group had been trained by US authorities to be able to deliver an immediate response. 

According to Animal Político, investigators had initially presumed that the events occurred at a different location because of the lack of shell casings at the scene of the crime. Meanwhile, the vehicles holding the bodies were riddled with over 100 bullet impacts, creating suspicion that the casings were removed and that perhaps the police officers tending to the scene were involved. In addition to a tampered crime scene, investigators received statements from police officers that contradicted original police reports. Investigators began to believe that the officers that provided varying reports could have been involved in the massacre and removed the shell casings to avoid being implicated. According to a report in Milenio, officials also examined-with the authorization of a judge-call logs, geolocations, and video surveillance to determine their alleged involvement. The speedy investigation led to the attorney general announcing just a few weeks after the bodies were discovered that GOPES police officers were indeed involved. The 12 officers have been arrested on charges of homicide, falsification of reports, and abuse of power.

Before arresting the officers, authorities had also discovered that the charred truck in which the bodies were found was previously seized by immigration officials for attempting to traffic 66 migrants in the neighboring state of Nuevo León, according to reports by Reuters. The vehicle was released to one of the identified victims that was found in the massacre. According to the Associated Press, the National Immigration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM) announced that eight immigration agents had been terminated for allowing the vehicle to be released. Olga Sánchez Cordero, the Secretary of the Interior of Mexico, confirmed that the agents had been fired, but did not elaborate on the details of their involvement.

GOPES’s History of Violence

GOPES has been previously accused of committing violent crimes in Tamaulipas. The Associated Press reported that prosecutors in 2019 accused the same state police unit, formerly known as the Tamaulipas Center for Analysis, Information and Studies (Centro de Análisis, Información y Estudios de Tamaulipas, CAIET), for allegedly dragging eight people from their home in Nuevo Laredo, forcing them to put on garments to appear as criminals, and executing them. In the same article, Raymundo Ramos, a human rights activist, criticized the handling of previous investigations into this group in which 40 officers were implicated  and only two were charged for their involvement. The group faced no real consequence for their large-scale involvement in the 2019 massacre; rather, they received a name change. Ramos stated that the latest massacre fits into the style of tactics that the group employs—concealing their presence and leaving no witnesses behind. 

The Associated Press article further speculates that the migrant group may have been caught in between a territory dispute between the Northeast cartel, a remnant faction of the Los Zetas, and the Gulf Cartel. GOPES was working for the Northeast cartel when they encountered the small caravan of migrants. In the same article, Oscar Hernández, an anthropologist at Colegio de la Frontera Norte, commented, “It’s not news that some police units get involved in this kind of thing, not justice violence, which is the most visible, but other things like aiding and abetting, and corruption.” A federal legislator went as far as issuing a non-binding resolution in Mexico’s Congress in January to protest the violence and atrocities that the group has been suspected of committing. Nevertheless, the police unit was left intact to patrol the streets of Tamaulipas even after well-documented allegations leveled against them.  

As such, the arrest of the 12 police officers signals a delayed response to injustices that the group has had a history of committing. It took a change of the group’s name and another massacre for the state of Tamaulipas to begin holding the police unit accountable. The 19-person massacre also illuminates the peril that migrants endure in attempting to reach the United States. Without the pursuit of justice, migrants will continue to experience the corrosive impact of corruption that  endangers their safety and security.

A charred vehicle found by the Army with a burned body inside. The truck was discovered on the side of the road commonly used by migrants and traffickers near the U.S.-Mexico border. Source: Archyde.

Sources

Hernández, Antonio. “EU entrenó a nuevo equipo policial de operaciones especiales de Tamaulipas.” Milenio. August 8, 2020. 

“Tamaulipas:Hallan calcinados los cuerpos de 19 personas asesinados en el noreste de México” BBC Mundo. January 24, 2021. 

Reuters Staff. “Mexico investigates possible involvement of officials in killings of suspected migrants.” Reuters. February 1, 2021.

“Fiscalía de Tamaulipas reconoce participación de policías estatales en masacre de Camargo: hay 12 detenidos.”Animal Político. February 2, 2021.

Peña, Alfredo. “Dozen state police charged in the massacre of 19 in Mexico.” Associated Press. February 3, 2021.

Sieff, Kevin. “Mexican police charged in massacre of Guatemalan migrants near U.S. border.” Washington Post. February 3, 2021.

