It is his perfect weapon to play it safe and stay in power * The President is not concerned that the number of poor people grows, because the more poor there is, the more electoral clientele * There is no doubt that Mexico has an expert strategist, who has managed to hold captive between 22 and 25 million beneficiaries of his programs, all in order to stay on the presidential throne at all costs
MARCO ANTONIO FLORES***
The left in the world did not disappear when in 1989 the failure of socialism communism in the USSR was declared, with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, on the contrary, they only underwent transformations.
However, in Latin America, some countries did not learn the lesson, since Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua have been subjugated by radical “left” governments headed by famous dictators, whose main weapon is to subdue their peoples through the lack of freedoms and opportunities to have a better socio-economic level, that is, leaving them in perpetual poverty to continue manipulating them with gifts and crumbs, like “beans with weevils.”
It is also true that the left in Latin America have had different nuances.
In the 2000s, leftist candidates gained power, but exercised it with marked differences: Hugo Chávez, in Venezuela; Lula da Silva, in Brazil; Nestor Kirchner, in Argentina; Michellle Bachelet, in Chile, José Mujica, in Uruguay; Evo Morales, in Bolivia; Rafael Correa, in Ecuador, among others.
You cannot compare a radical left, like Chávez’s, with the moderate left of Lula da Silva or Bachelet. Each country has a different political and social reality. The same is still happening now, but the fundamental feature is whether it deals with democratic or non-democratic political systems.
The most complete examples of non-democratic are Venezuela, Nicaragua or Cuba. We have the example of a moderate left in Chile, with Boric, who has shown commitment and respect for institutions, human rights and freedoms. Petro and Lula, in Colombia and Brazil, respectively, seem to remain in this line of moderation.
POTENTIAL AUTHORITARIAN POPULIST
In Mexico, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had been considered center-left, however, he has had rudeness and actions that already place him as a potential authoritarian populist, or apprentice dictator, judging by the open intention to destroy democratic institutions, such as the INE and the Judiciary.
He has made public his strategy to stay in power at any cost. A confession of part relief of evidence, say the lawyers.
The undeniable popular support enjoyed and presumed by the President of the Republic, by the poorest and most ignorant in the country, is enough for him to attack the institutions at will.
In the morning of February 2, 2022, the confession was explicit: President López Obrador affirmed: “With the poor, out of 10 we can have the support of 9. With the middle-middle, upper and upper class, it may be that out of 10 we have the support of 1”.
He added that “by levels of schooling something similar happens and that the higher the grade, the less sympathy his movement has among people. We can tie at the bachelor’s level, but in the Master’s and PhD we lose”. That is why he is not concerned that the number of poor grows. The greater the poverty, the greater the electoral clientele.
His apparent contempt for diplomacy, education, health, science, democracy, the fair administration of justice, accountability and the real fight against impunity and corruption would also be understood.
FOR THE DESTRUCTION OF INSTITUTIONS
What the President said, in the morning of February 2, is relevant and would explain the destruction of national institutions. Their attacks on education, science, the middle classes and their interference in prestigious higher education and postgraduate schools such as UNAM, CIDE, ITAM, the persecution of scientists by the FGR. In the same way, his obsession with disappearing transparency and accountability would be understood, in this case wiping INAI off the map.
On January 4, 2023, the President recognized that part of his political strategy consists of helping low-income people, because they return support to the transformation.
He affirmed: “There is nothing that compensates or is equal to the satisfaction produced by the joy of helping humble people, poor people, not even all the gold in the world is worth that. But, in addition, helping the poor is safe”. He added: “Because you already know that when you need to defend, in this case, the transformation, you have their support.”
And he stressed: “Not so with sectors of the middle class, nor with those at the top, nor with the media, nor with the intelligentsia, so it is not a personal matter, it is a matter of political strategy.”
On that occasion, López Obrador criticized intellectuals and opponents of his government -he does it permanently-, he assures that they no longer have the relevance of past times.
“You don’t have to get so upset, they played a role at one time, especially in the neoliberal period. Now they no longer have the political importance or the creativity of before… their campaign against the ‘old regime press’ is another daily strategy”.
The question that arises is where is the slogan of the 4T: “Do not lie, do not steal and do not betray.” To affirm that the priority of this government is the fight against poverty, “First the poor”, is to be applauded, but increasing their number and not improving their socioeconomic status is a lie, an omission and even a betrayal”.
