By THE PULSE NEWS MEXICO STAFF
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) announced on Tuesday, March 12, that his government will be closing 5,000 government operated soup kitchens nationwide this year.
The community kitchens were operated by the now-defunct Secretariat of Social Development (Sedesol), which has been replaced by AMLO’s Secretariat of Wellbeing.
They fed an average of 500,000 underprivileged Mexicans each day.
But under AMLO’s austerity-conscious federal budget for 2019, there is no longer any funding allocated to maintain this feed-the-poor program in 2019.
Last year, under the administration of previous Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, the kitchens received more than 2.3 billion pesos to provide food to the hungry.
The soup kitchen program was initiated in 2013 under Peña Nieto to provide basic nourishment to economically strapped Mexicans of all ages.
According to date provided by Sedesol, last year each government-operated soup kitchen provided an average of 120 meals a day, or a total of more than 622,000 meals daily.
Notwithstanding, AMLO, who was elected on a populist ticket with a promise to provide for Mexico’s poor, said during his daily morning press conference Tuesday that the program was “ineffective” and “only served to increase poverty and social inequality.”
He also said that he his administration is currently investigating allegations of misappropriation of funds within Sedesol.
The president said that he firmly believed Sedesol money that should have gone to feed the hungry was diverted for personal gain by members of Sedesol.
“There is no longer any Sedesol,” he said.
“We have brought to an end 30 years of programs that only served to encourage corruption by exploiting the poor. All that has come to an end.”
López Obrador said that in the near future he would present evidence of his claims of corruption within Sedesol and announce new measures to provide food and resources to the nation’s poor.
According to United Nations figures, 46 percent of Mexicans live below the poverty line and nearly 10 percent live in extreme poverty. About 10 percent of Mexicans do not have adequate access to food, and 25 percent suffer from poor nutrition.
The largest geographic pockets of poverty and extreme poverty in Mexico are located in rural areas of the country, particularly among indigenous communities.
The president’s announcement to suspend the soup kitchen program was met with immediate protests from human rights and civic organizations, many of which have likewise condemned his controversial decision to halt government funding for daycare centers and battered women shelters.
Even Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum, who was elected to office under the banner of AMLO’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena), contradicted the president later in the day, declaring that existing soup kitchens in the capital would continue in operations, with the exception of those that have been proven to be fronts for corruption.