Photo: Maxim Tolchinskiy/Unsplash

By KELIN DILLON

In the two years of the current presidential administration, Mexico’s government only gave out scholarships to 10 percent of its disabled population, while cutting millions of pesos in funding from the organization that defends their human rights, leaving the country’s disabled community hung out to dry amid the devastating covid-19 pandemic.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography’s (Inegi) 2020 census, there are over 10.2 million disabled folks currently living in Mexico, a population that specialists say are now forgotten by a lack of public policy that should exist to help them with housing, work, schooling and the eradication of discrimination against them.

The Pension for the Welfare of People with Disabilities, the government’s main social program to service Mexico’s disabled community, only awarded money to approximately 850,000 people last year, a number that is 150,000 lower than its target of one million, and less than 10 percent of the disabled community.

The pension is controversially designed only to benefit those from age 0 to 29, while anyone over the age of 30 can only receive the funds if they live in a highly marginalized area, leaving a large segment of physically and mentally challenged Mexicans devoid from government help by design.

“In 2019, in the first year of its operation, the program run by the Secretariat of Welfare, although it provided support to 837,427 people, presented deficiencies in its design and implementation, which led to the failure to accredit compliance with its objectives of contributing to social welfare and equality, to the reduction of poverty and to access to a better quality of life for people with disabilities,” said the Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF) in its 2019 report.

Meanwhile, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (Coneval) pointed out the nation’s strategy for the disabled community does not clearly define its targeted population and does not have any clear indicators to show how the pension impacts the community, leaving disabled Mexicans with even more red tape to go about improving their lives.

The current government, led by leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has slashed budgets benefiting the disabled continually over the first two years of his six-year term, including eliminating the Trust for the General Baccalaureate, leaving almost a million young disabled people without the opportunity to further their education.

Similarly, the National Council for the Development and Inclusion of People with Disabilities (Conadis), the federal agency that coordinates with other government institutions to service this population, saw its budget slashed by 26.3 million pesos compared to what it was in 2018.

The agency also saw the removal of 25 employees over the last two years, leaving it with only 23 employees and still no government-appointed head.

“In the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, there was a decline in Conadis, in terms of actions and results, but with López Obrador, the agency has been completely abandoned. It does not have a head, but rather an office manager, its budget is every time less and the same has happened with the staff,” Ernesto Rosas, a member of the Mexican Confederation of Organizations in Favor of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (Confe), told El Universal. 

Experts on the topic also criticized the lack of the National Program for the Development and Inclusion of People with Disabilities in the Official Gazette of the Federation (DOF), which should outline the government’s six-year plan on the subject, though this can be attributed to the defunding of the Conadis, which usually handles its preparation. 

“We are part of a large population group that should receive quality care, because if we do not achieve the development of people with disabilities, progress in our country will not be achieved,” said Taide Buenfil, a former member of the Conadis Consultative Assembly. “If there are no public policies and there are no integration programs, we cannot be a productive and active part of our country.”

The very same assembly Buenfil once served on, which is made up of associations and specialists on the matter of disabilities, has not yet been integrated under the excuse of the covid-19 pandemic, setting back service to the disabled community even further.

“If we thought about human rights for people with disabilities to exercise their activities of daily life as cited by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we would be talking about a just and inclusive society, not giving them more or less, guaranteeing them what they as people deserve,” said expert Bermejo Molina, concluding the Mexicans with disabilities deserve the same rights and chance for life as every other Mexican.

…April 13, 2021

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