On Sunday, elections in Mexico will take place for 3 400 seats at the local, state, and national levels in Mexico. But all eyes will be on the presidential election, which, according to the polls, will favour leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Lopez Obrador has adopted a policy of “Abrazos, no balazos”, meaning “hugs, not guns”, in seeking to overcome social challenges arising from the illegal drug trade in the region.
The candidate suggested that the fundamental reason for the escalating drug violence in Mexico – culminating in over 30 000 homicides in 2017 – is a result of the economic challenges facing youths in the state, which entice them to enter into the drug business. As a solution, Lopez Obrador has proposed to create more job opportunities and offer scholarships to the youths. In addition, Lopez Obrador has suggested new and innovative ways to combat drug violence, such as through offering amnesty for those involved in the drug business, and through methods of legalisation. So far, personal possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalised, and Lopez Obrador has stated that he will not rule out the possibility of further legalisation.
Although Lopez Obrador’s promises have largely involved achieving peace through non-violent means, the election itself has been encumbered by physical conflict. Over 130 election-related homicides have occurred in recent months leading up to Sunday’s election, including three women having been shot in a 24-hour period back in early June. These murders have mostly occurred at the local level, as an attempt by organised crime groups to control and manipulate the outcome of the election. According to Madeline Ngo, it is a very rare occurrence for high level politicians to be killed, due to increased security and high publicity.
Lopez Obrador’s recent proposals have not been met without criticisms. Firstly, critiques have argued against Lopez Obrador’s proposal to implement amnesty, arguing that people committing wrongdoings should face justice, and that preventing this will not end the violence that is pervading society. Controversy around this amnesty proposal has led Lopez Obrador to clarify that his intentions had solely been to offer amnesty for farmers, who are mostly isolated from core drug trafficking and associated violence.
Additionally, much uncertainty also surrounds the future of the relationship between Mexico and the U.S. Trump’s protectionist policies, in conjunction with Lopez Obrador’s nationalistic beliefs, suggest that there is potential for greater disparity between the two nations. Despite this, Lopez Obrador has declared that he wishes for continued collaboration on drug-related security concerns, between the Mexican government, and American security agencies like the Federal Bureau of Intelligence (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). However, as noted by the Washington Post, it is most likely that American-Mexican relations will change under the new president’s term.
Overall, in Mexico, “There’s disappointment with democracy in general,” as stated by Pablo Piccato (Professor at Colombia University), and, thus, people are seeking the kind of radical change that a nationalist president such as Lopez Obrador could create. Moreover, despite possible critiques that could be made to his proposals, Lopez Obrador offers an innovative and peaceful resolution to the current drug problem plaguing the country. And, according to journalist Madison Ngo, he could be the person who fulfils Mexican voters’ needs for a “strong president who will stand up to world leaders like Trump and fix Mexico’s drug problem”.
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