December in Mexico began with a scathing review of its approach to tackling violent drug cartels. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, commonly referred to as AMLO, vowed to be the president of “hugs, not bullets” in response to Mexico’s surging criminal violence. However, this approach has now been brought into question as the Mexican Secretariat of Public Security reported 127 homicides on December 1st – the most violent day in the country’s peacetime history.
According to Reuters, this surge in homicide emerged as 60 gunmen garbed in military-style uniforms rode into Villa Unión, a small town in the Northern state of Coahuila. The gunmen belong to Cártel del Noreste, which is suspected to be a local drug cartel. They allegedly attacked the office of the mayor and fought the police for 90 minutes, killing 20. This combined with several other security lapses across Mexico contributed to a murderous start to December. Ironically, President AMLO’s first anniversary as president coincided with the most violent day in Mexico’s recorded peacetime history. In response to this surge in violence, he acknowledged that his policy prescriptions are in a period of transition: “One year ago, in this same place, I made 100 commitments with the people of Mexico. Today I can say we have accomplished 89 and only 11 remain pending. In these first 12 months, we’ve made progress, but are still on a period of transition.”
While the current Mexican president has since lost some support, many Mexicans have decided to agree with him, allowing AMLO to maintain popular support, as reported by Reuters. “Of course he has still, a long way to go, but when you do things differently everything goes slowly and as people get involved, as things change, he is going to achieve his objectives,” said Patricia Rodriguez to an Al Jazeera reporter.
In response to another instance of violence in Mexico earlier this year, U.S. President Donald Trump offered to assist the Mexican government through Twitter: “If Mexico needs or requests help in cleaning out these monsters, the United States stands ready, willing and able to do the job quickly and effectively,” adding that “…you sometimes need an army to defeat an army.” This contradicts President AMLO’s “hugs, not bullets” approach, which is why he vehemently opposed the U.S. president’s help: “The worst thing you can have is war.”
It is important to acknowledge that inequality and corruption are problems that have plagued Mexico for a very long time. Patricia Rodriguez’s comment to the Al Jazeera reporter sums up my view on this issue: “When you do things differently everything goes slowly.” While President Trump’s suggestion to “defeat an army with an army” may yield short-term results, inequality and corruption will continue pushing vulnerable Mexicans into violent drug cartels in the long run. Ultimately, “hugs, not bullets” is a step in the right direction, however, President AMLO needs to further concentrate his efforts on stopping this vicious cycle of violence in the long run.
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