López, María. “ Abren proceso a 12 policías de Tamaulipas por asesinato de 19 personas en Camargo.” Milenio. February 8, 2021.

Pena, Alfredo and Mark Stevenson. “History of abuse for Mexican abuse unit in Migrant Massacre.” Associated Press. February 10, 2021.

Ex-governor of Puebla arrested for the 2005 torture of journalist Lydia Cacho

02/09/21 (written by aahrensviquez) – On February 3, 2021, federal prosecutors arrested the former governor of Puebla, Mario Marín Torres, for the torture of journalist Lydia Cacho in Acapulco, Guerrero. The arrest was announced by the current governor of Puebla via Twitter.

Marín had been hiding in Acapulco, in his sister’s home, for eight days. Federal prosecution had been surveilling the house for four days before his arrest.

An Arrest After 15 Years of Impunity

The detention comes 15 years after the torture of Cacho by members of the Puebla police force in Cancún in December 2005. The torture of the journalist is widely regarded as retaliation for the publication of Cacho’s 2005 book, The Demons of Eden: The Power that Protects Child Pornography (Los demonios del Edén, el poder que protege a la pornografía infantil), that exposed a prostitution and child pornography ring that involved prominent politicians and businessmen, including former Governor Marín. 

Marín was implicated in the ordering of the torture when an anonymous source released a recording between the former governor and businessman José Kamel Nacif, one of the other figures implicated in Cacho’s book. In the call, Nacif urged the “gober precioso” (or “precious governor”) to retaliate against Cacho. Cacho filed charges against Marín, Nacif, and other state figures in March 2006.

The lack of accountability for those responsible has been a source of international embarrassment for the Mexican justice system. After no action was taken by the Mexican government in the years following her torture, Cacho turned to The Human Rights Committee of the United Nations (UN). In 2018, the UN Committee issued a ruling that found that Mexico had not fulfilled its obligation to investigate this case and hold those responsible accountable. 

Since the ruling, Mexican federal prosecutors brought the charges against the police commanders that carried out the torture ordered by their superiors. In April 2019, arrest warrants were issued for Marín and Nacif. They both fled, evading arrest. After a brief cancellation of those warrants in November 2020, the warrants were re-issued in December 2020. Marín was considered a fugitive by authorities until his arrest in Acapulco.

Cacho reacted to the arrest on Twitter. She has been working with organizations such as Europol and Interpol to locate Marín and Nacif since the issuance of the initial arrest warrants in 2019.

Prosecutors announced that Marín will be awaiting trial in Quintana Roo. Nacif still remains at large.

Sources

Ahrens-Víquez, Ashley. “Arrest warrants issued in 2005 torture case of Lydia Cacho.” Justice in Mexico. December 14, 2020.

“Detienen en Acapulco al exgobernador de Puebla, Mario Marín.” Proceso. February 3, 2021.

Espino, Manuel. “Detienen en Acapulco a Mario Marín, exgobernador de Puebla.” El Universal. February 3, 2021.

Flores Contreras, Ezequiel. “La casa donde detuvieron a Mario Marín en Acapulco es de su hermana, la profesora Alicia Marín.” Proceso. February 3, 2021. 

González, Mario. “Detienen al exgobernador de Puebla Mario Marín, según el actual mandatario poblano.” CNN en Español. February 3, 2021.
“Lydia Cacho y Artículo 19 aplauden detención de Mario Marín.” Proceso. February 3, 2021.

Witness Links the Military to the 43 Missing Ayotzinapa Students

02/08/21 (written by scortez) – A recently leaked witness testimony directly implicates the military’s involvement in the disappearances of 43 students in the Ayotzinapa case. It is the most recent development to come in the long pursuit of justice for the victims’ families. In 2014, a group of over 100 students from Escuela Normal Rural Raúl Isidro Burgos were traveling to Iguala, Guerrero to protest discriminatory practices against teachers. In a coordinated effort, police intercepted three of the buses heading back to Ayotzinapa on a northbound route and another heading southbound. Once they were pulled over, they were then teargassed, fired on, and loaded into seven patrol cars. Soon after, their families raised national alarms that led to a flurry of investigations to hold those accountable for their disappearance.

Demonstrators and relatives of the missing students protest outside the 27th Army Battalion in Iguala, Guerrero in 2014. Photo by: TRT World and Agencies.