THERE ARE SIX MILLION NEWLY POOR
Mexico has a population of 130 million inhabitants, with more than half, 66.5 million, living in poverty and extreme poverty. Almost 6 million new poor between 2018 and 2023, officially recognized by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval). The number of Mexicans living in poverty went from 51.9 million to 55.7 million, and the percentage of the population in extreme poverty went from 7% to 8.5% in the same period for a total of 10.8 million.
Until 2018, federal social programs contributed to reducing poverty or improving effective access to rights. The most illustrative example is that of “Oportunidades-Prospera”, one of the social programs with international recognition, which had been sustained for 4 six-year terms, thanks to the fact that -it was scientifically proven- it contributed strongly to improving income, to reducing the educational gap, through effective access to social services, including the rights to education, health and non-discrimination. It also allowed real access to the right to nutritious and quality food. On the other hand, as of 2018, only the purpose of maintaining the “electoral clientele” is fulfilled. Proof of this is the percentage increase in deprivation “due to access to health services”. In the same way, the educational gap and access to nutritious and quality food increased
There are those who defend the policy of social programs as innovative aid to the most vulnerable classes. However, most of the programs existed for decades, but were not offered as a presidential handout.
The SEP-Cultura National Scholarship Program is 100% similar to the Universal Scholarship for Benito Juárez High School Students of the SEP, and the previous programs -the National Scholarship and the Universal Scholarship for Benito Juárez High School Students- are 98% similar to the ‘Youth Building the Future’ program.
Among the “novel” programs of the 4T, the following stand out: Manpower for the construction of rural roads; double the pension for the elderly and pensions for the disabled; planting trees (fruit and timber); scholarships of 2,400 pesos per month for university students, 3,600 pesos for apprentices in companies, and scholarships for high school students.
The former director of Coneval, Dr. Gonzalo Hernández Licona, was relieved, in a Mañanera, for making public hard data, which in July 2021 was endorsed by INEGI.
In the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (ENIGH) the following was revealed: “It is observed that the poorest Mexican households -specifically the poorest ten percent, who received government transfers- fell 32%. AMLO increased social programs compared to 2018, but reduced support for the poorest population. Where did the income from government programs go then? The richest households, decile X, increased by 93% what they received from government transfers between 2018 and 2021. Decile IX increased it by 148%, decile VIII by 145%. In other words, the 30 percent of the richest families in the country received an increase of 129% in the support of social programs and government scholarships. However, for the poorest 20 percent of families, government transfers fell.
It would be interesting to check that INEGI and Coneval made these references known in 2023. What we had, according to the ENIGH, was that total support for older adults increased 185% as of 2018, but while the increase for the first decile was 17%, for the richest decile it was 457%. In transfers for older adults, preference was given to those who earned the most.
In the case of the Oportunidades-Prospera program, which was eliminated in this administration, it was replaced since 2019 by three programs: Benito Juárez Scholarships for Basic Education, for Higher Secondary Education and Young People Writing the Future (university scholarships). The total amount was reduced by 35%, but the decrease was 63% for the poorest decile and there was an increase of 380% for the richest decile.
WITH AMLO THEY RECEIVE LESS SUPPORT
The conclusion of Dr. Hernández Licona was that “for the seventy percent of the poorest families, government support was reduced by 42% on average in this six-year term.”
He added: “I have had the opportunity to have the recent testimony of families in Morelos and Oaxaca who agree that today they receive less support for their children in primary, secondary and high school than they previously received with Prospera.”
There is no doubt that Mexico has an expert strategist as president, an entire “electoral engineer”, who has achieved an electoral clientele that ranges between 22 and 25 million beneficiaries of his programs, all for the sake of maintaining power at all costs.
Unfortunately for the future of the country it is about the poorest and most ignorant. The serious thing is that they do not realize that this conformity or “sympathy” for the government that gives them resources, condemns them to never get out of their poverty… and worse still: it condemns their children and grandchildren to suffer the same fate.
Faced with this social problem and economic inequality in the country, will there be a leader capable of stopping the fabrication of the poor and the destruction of the country? The opposition coalition Va por México has the last word. The country is bigger than all its problems, Mexico is above everything and there are still millions of citizens who hope to live better, to have aspirations for personal growth and to fight for the well-being of families, to seek self-improvement and economic growth and not to stagnate in conformism. We will be pending.
*** Consultant and Academic.