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López Obrador's key failure

López Obrador has been president since 2018 yet he still blames Mexico's problems on past presidents, including the high murder rate. We have to look to the future. The next leader of Mexico must make it his or her priority to stop the murders of so many Mexicans.
Award-winning co-anchor of Univision's evening news and host of Al Punto
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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Crédito: Pool / Getty Images.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador always had the correct diagnosis. Violence in Mexico was linked to a mafia in power.

And now that know that's true – with the guilty verdict against “super policeman” Genaro García Luna – we must also admit that AMLO has failed in his key promise and responsibility. Stopping that violence.

López Obrador was elected precisely to combat the crime and chaos lashing the country. And he's not been up to the job. His strategy of “abrazos, no balazos” – hugs, not bullets – turned his administration into the most violent since the Cristero War and the Mexican Revolution. But despite his failures, he has never stopped blaming his predecessors.

“We still have to deal with the pigsty they left us,” he said during one of his morning news conferences. That “pigsty” was created, in part, when García Luna held the country's top police jobs. He was director of the Federal Investigations Agency 2001-2006, during the presidency of Vicente Fox, a member of the PAN party. And he was Secretary of Public Safety 2006-2012 under President Felipe Calderón.

There's no doubt the so-called “war against narco” – which started under Calderón and extended into the 2012-2018 presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI party – has been a national tragedy and caused hundreds of thousands of dead. But it is also true that López Obrador promised during his last presidential campaign to end that violence. And he has not. “I am going to bring peace. That is my promise,” he said in January 2018. “By the midpoint of my six-year term, there will be no war.”

AMLO did not fulfill his promise.

We're past that midpoint, the war continues under different names and the violence is worse than ever. The numbers don't lie. Since López Obrador became president, 139,077 Mexicans have been murdered, according to government figures. That's more than the 124,478 murders during the Peña Nieto government and more than the 121,683 during the Calderón presidency, according to the official figures.

López Obrador's diagnosis of the cause of the violence was correct. But he did not know what to do about it. The result is a country overwhelmed by crime, with drug cartels controlling parts of cities and the countryside, with an extremely dangerous absence of government authority in large regions and a terrifying outlook. This year already started bad, with 2,582 murders in January, more than the 2,426 reported in January 2022.

Violence has become normal in Mexico. And we're no longer surprised if a murder, a kidnapping, a theft or an extortion hits close to our family.

Some of us have warned the president that his strategy is generating more murders than any other administration – I went to four of his morning news conferences to tell him – but he does not pay attention. If this continues, his six-year term could end up with nearly 190,000 dead.

Despite the terrible results of his national security strategy, AMLO refuses to correct his path. He has militarized the country and the National Guard, and his idea of investing in the most vulnerable areas and groups to reduce violence could need decades before we know whether it works.

We have to be realistic and admit that AMLO is not going to be the president who ended violence in Mexico. History will mark his six-year term as the bloodiest of the century. His big failure was having the correct diagnosis, the time to do it, the support of the majority of the people, the resources of the government … and being dismally wrong in the strategy and execution. That has given us a country full of graves and dead.

And since AMLO has no solution for the violence, we must look for someone who could do it, and concentrate on possible candidates for the presidency in 2024. The next leader of Mexico must make it his or her priority to stop the murders of so many Mexicans.

We have to look to the future. The present is solidly stuck in formulas that don't work, lofty ideas, good intentions and useless recriminations of the past. Mexico needs new leaders with a clear goal: no more deaths.

The trial of García Luna was a shock to Mexican society because it bared the high levels of corruption in the government and the country. Instead of going after narcos, García Luna helped them. And clearly, he could not have acted alone. His trial uncovered a shameful network of accomplices. But his last government job was 11 years ago. How long can they use his trial to try to justify the failures of today's security strategy.

Blaming past governments for the current violence in Mexico is not a solution. It is an excuse. And that's not how you rule a country like ours.