Rapid Arrests in a Discredited Investigation

The initial investigation led to the removal and arrest of the mayor of Iguala, José Luis Abarca Velásquez, and his wife, María de los Ángeles Piñeda Villa, for sanctioning the disappearances. The same investigations resulted in the arrest of numerous local police officers that were involved. According to the BBC, the investigation concluded that the police apprehended the students and handed them over to a drug cartel known as Guerreros Unidos (GU). The cartel took the students to the local dump where they were killed and disposed of into a nearby stream. Despite making several low-level arrests, the findings of the previous investigations have been widely discredited by independent investigators. The lack of sufficient explanation has caused the victims’ relatives and demonstrators to put pressure on the federal government to expand their investigations into the military’s potential involvement. This mounting pressure from a broad coalition of civil society organizations successfully pressured the current government to open a new round of investigations.

New Testimony Reveals Multi-level Corruption

The results of the initial investigation exposed corruption across multiple institutions, implicating local officials, police, and now, members of the military in the disappearance of the 43 students.  In November 2020, Army Captain José Martinez Crespo became the first high-ranking military personnel to be arrested on charges related to the disappearances of the students. He was a military commander at the 27th Army Battalion base when the disappearances occurred. In a recent report from Reforma, a witness testified that the Mexican military handed off the students to GU. The case is part of a larger investigation by Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero into the disappearances. The involvement of military personnel had been speculated, but this latest development confirms these suspicions. 

In the same report, the witness, presumed to be a gang member involved in the disappearances, alleges that the military, police, and GU worked in a joint operation to abduct and kill the students. Soldiers from the 27th Battalion, who were under the payroll of the cartel, interrogated students at an army base in Iguala before handing them off to GU. The witness stressed that the true number of those killed was between 70-80 people. GU had allegedly targeted members of Cartel de la Sierra, a rival criminal group based in Tlacotepec, for their debts to GU. Because the cartel members and students were allegedly intermingling at the protest, authorities interrogated the groups upon their arrest in an effort to distinguish the groups. Thereafter, the students and cartel members totaling nearly 80 individuals were handed over to the GU and were disposed of in two ways: dissolved in acid and drained in sewages pipes, and/or hacked to pieces to be taken to a crematorium or scattered across the Iguala outskirts. 

The witness testimony also outlined the criminal conspiracy in the aftermath between police officers and GU cartel members. After the disappearances, police officers and GU members allegedly planted evidence (human remains) near a dump to create a crime scene that would bring fast results to end mounting pressure from the public. The staged crime scene was devised to pin the disappearances on low-level members of the GU cartel and steer investigations away from GU leadership, police, and the military. It also corroborated the initial narrative that federal prosecutors under then-President Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) promoted: the 43 students were mistaken by GU for a rival cartel, killed, and disposed of at the dump. With the witness’ testimony, this narrative illuminates the corrupt relationship between the cartels, police, and the military.

AMLO’s Response to the Leak

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (2018-2024), commonly known as AMLO, confirmed the reporting from Reforma. His administration is also seeking to prevent further leaks of damning testimony by vowing to charge those responsible for releasing the information. Additionally, relatives of the students expressed concern that the investigation into their disappearance could have been compromised by the witness’ testimony leak and may have potentially damaged their pursuit for justice.

President Lopez Obrador and Undersecretary of Human Rights Alejandro Encinas at the 6th anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. The pieces of fabric they hold display their commemoration of the 43 Ayotzinapa students and the thousands of others that have disappeared. Photo by: Reuters.

Maintaining Trust in the Military

Despite being one of the most highly regarded institutions by the general public, the military’s integrity continues to be tested by exposing investigative reporting. A recent public opinion poll by Consulta shows that both the military and AMLO’s newly established National Guard have the largest public trust compared to other governmental institutions. However, the report further indicates that public confidence in them has grown sharply in the past two years.

Nevertheless, the shadow of past illicit activities by the military continues to resurface as AMLO attempts to improve the role of the military in domestic issues. The allegations linking the military to the disappearances comes after the 2020 arrest of former Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and his subsequent exoneration for his alleged involvement in drug trafficking. AMLO continues to balance between rallying against corruption while also maintaining public confidence in the military. Damning revelatory reports such as these test AMLO’s capacity to minimize negative exposure to these highly regarded institutions as they have become essential to his strategy. Under AMLO, the military involvement in domestic affairs have increased. According to the Washington Post, AMLO has called on the military to solve domestic issues more often than any other president since the 1940s, when Mexico was a military-run country. Most recently in 2020, the president had ordered the Armed Forces to return to patrolling the streets to quell the continued rise in homicide rates. 

