Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is like many other politicians in one respect: his first 100 days are considered a milestone, and time for a report card.
The period was filled with announcements and proclamations, most of which won’t ever see the light of day, writes Jorge G. Castañeda in a New York Times op-ed published Tuesday.
Lopez Obrador campaigned on transforming Mexico, which was welcome news to a public tired of corruption and inequality.
In office since Dec. 1, he made bold moves, stripping his predecessors’ pensions, flying coach and opening Mexico’s presidential palace to the public as a museum. But the op-ed writer, Mexico’s foreign minister from 2000 to 2003 and a professor at New York University, is skeptical.
“He has made a few decisions, most of them unwise, and promised practically everything under the sun, including a Scandinavian-style health care system for everyone,” said Castañeda. “And while he has drawn huge popular support, actual applied policies are still few and far between, and that is not a good thing for a country facing as many challenges as Mexico.”
“Aside from firing a large number of civil servants, only three decisions have actually been put in practice: one offensive, one absurd and another praiseworthy,” Castañeda states.
Castañeda takes a dim view of the policy to host asylum-seekers headed to the United States. The same with his cancellation of the new Mexico City airport, as it was being built.
While that decision dents the nation’s budget and market performance, AMLO also raised Mexico’s miserly minimum wage nationally. That decision was “wise and timely,” Castañeda admits.
But he ticks off several more expensive propositions: a new crime-fighting National Guard, pensions for the elderly, scholarships to high school students, financial assistance to handicapped people and paid apprenticeships for the roughly 3 million unemployed youths.
AMLO also plans a Mayan Train on the Yucatán Peninsula, a new oil refinery in his home state of Tabasco and a Trans-Isthmus railroad to compete with the Panama Canal. He is trying to establish a parallel system of power and government in each of Mexico’s 32 states, naming a personal delegate in each. And he intends to pull back funding from social, civil and nongovernmental organizations.
“As a result, funds for pre-existing social programs, such as for victims of domestic violence and day-care centers, have been cut and will instead be delivered directly to users (in theory),” said the author.
But government revenues were down 7.5 percent in January, a month the economy barely grew. Carlos Salinas in 1988-99 and Felipe Calderón in 2006-07 had significant first-hundred days. But “in Mr. Lopez Obrador’s case the sheer incompetence of his cabinet is a major obstacle to his promises becoming policies.”
“He has shown authoritarian, demagogic inclinations, and there are virtually no institutional counterweights in Mexico today. Mr. Lopez Obrador is filling Supreme Court vacancies with his supporters, and the political opposition is in complete disarray. The only opposition exists in the markets and the punditocracy,” he adds.