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The Sum Total Of The Dead

The deaths from the pandemic in Mexico are a national tragedy and the numbers look bad compared to other countries with similar populations.
Jorge Ramos in an Emmy-award winning Univision network news anchor.
Family members carefully collect sunflowers, petals to be buried atop the grave of Luz Maria Gonzalez, during her cross raising ceremony in the family home in Valle de Chalco, on the outskirts of Mexico City, Friday, July 3, 2020. Crédito: Rebecca Blackwell / AP

It is a terrible and painful failure. There is no way to portray the more than 41,000 dead from the pandemic and the 55,000 dead from the violence as a success for the strategies of the Andrés Manuel López Obrador government.

The dead from the violence and coronavirus in Mexico cannot be hidden. They were part of us, and they leave an enormous vacuum. There are many excuses and explanations for why so many Mexicans are dying in such a short period. The López Obrador government often blames old enemies. But the reality is that many of those deaths could have been avoided.

No matter how you look at it, the deaths from the pandemic are a national tragedy. AMLO says it's not fair to compare the number of dead in Mexico with those of countries with smaller populations. So I got to work comparing Mexico and countries with similar populations, using data from the independent organization Worldometer.

As of July 24, Mexico (with a population of 129 million) had 370,712 cases of coronavirus and 41,908 deaths from Covid-19. In contrast, Japan (with 126 million people) had only 27,029 cases of virus and 990 deaths.

Mexico also fares badly when compared to other countries with similar populations. Bangladesh (with 164 million people) reported only 2,836 deaths from Covid-19. The Philippines (with 109 million people) had 1,879 dead. And Ethiopia (with 115 million people) had only 197 dead. In other words, there is no way to justify the lethality of the virus in a country the size of Mexico.

We have to admit it. What was done, did not work. Even though López Obrador affirmed that “we're good, the epidemic has been controlled,” the harsh reality says otherwise. The Centinela system never gave us a clear idea of the true dimension of the problem, and it was an illusion to say, “we're good” just because the hospital system had not been overwhelmed. The tragedy is measured in graves, not empty beds.

They said so many times that the curve of the coronavirus had been flattened – when it was not true – that the government lost its credibility. AMLO was wrong when he declared on March 22 that “if you have the means, keep taking the family to eat at restaurants and cafes,” He said that 11 days after the World Health Organization announced a global emergency for the pandemic. He took too long to react.

And Lopez Obrador, a master at managing symbols, did not want to put on a mask in public until he boarded an airplane July 4 for his visit to Trump. Masks save lives, but for whatever odd reasons he was not seen wearing one for months. By then, the pandemic already ruled Mexico.

Also failed is president López Obrador's strategy for confronting the violence. Since he became president on Dec. 1 2018, until June 30 of this year, 55,043 Mexicans have been murdered, according to official figures. His first year in the presidency was more violent than any year under former presidents Enrique Peña Nieto or Felipe Calderón. And things are not getting any better. From January to June of this year there were more murders than in the same period in 2019 – 17,493 compared to 17,205.

Those are simple facts. This is a failure. AMLO has not been able to control crime.

At the heart of the problem is the absence of a clear, effective and public strategy. Is the new National Guard in charge of fighting the drug cartels, or is it the army and navy? What's the real meaning of that phrase, “hugs, not bullets.” What's the plan for countering the power and defiance shown in a recent video by the Jalisco Nueva Generacion cartel? Which criminals are freed, and which are persecuted?

Like everyone else, I know about the accusations against Genaro García Luna, Secretary for Public Security during the presidency of Felipe Calderón, of taking bribes from drug traffickers. That is very grave. It is, indeed, an old and lost war. But that does not justify the errors made or the number of murders in the last 18 months.

The sum total of the dead does not lie. There are no other facts.

The time of excuses is over. This is the time for results. AMLO should serve all of his six years in the presidency, until 2024. Not one day less. That is the only way to protect and strengthen a democracy. But, at the same time, AMLO should assume the responsibility of his principal duty: protecting the lives of Mexicans. Until now, on that so very important job, he has failed.