While the AMLO administration is working to maintain public confidence, disappearances continue to occur. According to an NBC News report that referenced Mexico’s National Search Commission (Comisión Nacional de Búsqueda, CNB), as of July 2020, 73,000 people have been reported missing. The majority of cases occurred after 2006, though they have decreased in the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, 40% of all missing persons cases have occurred since President López Obrador took office in December 2018. Despite this recent decline, both the kidnapping and homicide rates have remained at high levels.  

AMLO campaigned on promises to lower the government’s apathy and lower crime rates. The recent developments in the Ayotzinapa investigations indicate that the Mexican Justice Department is finally responding to the years-long demand for justice in this case. The López Obrador administration, however, has yet to unveil a national strategy to address the thousands of missing persons cases.

Sources

Molzahn, C. “Investigation continues into kidnapping of 43 education students by municipal police in Iguala, Guerrero.”Justice In Mexico. November 11, 2014. 

Yucatan Times. AMLO’s administration will investigate officials over 2014 case of 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa. Yucatan Times. September 15, 2019. 

“Mexico missing students: Questions remain five years on.” BBC. September 19, 2019. 

Hinojosa, Gina. “Mexico Moves Forward with Efforts to Address Disappearances.” Washington Office on Latin America. March 23 2020. 

Franco, E. Marina. “Mexico reeling over 73,000 missing, according to new numbers.” NBC News. July 14, 2020. 

Najar, Alberto. “Ayotzinapa Case | ‘The historical truth is over’: what the turn in the investigation of the disappearance in Mexico of the 43 students implies.” BBC Mundo. July 1, 2020. 

Heinle, Kimberly. “President López Obrador Targets His Predecessors with a Referendum on Corruption.” Justice In Mexico. November 10, 2020. 

“Por primera vez detienen a un militar por la desaparición de los 43 estudiantes de Ayotzinapa.” Animal Politico. November 13, 2020. 

“Ranking Confianza En Instituciones |México 2020|.” Consulta. December 10, 2020. 

Sheridan, Mary Beth. “As Mexico’s Security Deteriorates, the Power of the Military Grows.” The Washington Post. December 17, 2020. 

Reforma Staff. “Militares y narcos detienen a los 43.” Reforma. January 20, 2021. 

Domínguez, Pedro. “Es Evidente que se fabricó investigación sobre caso Ayotzinapa, dice AMLO.” Milenio. January 21, 2021.

Two Years of AMLO in Office: A Brief Look at his Security Strategy

02/01/2021 (written by emarinoni) – It has been just over two years since Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly known as AMLO, took office in December 2018. This provides an opportune moment to reflect on the impact and effectiveness of his security strategy–a strategy that promised to be a key focus during his administration.

On December 1, 2020, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador celebrated two years since he took office, completing one-third of his mandate. Photo: Expansión Política.

Presidential Campaign

Since his early days on the campaign trail, President López Obrador (2018-2024) proposed a security strategy based on four key pillars. This includes the creation of economic and social opportunities for youth; an amnesty law for specific crimes under specific conditions; the lifting of the ban on illicit drugs, together with the rebuilding of resources for social reintegration and detoxification programs; and finally, the promotion of sanctions for non-compliance with recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH). In addition, AMLO’s administration rooted its security strategy in a policy based on the slogan “hugs not bullets” (abrazos no balazos), moving away from the strategy of the militarization of public security and the focus on killing cartel leaders. This represented a pivot from previous administrations’ approaches, including those of former Presidents Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).

First Years of Government

During the first two years of the López Obrador administration, several reforms were implemented in support of the strategies AMLO proposed during his presidential bid.

Budget Reforms for Social Programs

In the budgets for 2019-2021, a significant amount of money was earmarked for social programs. By the close of FY2021, AMLO is expecting to have reached 2.3 million young adults aged 18 to 29 who will benefit from social programs. Three of the most noteworthy social programs aimed at job creation among youth are Sowing Life (Sembrando Vida), the Benito Juárez Scholarships (Becas de Benito Juárez), and Youth Building the Future (Jóvenes Construyendo el Futuro), all of which launched in 2019.

