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On Thursday, Aug. 18, the daily American newspaper Dallas Morning News released an in-depth editorial critiquing the controversial “hugs, not bullets” policy against violence that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has adopted throughout his administration.

AMLO’s approach toward Mexico’s enduring violence crisis was only further thrust into the spotlight on Thursday, Aug. 11, when a lethal incident purportedly caused by organized crime left 11 dead in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juárez and prompted international outlets like the Dallas Morning News to pick up the story.

According to the Dallas Morning News, the presently strained relationship between the Mexican and U.S. governments has only exacerbated violence on the border in places like Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, as the countries’ respective law enforcement agencies are not currently in a place of collaboration or cooperation to help resolve the issue.

The newspaper went on to mention that while López Obrador ran on campaign promises of ending violence by addressing its root causes and reducing the military presence across Mexico, neither has happened.

In fact, AMLO was directly responsible for establishing the National Guard (GN), a domestic police force that was intended to “de-escalate the war on drugs” that the Mexican executive now intends to absorb into the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), effectively militarizing the group

The Dallas Morning News likewise detailed the fact that the National Guard is mainly composed of “former soldiers and police officers, and it has already been accused of hundreds of human-rights violations.”

All of this while Mexico’s violence problem continues to grow; Mexico’s homicide rate is only on the rise, registering more than 44,000 violent deaths in 2021 alone while AMLO himself is on track for the most violent presidency in Mexico’s recent history. Not to mention the continued expansion of violent organized crime groups like the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which has become known for its use of military-grade weaponry and its appetite for violence.

But López Obrador has only doubled-down on his “hugs, not bullets” approach, with his government confirming as recently as Monday, Aug. 15 – just days after the mass murder in Ciudad Juárez – that they would continue with this laissez faire policy moving forward.

Now, under AMLO’s watch, organized crime has spread its presence across the country into new regions and currently holds influence across 40 percent of Mexican territory.

“Drug-related violence is showing up in places usually unheard of, including the city of Guadalajara,” wrote the Dallas Morning News. “A few days ago, the CJNG made a show of force by blocking streets, burning cars and attacking stores to avoid the capture of its two leaders. Clearly what organized crime groups are perceiving from the government is permissiveness.”

The Dallas Morning News presented two potential solutions to this problem for the Mexican government: rejuvenate and embrace the overlooked Mérida Initiative, or follow through on López Obrador’s promises to attack the causes of Mexican violence at their roots rather than just using them as talking points.

However, given AMLO’s tendency to “attack his critics” and defend himself “by flaunting his high-approval poll numbers,” it seems unlikely that the Mexican executive will see his campaign promises through to fruition. 

“The problem is López Obrador is more concerned with optics than reality,” concluded the Dallas Morning News. “‘Hugs, not bullets’ is more mantra than policy, and the Mexican people are paying the price, even if their president does not want to admit it.”

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