Navigating Mexico: Just How Free Is Mexico?
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREEN
Once again the U.S.-based Cato Institute thinktank — for the seventh year in a row — has published its yearly Human Freedom Index, known to political science students as the HFI.
The index measures 165 countries on 12 freedoms: rule of law, security and safety, movement, religion, civil society, expression, relationships, government size, legal systems, sound money, freedom of international trade and bureaucratic regulations.
Published in 2021, most of the data is from 2019 and 2020, covering the time when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) was just coming into office.
It should come as no surprise that Switzerland, New Zealand, and Denmark top the list of most-free nations, as they always have.
So how did Mexico fair?
It ranked in a dismal 93rd place out of 165 nations.
These countries were Mexico’s contemporaries in the index, right below Mexico: Lesotho, Malawi and Bolivia.
The three above were Jordan, Côte d’Ivoire, and the Philippines, not exactly how some might imagine the second-largest economy in Latin America.
Stacked up against other Latin American countries, Mexico ranked even lower. (Cuba was not on the index due to lack of data.)
When the index first reported back in 2015, Mexico was a leader in Latin America. Now, Chile and Uruguay are the gold star standards for Latin America.
So do Mexicans have a false sense of freedom?
Mexico’s highest categories — freedom of movement and freedom of association, assembly and civil society — may contribute to a false positive when in the same index the measures for rule of law and security and safety compare to many sub-Saharan African nations.
Who knows where Mexico will fall on the next human freedom index after the AMLO administration’s “hugs not bullets” policy is measured in with unprosecuted homicides reaching over 30,000 in 2021 and Mexico sadly taking first place in the number of reporters murdered in the world.
Still, on the World Happiness Report, Mexico typically ranks high.
In fact, Mexico came in at the 35th place in the last happiness index.
Perhaps a good portion of the population correlates freedom with the daily protest marches that create traffic chaos or the weekly circus in the political arena with senators behaving like middle school students, and a president who cheers them on.
Or perhaps that same sector of the population does not even realize its other hard-fought freedoms are slowly eroding away as other countries make progress in these areas, which is a very unsettling thought.
The concept of what constitutes personal freedom is relative, but when crime statistics are continually spiraling higher and media and opposition leaders are the constant targets of an ever-more-autocratic government, the illusion of freedom becomes ever more elusive.