Mexico and the devastating balance of the AMLO government

AMLO Mexico

Camila Jaber is Mexico’s leading deep-sea and cave diver, holding national records with an impressive 58 meters without fins and 82 meters with fins, spending less than three minutes underwater without oxygen equipment. When she dives, the 26-year-old “Mexican Mermaid” is plunged into a completely different world: “Being underwater makes me happy. This calm, this incredible peace, this silence,” she tells DW.

But that world is now in danger. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is disturbing that silence by propagating with fanfare his prestigious project: the “Maya Train”, which will cross the Yucatan peninsula at the end of 2023 and will travel more than 1,500 kilometers, from the coastal resorts Caribbean to the ancient Mayan temples.

Jaber is the most prominent figure of the opponents of the Mayan Train: “This project destroys biodiversity and vegetated ecosystems, like in the Amazon, all at the expense of the indigenous peoples who live there, with fatal consequences for the whole world as well. “, explains the athlete and engineer in water resources.

Criticism of the tourism project

The Mayan Train route passes a few meters from his favorite cave, the turquoise-green paradise of the cenotes. Jaber was born very close to there, in Ciudad del Carmen. He arrived at the age of eight in the resort town of Playa del Carmen, known for its palm-fringed beaches and coral reefs.

Just hearing the term “Mayan train”, the freediver gets angry: “To begin with, it is much more than a train, because behind it there is a great economic monster that is causing great damage to many towns. But, above all, it is not ‘ maya’, because the project violates everything that constitutes their culture, that is, preserving culture, tradition and vital space”, he emphasizes.

“I will continue protesting because my triumphs and sports records are worthless if I do not speak out on a project like this. My notoriety protects me, but many opponents of the Mayan Train are intimidated, attacked and threatened with death.”

Mexico is a dangerous country for journalists and activists

It is not for nothing that Mexico has the sad reputation of being the most dangerous country in Latin America for environmental activists and journalists. The most recent victim was Abisai Pérez Romero, who was found dead next to his bicycle on a gravel road near the city of Tula a fortnight ago. The 29-year-old was investigating crimes against the environment, and the authorities wanted to file his death as an accident.

“Being a journalist in Mexico means being afraid and courageous at the same time, and constantly fleeing when you have no other option to protect yourself and your family. But, above all, impunity and inaction on the part of the authorities, whose duty it should be to protect you” says Balbina Flores in an interview with DW. The journalist herself has been a representative of Reporters Without Borders in Mexico for almost twenty years.

In these two decades, more than 150 journalists have been assassinated, and the rate of investigation of these crimes tends to zero. López Obrador had promised to change this situation. Instead, now he not only dedicates himself to discrediting journalists every Wednesday but also every day, in the format “Who’s who in the lies” -against critics who, according to him, are allegedly unprofessional- denouncing alleged false news and stoking the spirits against the press. For AMLO, the press is simply “one-sided, unfair and a waste of journalism.”

The attacks by the Mexican president could be interpreted as a call to get critics of his government out of the way, fear many, including 180 writers and journalists who signed a call, in December 2022, for AMLO to end his attacks on the press. “I do not polarize, I politicize,” was the president’s response to that call.

Likewise, the “Hugs, no bullets” campaign, started by AMLO five years ago, was a miscalculation, according to experts.

“The president doesn’t have a clear security strategy,” Human Rights Watch’s Tyler Mattiace told DW. “He’s dissolved the Federal Police, while the army doesn’t really know what to do. And then there is the judiciary, considered corrupt by the president, and which he does not trust. That is why his clear strategy is to evade the Judiciary as much as possible ”.

The most dangerous places in the world, almost all in Mexico

In 2022 there were 85 daily murders in Mexico, which the government even tries to sell as a success compared to the previous year, with 91 per day. Andrés Manuel López Obrador is headed towards the incredible number of 200,000 murders by the end of his term, in September 2024. And, as if all this were not enough, a study recently named Colima, a town of 140,000 inhabitants, the most violent in the world Among the ten most dangerous cities in the world, nine are in Mexico.

To this is added that “thousands of people simply disappear in Mexico every year. Currently, 110,000 disappearances are registered. Systematic torture continues to be standard practice by the security forces, and most crimes go unpunished. 98 percent of all the crimes are never clarified by justice”, says Mattiace.

“Criminals in Mexico know that there are no consequences for the way they approach problems. And since criminal groups already control much of the country, conflicts here continue to be resolved with violence. Today there are 10 to 20 criminal groups spread across a city as a de facto government that used to be controlled by one or two of these groups. And the government does little because those in power are often part of these criminal networks,” concludes the Human Rights Watch expert.