Mexican Delusions: López Obrador's Twisted Idea Of Progress

The Mexican president's overhaul of public life is riding roughshod over interests, including those of the poor, his own voters, and a 'defenseless' middle class.

AMLO last month at Santa Lucía Air Force Base
AMLO last month at Santa Lucía Air Force Base
Luis Rubio


MEXICO CITY — In a now familiar episode in Don Quixote, the 17th-century novel by Miguel de Cervantes, his delusional hero vows to fight some windmills he declares to be giants. Undeterred by his squire's observation that these are "not giants, but windmills," he shouts at them, "do not flee, you cowardly and vile creatures, for it's just one knight attacking you!".

What President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has pitched as the fourth transformation of Mexico — after independence from Spain, the liberal reforms that broke the church's dominance in the 1850s and the 1910-1917 revolution — is progressing in a similarly hasty and relentless manner, leaving victims by the wayside. Like Don Quixote, its progress is nothing but smooth but there is no doubt that deliberately provoking confrontation is part of the presidential plan. And its result is to pile up resentment, economic damage and potential disagreement.

The list of those affected is already shockingly long. The closure of public daycare centers is depriving children of a safe and creative place to spend the day while their mothers work. Their mothers will in turn find it much harder to work, which affects the family economy. Avocado exporters see their products rot away for the slow pace of U.S. customs, but the Mexican government does nothing about it. Residents of the border region have seen tens of thousands of Central American migrants arrive without any infrastructure to accommodate them or work opportunities.

The list goes on. It includes all those abruptly dismissed from government service, without compensation or alternative jobs. Those who have suffered pay cuts, losing acquired rights, with an overnight decision. Women subjected to domestic violence now deprived of safe houses where they can stay.

Street scene in Guanajuato, Mexico — Photo: Dennis Schrader

Newborns deprived of a successful future — because curable birth defects will not be detected because of the end of neonatal screening. Citizens who can no longer count on the protection of key counterweights in the economy or a Supreme Court fully independent of the executive. Energy sector contractors facing threats in spite of honoring their commitments, or all the children deprived of hopes of better schooling, because the president is pandering to abusive trade unions. Falling consumption levels that affect the poorest, and rising uncertainty that halts investments. Or the former civil servants who have had their integrity and reputations besmirched in ways the president could not conceive of.

Attacks may work in a political project, but not in the economy nor at this point in history.

The list is perhaps longer than what the president himself imagines. Many, indeed the vast majority, are part of his natural support base, and the most vulnerable are precisely those who need economic growth and its benefits in the form of revenues and jobs. The president is absolutely committed to boosting growth, but as the saying goes, you won't get from here to there along this path.

There is no progress when your every other step does harm. Attacks may work in a political project, but not in the economy nor at this point in history. For investors must be able to hope for returns to accept the risks of investing. There must be markets for their products, obstacles to business growth must be removed and the bureaucracy prevented from making obstacles up. It is no coincidence that all governments, bar a couple of telling examples like North Korea or Venezuela, literally devote themselves to attracting companies and investment with resources and careful strategies.

As losses multiply and the checks and balances regime becomes weaker every day, the economy, if not the entire country, is losing viability. We're on the wrong path.

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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