Leer en Español
The shortage of medicine is nothing new in Mexico, but the decisions of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) have worsened the situation, costing thousands of lives in addition to the deaths caused by the mismanagement of the pandemic. AMLO is, once again, an inept, who does not murder by design, but by incompetence.
Now, to add insult to injury, the Mexican government is compounding its failure with arrogance and paranoia, blaming patients and families for being part of an opposition plot. Yes, just like that.
On June 27, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, Undersecretary of Prevention and Health Promotion, participated in the program Chamuco TV, hosted by propagandists of the regime, and stated that: “the PRI and the PAN (…) are deeply hurt because we have changed the logic of acquiring medicines (…) then they created this formula of children with cancer who have no medicines”, adding that “this idea of children with cancer who have no medicines” is “part of a campaign, beyond the country, of international right-wing groups…already with an almost coup-like vision.”
However, the shortage of medicines is not a talking point fabricated by the opposition, which, by the way, lacks the talent to create something like that. No, the shortage of medicines is real and deepens with each new blunder of the López Obrador government.
This year, the consolidated purchase of medicines, which the Obradorian Government entrusted to the United Nations Office for Project Services, was 6 months behind schedule, in spite of which they only awarded contracts for 55% of the 1,184 keys (medicines, then) that are needed in the country.
Among the missing medicines are human insulin (for diabetes), propofol (analgesic for mechanical ventilation, essential in severe cases of COVID-19) and even basic medicines such as diclofenac, amoxicillin and even acetylsalicylic Acid. This means, quite literally, that the great government procurement that AMLO entrusted to the UN could not even get an aspirin.
This shortage of medicine takes on truly tragic overtones when it comes to deadly diseases. The lack of oncological medicines has become a constant torment since the Obrador government began, and the situation is only getting worse: In 2020 the NGO “Cero Desabasto” registered an annual increase of 400 % in the report of lack of cancer medicines.
Officials respond with pretexts and promises, including that of the President himself, who said in his June 16th conference that the medicines would be ready in the following week, but, two weeks later they have yet to arrive.
Faced with the shortage of medicines, the mobilization
Meanwhile, desperation is shaping the citizens’ response. On June 30, dozens of parents of children with cancer, who are not receiving medicines, despite the pretexts and promises of President López Obrador, blocked the access to Terminal 1 of the Mexico City International Airport (AICM), because, as they explained with their hearts in their hands, “children are still dying” without receiving the medicines that had never before been lacking at this level.
Critical voices are raising even among the allies of the pro-worker regime. Journalist Federico Arreola, one of the most loyal defenders of the President of Mexico, published a brief but lapidary column acknowledging the shortage of medicines, from which he suffers in his own flesh because one of his grandchildren requires injectable Methotrexate for the treatment of systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis. Behind the scenes, many AMLO supporters acknowledge that the shortage of medicines is a very serious mistake by the Government.
The source of the problem: a whim
First of all, it should be made clear that it is not a lack of money. In Mexico, there is plenty of funds, at least for the president’s whims. Lopez Obrador is a baseball fan, so the federal government bought two stadiums of the king of sports for the “modest” amount of $1 billion Mexican pesos, and even the IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute), the main focus of complaints about medicine shortages, has the money to spend more than 10.3 million Mexican pesos on a “preparation camp for youth baseball excellence.”
The problem is that President López Obrador paralyzed the purchase of medicines from national suppliers, because they were supposedly “corrupt”, and has been trying for two and a half years to fix the mess he made because buying medicines on a large scale is not something that can be solved with a phone call or a visit to Walgreens.
On the contrary, it requires enormous logistical capacity, both for the production and distribution of the drugs. Such capacity already existed, and worked relatively well, but AMLO chose not to use it to punish the alleged beneficiaries of the old regime. In reality, the ones he punished were the patients and their families.
Eventually, the Mexican government came up with the idea that the consolidated purchase of medicines would be handled by a United Nations office, an idea that sounded good in theory, but has turned out to be disastrous in practice, as we are halfway through the year and they still have not arrived.
Mexican government officials offer that in the next few months the supply will be regularized and there will be medicines again, as was the case before López Obrador took control of the country. However, for thousands of Mexicans, this solution will come too late. Thousands will lose their lives and many more will have suffered irreversible damage and enormous suffering for which there was no need.
In 2015, when from the opposition he could say whatever nonsense he could think of, López Obrador had promised that “when Morena wins and the corruption in the purchase of medicines is over, it will be enough to guarantee universal free medicines.” Well, Morena won and, according to him, corruption has already been defeated. However, there are no results, there is no improvement and, most seriously, there are no medicines. There is, actually, nothing but ineptness.
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”