How did AMLO fare in his four years as president of Mexico?
(CNN Spanish) — Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), became president after a historic triumph in 2018, replacing Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and in December he will complete four years in the Government of the six that last the mandates in Mexico.
AMLO, as he is popularly known, came to the presidency with promises to fight corruption, grow the economy while taking care of the poorest, and pacify the country.
According to the “survey of surveys” carried out by the consultancy Oraclealthough AMLO’s popularity has fallen in recent years and especially after the start of the covid-19 pandemic, the president of Mexico still has an approval of 62%, against a rejection of 34%.
But how has it gone so far? Here, a balance of the numbers of his Government, in the fourth year of his six-year term.
The main macroeconomic indicators have remained stable in Mexico since AMLO came to power in December 2018, with a slight impact caused by the covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
Mexico’s nominal GDP was in 2018 at US$ 1.22 trillion, and in 2019 it climbed to US$ 1.27 trillion, according to World Bank data. It had a significant drop in 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic, reaching US$ 1.09 trillion, and recovered in 2021 to US$ 1.29 million, for which the size of the economy has remained at a similar level during these four years.
Unemployment has also remained relatively stable: it reached 3.3% in 2018, grew to 3.5% in 2019 and then to 4.4% in 2020, remaining at that level the following year.
Similarly, the inflation from 4.9% in 2018 it went to 3.6% in 2019 and 3.4% in 2020, before rising to 5.7% in 2021, amid significant price increases around the world. And poverty, which reached 41.9% in 2018, had risen to 43.9% in 2020, according to data of the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL)
The dollar was quoted at 21 Mexican pesos in 2018, and so far in 2020 it shows a slight appreciation: it was quoted at 20.03 Mexican pesos at the beginning of the week.
Regarding remittances, the money sent to the country by Mexican migrants from the United States and other countries has shown a significant increase: in 2018 they amounted to US$33,677 million, and closed in 2021 at US$51,585 million, according to with el Bank of Mexico. And so far in 2022, from January to June, remittances amount to US$27,565 million, above the US$23,647 million for the same period in 2021.
The homicide rate in Mexico, measured by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (inegi), has remained stable and high during the years of AMLO in power: it was 29 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants (36,685 deaths) in 2018, and 28 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2021 (35,625).
In the 1990s, the homicide rate in Mexico began to decline, reaching in 2008 a floor below 10 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. However, from that moment on it rose again to a first peak of 24 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011, which after a temporary drop was surpassed in 2017. Since then it has remained at high levels.
Thus, the homicide rate in Mexico is one of the highest in Latin America: it is only surpassed by El Salvador, Honduras and Venezuela, according to data from the ONU.
Much of the violence in Mexico is related to drug trafficking. In this regard, in July Rafael Caro Quintero, known as the “narco of drug traffickers” and one of the 10 most wanted by the FBI, was arrested in July in Sinaloa by the Mexican Navy.
Mexican authorities consider him the founder of the Guadalajara cartel, and accuse him of trafficking methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine and marijuana.
Yet critics of the president say he has failed to stop the organized crime turf wars that have plagued Mexico for much of the past two decades.
The legislative elections of June 2021, in which Morena lost absolute control of the lower house, were marred by a wave of violence in the months leading up to election day, including almost 100 assassinations of politicians. According to a report by risk management consultancy Etellekt, 96 politicians have been killed since the election campaign began in September last year. At least 35 of the victims were candidates for public office.
At this time, Mexico is also experiencing a wave of violence, with attacks in different parts of the country, such as those that occurred in Ciudad Juárez in August, which left at least 11 dead.
In addition, this year alone there have been 15 murders of journalists in the country.
Health and covid-19
AMLO’s presidency was largely marked by the impact of covid-19 in the country.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Mexico has registered more than 7 million cases and more than 329,000 confirmed deaths from this disease, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.
While 62.56% of the population has received the full vaccination against covid-19.
As in other countries, Mexico suffered several waves of infections, and the worst in terms of deaths took place in January 2021, when a peak of 1,271 deaths per day on average by covid-19.
Taking confirmed infections as a reference, the worst moment of the pandemic took place, instead, in January 2022, with 49,322 daily cases. Although at the time, with more widespread vaccination, the number of deaths was far from the 2021 peak.
López Obrador has promoted several infrastructure works in the country that have become emblems of his Government and that have also generated some controversy.
In March, the president inaugurated the Felipe Ángeles International Airport in Mexico City, and its construction has been marked by controversies over its cost and location, further from the Mexican capital.
The new terminal is located on a 3,000-hectare site at the former Santa Lucía air base: by comparison, Mexico’s historic airport, Benito Juárez, sits on just 600 hectares.
It cost US$ 3,600 million, according to official data, and it is expected that 19.5 million passengers a year will pass through there, when it reaches full operation.
In July, AMLO inaugurated another of his main infrastructure projects: the Dos Bocas refinery in Tabasco, his home state.
The facility is expected to process some 340,000 barrels of oil a day, although it is not yet 100% operational and has drawn criticism from environmentalists for prioritizing oil extraction over renewable energy.
The third flagship work of the Government of López Obrador is the Mayan Train, destined for the states of the Gulf of Mexico and whose construction began in December 2018.
The Government hopes that this train will allow the economic and cultural development of this region through trade, tourism and sustainable development.
But the project has received criticism from environmental groups and individuals, and even from entertainment personalities, who have also spoken out against the work and in some cases have filed injunctions to stop the work until it is ensured that its construction does not will harm the environment.
The main controversy with the train, therefore, is related to the environmental impact: the destruction of the forest, the affectation of cenotes or the modification of ecosystems due to changes in the project’s route.
Seen by many as a populist leader, López Obrador has had a close foreign policy with leftist leaders in the region, although at the same time he maintained a good relationship with the United States.
AMLO gave political asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales when he was removed from office in 2019, and has been very close to Argentine President Alberto Fernández.
In addition, the Government of Mexico offered itself in August 2021 as the venue for the negotiations between the Venezuelan opposition and the government of Nicolás Maduro.
In June of this year, López Obrador decided not to attend the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, United States, because he did not agree with the exclusion of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba from the meeting of regional leaders.
At the same time, AMLO has managed to maintain a good relationship with his neighbor to the north, with whom he shares his main border and commercial relationship, both during the administration of Donald Trump and with the current one of Joe Biden.
“We have received from you, President Trump, understanding and respect,” López Obrador said in a conference with the then US president in 2020.
“Some people thought that our ideological differences would inevitably lead to clashes. Fortunately, this has not been the case,” he added.
In July, when AMLO met with Biden, the current president of the United States said that he saw Mexico “as an equal partner.” “The United States-Mexico relationship is vital to achieving our goals in everything from fighting COVID-19 to continuing to grow our economies and strengthening our partnerships by addressing migration as a shared hemispheric challenge.”
And yet, López Obrador has also been close to Russia in the context of the war in Ukraine. In March he said his country would not impose economic sanctions on the country after the invasion, as the United States and most of Europe did.
“We are not going to take any kind of economic retaliation because we want to maintain good relations with all the governments of the world and we want to be able to talk with the parties in conflict,” he added.
With information from Uriel Blanco, Karol Suárez, Rafael Romo and Joshua Berlinger.