Mexico’s new president marks 100 days in office and can expect report card

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Andrés Manuel López Obrador reaches the 100-day mark as President of Mexico, and can expect to be rated on his measures to attack the country’s interwoven crisis of organized crime, violence and corruption.

Best known by his initials, AMLO, he won in a landslide on Jul 1, 2018, and the victory brought the left to power after 30 years in opposition. He began his term with the strongest mandate of any Mexican president in decades, buttressed by his MORENA party’s control of Congress and of enough state legislatures to push through constitutional reforms.

He will need new and innovative ways to tackle the crisis. Arguably, his predecessors’ measures worsened it. Mexican authorities opened 33,341 murder investigations in 2018, the highest number ever, according to the country’s Interior Ministry. The BBC reports that more than 200,000 people have been killed or have disappeared since Mexico’s government declared war on organized crime in Dec 2006. The military offensive has led to the destruction of some drug gangs, splits within others and the emergence of new groups, according to the broadcaster, and widespread corruption and impunity has exacerbated the crisis.

The drug cartels are known to have corrupted the authorities with dirty money for decades, and the New York trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo, has exposed the scale of the problem. Reporting on the trial, the New York Times notes that the testimony depicts nearly every level of the Mexican government as being on the take, including prison guards, airport officials, police officers, prosecutors, tax assessors and military personnel.

The Americas Society/Council of the Americas began charting AMLO’s measures to attack the many-headed crisis from the day he was inaugurated. One of his earliest measures against corruption was to issue a deadline for Mexico’s cabinet members to declare their assets, and he has announced the creation of a 60,000-strong National Guard. The plan has drawn flack for deepening the militarization of policing in a country where the war on organized crime has claimed so many lives. He has also opened up a front against fuel theft, often carried out by organized groups, a problem costing the country an estimated US $1 billion in annual revenue.

Success at attacking the interwoven crises at any level can be expected to ease the drain on the country’s finances. One marker of his success will be an upturn in the International Monetary Fund Forecast for Mexico. In its most recent assessment, the organization trimmed its growth forecast for Mexico by 0.4 per cent to 2.1 per cent growth in 2019 and by 0.5 per cent for 2020 to 2.2 per cent growth, with a decrease in private investment as the cause.

Counting Down the First 100 Days of AMLO's Presidency (As/COA Feb 2019)

Cartel-Ravaged Mexico Sets a New Record for Murders (Time Jan 2019)

Mexico's most-wanted: A guide to the drug cartels (BBC Mar 2018)

El Chapo Trial Shows That Mexico’s Corruption Is Even Worse Than You Think (NYT Dec 2018)

Date written/update: 2019-02-12