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How Mexico Became a Cartoon

México es una caricatura

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[Leer en español]

Mexico is a cartoon, and not a pretty one like Speedy Gonzalez, but rather a twisted and nihilistic one like Rick and Morty. And the most recent episode is the strangest, most absurd, and hopeless of them all.

The day started, literally, with a cartoon. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) used his morning conference to put on scenes from Top Cat under the pretext of “honoring” the dubbing actor Jorge Arvizu. Literally, López Obrador said: “Let’s see if Benny is not here, it was Benny, wasn’t it? but his voice. Let’s see, put Benny on, let’s see if we can hear it. Benny was the nicest one on Top Cat because he had a very peculiar voice in one of those.”

It would be a merely curious detail if AMLO were the announcer of the hour of nostalgia, but he is the president of a country where the economic crisis is at its worst levels in decades, insecurity is breaking records and the COVID-19 pandemic is advancing relentlessly. And the president? Planting trees, playing baseball and watching TV.

Prioridades, literalmente, de caricatura. Imagen: Gobierno de México. México es una caricatura.
(Mexican Government)

The pandemic, impunity, and “coincidences”

As for the coronavirus, on January 14th, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published a report showing that the damage from the pandemic is much greater than authorities acknowledge. During 2020 there were up to 300,000 deaths above average. That means that the actual number of deaths from COVID-19 may be more than double the 137,000 officially recognized by the government (as of January 14th) and that they have the country with the fourth most deaths in the world.

What the WSJ journalists point out is no surprise to millions of Mexicans: people cannot afford to go to private hospitals, but they don’t go to public ones either because they consider them “a death sentence.”

Speaking of deaths, that same day U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau revealed that the Trump Administration offered its southern neighbor non-intrusive equipment to control arms trafficking on the border, but Mexico did not accept it.

The Mexican government’s stonewalling is cartoon-ish, especially since Mexico has been justifying its own incompetence in public security matters for decades on the pretext that the problem is weapons coming from the north. Now, they are refusing to strengthen collaboration to prevent that same arms trafficking.

The script of the cartoon became much clearer in the afternoon of that same day when the Attorney General’s Office announced that they would not prosecute General Salvador Cienfuegos, who a few months ago was arrested in the United States for drug trafficking and then returned to Mexico after an opaque negotiation between the Trump administration and the government of López Obrador, whose foreign minister had declared weeks earlier that exonerating Cienfuegos would be “almost suicidal.”

In response to the predictable but absurd decision of the Mexican government, the U.S. Department of Justice replied that it reserves the right to restart the process against Cienfuegos. Obviously, the general will not go on vacation to Disneyland again and will stay in Mexico.

Also that day journalist Carlos Loret announced that the federal government is allocating almost $6 million (112 million pesos) in public works in the area near the “La Chingada” ranch owned by President López Obrador, whose value will increase dramatically thanks to the work done with taxpayers’ money. As they would say in Mexico, that’s a piece of… well, you know.

Mexico is a cartoon - Cienfuegos -El American (Efe)
Cienfuegos, free and without accusations hovering over him (EFE)

Mexico makes a terrible cartoon

Mexico seems condemned to continue wasting the enormous competitive advantages that being a neighbor of the United States provides it with. In fact, for the last two years, the Mexican government seems intent on demolishing the institutional modernization that emerged as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It seems that the plan is to return the country to the disastrous Latin American model of centralism, socialism, authoritarianism and political capriciousness.

It is not just López Obrador. The opposition also seems to have taken a page from a discarded script from a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, unable to recognize its own mistakes and connect authentically with a society that observes what is going on with a mixture of cynicism and despair, while running out of credible options in the face of the June 6th elections, in which the Chamber of Deputies, almost all the state legislatures, 15 governorships and thousands of mayoralties will be renewed.

Yes, Mexico is a cartoon, but it is not Speedy Gonzalez, but more like Rick and Morty, where the protagonists visit other universes. But in this universe? What is left is holding on to the hope that eventually the country will manage to kick out the writers of this very bad cartoon.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”

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