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Following recent reports that the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is on pace to become the most violent presidency in Mexico’s recent history, a trend coupled with record-high levels of extortion and high-profile crimes like the June 20 murder of two Chihuahua priests, security experts have come out in condemnation of AMLO’s “hugs-not-bullets” policy.

“Four people are killed every day, from men and women to boys, girls, and now priests, and I think this tells us about the risk to the general population when violence is increasing and security seems to be decreasing,” security specialist Stephanie Henaro told Mexican daily newspaper El Universal.

“Violence in Mexico has been dragging on from previous administrations, but it is definitely exploiting this administration, since it has the highest number of homicides in history, I think that doing nothing to intervene or denying reality is only going to make the violence get worse,” he added, urging for the López Obrador administration to do away with its “hugs, not bullets” policy.

“This approach must definitely be left behind – it is being overtaken by reality and this government must give an intelligent response. Although we should avoid starting a war, the intelligence of this country must be strengthened so that justice can comply with its promises.”

Political analyst Alfonso Zárate also said that the purportedly benevolent policy must become a thing of the past, telling El Universal that “the way that the president defends his strategy of hugs, not bullets, is absurd.”

“His simplification is laughable. Nobody is asking that those criminals who torture, dismember and dissolve their victims in acid receive the same treatment,” said Zárate. “No one is demanding that evil be pitted against evil. The government, repository of legitimate violence, is required to apply the law that is established by Mexico’s legal codes, and that AMLO obeys what he promised when he took office as president: to comply with and enforce the law, and only that.”

Zárate’s take reflects a common critique of the AMLO administration, as López Obrador’s campaign promises of eliminating corruption and combating violence have been seemingly replaced by a laissez-faire attitude to these issues upon assuming office, even showing impunity to members of his family and party – unless the allegations concern a political opponent, that is.

“Leaving citizens to their own fate in cities like Aguilill, and not persisting in the arrest of crime lord Ovidio ‘El Ratón’ Guzmán López (is dangerous) because it not only sends a signal to criminal organizations that if they increase violence they can achieve their goals, but it leaves citizens in a defenseless state,” said security academic Víctor Sánchez Valdez, calling for an overhaul of Mexico’s entire security policy to combat the problem through heightened intelligence and strategies to stop the source of cartel financing. 

“The government’s action needs to be focused on the most violent organizations, not the other way around, because this encourages all organizations not to be the most violent precisely because the authority is going to go against them, then it will be a process of self-regulation between these criminal organizations to try not to be the most violent and not draw the attention of the authorities, and, obviously, not to become a target for the federal government,” concluded Sánchez Valdez.


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