According to El Economista, in FY2021, the Sowing Life program’s budget increased 15.1% compared to FY2020. The budget of the Benito Juárez Scholarships also increased by 65,333 million pesos (almost $3 million USD) compared to a 17,280-million pesos increase (almost $800,000 USD) in 2019. The Youth Building the Future program, however, experienced a 17.5% decrease in its budget from FY2019. Since that program was launched in AMLO’s first year, it has seen an overall budget reduction of 40%. Nevertheless, its budget and the program’s overall impact still rank it among the most influential youth development programs AMLO has put forward.

Legal Policies

In addition to the budget reforms, a second important piece of legislation put forth by the López Administration came in April 2020 when the Senate adopted the Amnesty Act (Ley de Amnistía). This law establishes the acquittal of secondary offenses that do not include murder, kidnapping, or the use of a firearm. These include abortion (both the individual seeking an abortion and the medical practitioners), possession and transportation of narcotics, and crimes committed by members of indigenous peoples who have not been guaranteed due process.

In November 2020 the Mexican Senate also approved the legalization of marijuana for recreational, medical, scientific, industrial, and medical use. It is a step forward in the policy of legalizing light drugs in the country. The new law regulates and legalizes the use of marijuana in private homes when there are no minors, establishes that individuals may possess no more than 28 grams, and allows for up to eight marijuana plants to be cultivated at an individual’s home.

Security Strategy

Despite the progress made with the budget reforms, Amnesty Law, and the law on marijuana use, the López Obrador administration did break from its proposed security strategy when it approved and initiated the use of the National Guard (Guardia Nacional). In June 2019, the first contingent of Mexico’s National Guard was deployed. In addition to the gradual increase in government spending on public security, militarized forces have also been assigned a growing number of security tasks. This culminated in May 2020 when AMLO announced the extension of armed forces’ involvement in public security affairs until March 2024, a controversial decision that drew condemnation from human rights and civil society groups alike.

First Results and Indicators

The main indicators that monitor the state of public security in Mexico worsened in the first two years of President López Obrador’s government. According to the Executive Secretary of the National System of Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP), from 2017 to 2019, intentional homicides jumped from 28,870 in 2017 to 33,742 in 2018 when AMLO took office in December. This rose to 34,588 in 2019, but appears to have leveled off in 2020, which recorded 34,515 homicides according to SESNSP’s most recent data released in January 2021. 

In addition to homicides, the INEGI national security perception index also recorded an increase in the level of insecurity perceived by citizens between 2017 and 2018, jumping from 74.3 to 79.4 in a single year. In 2019, this value leveled off at 78.9–just slightly below that of 2018. According to data from the World Justice Project, Mexico’s position in terms of its rule of law has worsened in recent years; in 2019, it ranked 99 out of 126 countries–down two places from its 2018 rank of 97. In 2020, it fell even further to 104 out of 128 countries.

In addition to empirical data recorded over the first two years of AMLO’s term, several key events occurred that challenged the effectiveness of AMLO’s security strategy. These included the arrest and subsequent release of the son of notorious kingpin Joaquín Guzmán, El Chapo, on October 17, 2019. His son, Ovidio Guzmán, was released from government custody after a violent and dramatic battle broke out between the Sinaloa Cartel and security officials in the streets of Culiacán, Sinaloa. This was followed just weeks after by a massacre that raised bilateral tension when a local Mormon family with dual citizenship was ambushed by affiliates of an organized crime group. The attack on November 4, 2019, took place in northeastern Sonora along the U.S.-Mexico border with Arizona. Most recently, in June of 2020, Mexican officials confronted a failed attempt by members of organized crime to kill Omar García Harbuch, Mexico City’s  Secretary of Public Security. Experts say these events underscore Mexico’s ongoing, and in many ways, worsening, security crisis.

Conclusions

Mexico is facing a serious security crisis characterized by high levels of violence, much of which is caused by organized crime. Although empirical data do not indicate a substantial improvement in the security situation in Mexico, the observed violence has no singular cause, which makes it a fluid process with no easy solution. Still, based on the approach of the past two years, it is likely that the López Obrador administration will continue to implement a security strategy based on militarization, centralization of security operations, and social support programs.

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