By RICARDO CASTILLO
As Mexico tries to get back as close as possible to doing business the way it did just three months ago, the division of opinions of how to go about it is growing exponentially on all fronts. The big question is: How soon is soon enough to open back up for business?
On the first front. there is the official pandemic control czar, Hugo López-Gatell, who has recognized that his crystal ball maybe was a little hasty when he set May 30 as the date to start ending the lockdown. Now that reality is catching up with his forecasts, he’d rather call for an extension of the lockdown, since the number of infected and dead Mexicans keeps growing by the day.
On an opposite front are López-Gatell’s contradicting experts, namely several former health secretaries, including Miami University Dean Julio Frenk, who served under the chatterbox former Mexican President Vicente Fox, and Salomón Chertorivski and José Narro, who served under Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, respectively.
Al three are now decrying for political gain the results of the Mexican government’s pandemic management. These former health secretaries, have no political clout, but their constant chiseling away at the current government’s credibility is definitely making a lot of chinks on the political stone.
It must be said that an exception has been another former health secretary under former President Felipe Calderón, José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, who has said that the path being taken by the Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) government “is the correct one.”
On a third front are the governors of 32 states, who are facing the real deal of economic turndown. On Tuesday, May 26, they met with Mexican Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero to come up with the traffic light program that will signal when to reopen, starting on Monday. June 1. (Sunday, May 31, is apparently an official day off for all Mexicans, but not for the coronavirus.)
Each governor, it must be said, has a plan for their respective state, but the federal government has insisted on having some say over each state’s back-to-business plan. The problem is that the divide existing among the governors, who come from different political parties, has created gorges of diverse views, as was apparent during their meeting with Sánchez Cordero.
The 10 governors belonging to the National Action Party (PAN) are all for a gradual opening – not too fast, but not too slow – while the 12 governors from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the six from the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) would rather wait and maintain a continued lockdown to prevent a sudden rebound of infections.
The governor of the Citizen’s Movement (MC), the independent governor and the one belonging to the Social Encounter Party (PES) would also rather wait than rush into a potential resurging of the pandemic.
At the meeting of the National Governors’ Conference (Conago), which included all 32 governors, it was clear to Sánchez Cordero that they are in a hurry to reopen their economies, and she has until Thursday, May 28, to make the traffic light program for each state available and public.
The one thing everyone agreed upon was that each state represents a different case of circumstances and must be treated separately.
López-Gatell said Tuesday in his daily evening press conference that there are some Mexican states that show a decreasing number of infections and deaths, with no shortages of hospital beds. He mentioned specifically the states of Colima, Chiapas and Chihuahua. Nevertheless, he said, “on June 1, we will definitely not be back to normal.”
At the Conago gathering, most of the governors called on the government to revise the way the cases, intubations are deaths are being tallied, with some echoing – according to their political party – the complains raised by the former health secretaries. The governors pointed to “inconsistencies” in López-Gatell’s counting method, referring to it as the leading obstacle to establishing a homogenous, nationwide strategy to fight the disease.
Even still, the reopening of the Mexican economy will certainly be easier said than done. Any wrong move could lead to a pandemic rebound, and the political careers of each of the governors will depend on how each straddles this delicate tightwire.
Then there are the businessmen who are in a hurry to get back to making money. Most noteworthy are the auto assembly plants in the states of Puebla, Guanajuato, the State of Mexico and Sonora. Puebla, which had originally banned any return to work for the Volkswagen and Audi auto assembly plants, has now accepted a return to work with the car manufacturers working at a 30 percent capacity and within strict sanitary controls, including safe distancing of workers, nose and mouth covering masks and lots of sanitizing gel for constant hand-cleansing.
Certainly, all of the maquiladoras along the Mexican cities bordering with the United States want to get back on line immediately because with United States lifting the the stay-home order, they expect a surge in consumption right away.
Another priority for Mexican states is the reopening of their tourism and hospitality services, most of which are near bankruptcy and urgently need to start making money again. Top emergency priorities, as voiced by their governors, are the states of Quintana Roo, Guerrero, Baja California Sur, Jalisco and Nayarit.
López-Gatell said on Tuesday, May 26, that “the way this is going to happen is that in each of the 32 states we will be presenting a report on covid-19 contagion.”
“The traffic light determination will be based on risk,” he said to the governors.
“Do not have your citizens think that on June 1, we’re getting back to normality, nor that we are going back to doing all the activities we carried out before. That’s not going to happen.”
Most definitely, Lpez-Gatell is today the target of ´nearly every political sniper – and the nation is full of them – with the mission impossible job of bringing order to a disorderly nation.
…May 28, 2020