By MARK LORENZANA
With his popularity dropping, violence growing and the country’s economy crashing, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) on the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 1, tried his hardest to put a positive spin on his administration’s shortcomings through his State of the Nation Address (Informe de Gobierno) at the National Palace in Mexico City.
The 50-minute speech touched on a myriad of topics, but offered nothing new, which included López Obrador claiming — without showing any proof — that he has managed to reduce poverty, add more jobs, diminish crime and homicides and increase public infrastructure in Mexico, among other accomplishments.
One of the most anticipated announcements in his address, however, was AMLO’s plan to transfer the security functions of the Mexican National Guard (GN) to the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), which he originally floated in June 2021, and again reiterated in August of this year.
In his address on Thursday, López Obrador insisted that incorporating the GN into Sedena will not increase militarization, but will prevent it from becoming corrupt. AMLO likewise claimed that because the GN already has more elements in 19 states, even more than the state police, “it is necessary to monitor their healthy growth.”
“For this reason, yesterday (Wednesday) I sent to Congress an initiative for comprehensive legal reform, with the purpose of making the National Guard part of Sedena, with the sole desire to consolidate it, to maintain its discipline and professionalism,” López Obrador said. “Above all, so that the National Guard does not become corrupted, which was what happened with the old federal police. The purpose is not to militarize or go to authoritarianism, but the healthy growth of what should be the country’s main public security institution.”
López Obrador’s proposal to Congress states that Sedena would assume operational, financial and administrative control of the GN, and that the commander of the GN be approved as division general and admiral.
The Mexican Constitution, however, states that the GN is a civil body that must be subordinate to the people — civilians — and that it must exist as a civil police force, not a military one.
Speaking about the economy, AMLO admitted that “the Mexican economy has crashed,” but claimed that the country has rebounded and had “already managed to recover economically to pre-covid levels.” He touted his efforts in reducing inequality and poverty, as well as better distribution of income.
Again, these claims, however, were not backed by López Obrador with data. On the contrary, he said that his government was “not obsessed with measuring everything with indicators.”
“In the new moral and social economic policy that we have applied since the beginning of our government, the technocratic obsession of measuring everything based on growth indicators that do not necessarily reflect social realities has been discarded,” AMLO said. “We believe that what is fundamental is not quantitative, but qualitative. Economic growth and increases in the productivity of competitiveness do not make sense as objectives in themselves, but as means to achieve a higher purpose: the general well-being of the population, and even more precisely the material well-being and the well-being of the soul.”
AMLO also boasted of having saved the nation’s coffers 300 billion pesos “because of republican austerity,” and said that if not for the gasoline subsidy, “inflation would have reached 14 percent.” True to form, López Obrador likewise blamed former Presidents Vicente Fox, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, saying that it was during their respective terms that violence in the country grew, conveniently forgetting that his controversial “hugs not bullets” approach has led to the explosion of homicides, femicides, journalist killings and cartel violence in the country.
Since López Obrador took office in 2018, he has unofficially reported every three months on the progress of his administration, but Thursday’s report was his fourth official State of the Nation Address. During Thursday’s address, only the officials closest to AMLO attended, since neither governors nor businessmen were invited.