In his article, “Three reasons Washington should care about Mexico’s meltdown,” Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at Wilson Center in Washington, portrays an erroneous vision of Mexico. There is no meltdown of Mexico. The article fails to mention the motivations that led an overwhelming majority of Mexican citizens to vote for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in July 2018.
The current president of Mexico’s commitment to fight corruption and reduce disparaging inequalities in Mexican society gave him a decisive victory with a clear majority of 53.1 percent of the vote. President López Obrador firmly believes that progress without justice is regressive. Therefore, the state has a key role in reducing social inequalities. Many of his policies need to be understood taking into account these overall considerations.
Two years after his victory, he has been able to advance the implementation of his vision, despite adverse circumstances generated by the COVID-19 pandemic. To some analysts, it seems odd that his administration has not incurred public debt and stimulus spending to support specific industries. However, blatant cases of mismanagement and graft in previous government efforts to respond to economic crises remain fresh in the collective memory of the Mexican society, making debt and spending a hard sell.
A priority of President López Obrador’s government has been to provide direct support through social programs for those in dire need as a form of stimulating mass consumption. Despite the pandemic’s impact, cash support programs for the most vulnerable have not been interrupted. Employment data have shown positive trends in recent months. Economic stimulus measures include credits for small and medium businesses in the formal and informal sectors to face the economic effects of the pandemic.
President López Obrador also has engaged in major infrastructure projects that ultimately will benefit entire regions of the country that have been historically overlooked.
Private investment, both national and foreign, is a key component of President López Obrador’s strategy. On Oct. 5, President López Obrador, joined by Mexican business leaders, presented a $14 billion program of 39 joint public-private infrastructure projects that have the potential of generating at least 185,000 jobs.
Investors understand that Mexico is a country of opportunities, given its location, natural resources, human capital and commitment to trade schemes that are beneficial not only for its people but for the North American region as a whole. Investor confidence remains high; as proof, despite the economic turmoil generated by the pandemic, the National Registry of Foreign Investments reported that in the first half of 2020, Mexico received a net total of foreign direct investment of $17.9 billion (only 0.7 percent less than in the same period of 2019). The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has opened opportunities for investment, providing certainty and taking into account the trend toward the regionalization of value chains.
In addition, Mexico’s president has implemented a comprehensive security strategy. Its focus is to dismantle drug cartels by emphasizing financial intelligence over the use of force, to avoid unnecessary harm to the population. Furthermore, he has strengthened institutions and is generating opportunities to distance society from crime.
Mexico’s commitment to fight corruption and reduce inequality is a shared goal with our North American partners. President López Obrador’s commitments and projects, which systematically receive domestic approval rates at or above 60 percent, certainly deserve greater attention and a balanced perspective by those who follow closely Mexican affairs.
Victor Arriaga is head of the press office of the Embassy of Mexico in the United States. Follow him on Twitter @VictorAArriaga2.