Why hasn't Mexico been touched by the wave of indignation sweeping through Latin America?


The objective conditions are there for Mexico to be part of the landscape of social upheaval that Latin America is experiencing: it is the country with the highest poverty rates in the region, after Honduras (41.5% in 2018); the concentration of wealth in a few hands is enormous, and people are fed up with corruption.

But unlike other countries in the area, such as Chile, Colombia, and Ecuador, where citizens are demanding in mass protests the resignation of their leaders, in Mexico social discontent is far from reaching the streets with that degree of forcefulness and indignation.

It seems that today in Mexico there are neither causes that are sufficiently transversal to unite society against the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador nor a political opposition with sufficient legitimacy and credibility to call significant segments of the population to the streets.

Moreover - and this is perhaps the most convincing explanation for the lack of contagion that the citizen effervescence that shakes other countries has had in Mexico - López Obrador discourse is very much in tune with the demands heard in South America.

The Mexican president's criticisms of the neoliberal model, its harmful effects on popular welfare and his "perverse vocation for corruption" are in tune with the narrative of the movements of indignant Latin Americans.

Also, the harangues against public-private corruption and the system of privileges that has been forged in Latin American-style capitalism.

Judging by his speech, López Obrador could perfectly subscribe to several points in the petitions of those who called for the strikes and protests that haunt governors such as Sebastián Piñera in Chile, Iván Duque in Colombia and Lenín Moreno in Ecuador.

Above all, those points that call for a halt to "the neoliberal package," a fight for peace and more resources for social development.

Piñera, Duque, and Moreno have acceptance levels of between 10% and 22%.

López Obrador has about 60% approval, and although he lost 15-20 points of support in the last year, he maintains an unusually high percentage for a Latin American ruler.

The Mexican opposition is so discredited after successive PRI and PAN governments of low economic growth, social collapse, rampant corruption and insecurity unprecedented in the country's modern history, that citizens seem willing to give time to the president who has so emphatically promised them to change.

In Mexico, there is no organized movement of indignant citizens because today there is a president in charge who claims to have as a priority the social transformation of the country and the dismantling of the system of privileges of the "mafia of power", precisely what the citizens of Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile are demanding from their rulers.

The question is how much time will the outraged Mexicans give López Obrador to start giving results.

The first year of the Morena leader's government was one of economic stagnation (GDP growth was 0%, according to ECLAC) and even a decline in per capita income (-1.2%) with a slight increase in unemployment (0.3 points).

The basis of the social development achieved in their countries by all successful leftist Latin American governments in the last 15 years has been economic growth.

This is an indicator that cannot be ignored to measure the results of any government.

Another pending issue for López Obrador is the fight against insecurity, precisely the problem that most concerns and outrages Mexicans.

This will be the most violent year in Mexico's modern history. As of November, 31,688 homicides had occurred, 2.7% more than the last 11 months of Enrique Peña Nieto's government.

In social matters, the new expansive salary policy must be highlighted, in contrast to the asphyxiation to which the PRI and PAN governments had subjected the workers.

It is still too early to know the effect that the government's assistance programs aimed at the young, the elderly and the most vulnerable population have had. Measuring their results takes time, but no expert doubts that poverty will decline, at least in the short term.

It remains to be seen, then, whether the discourse of López Obrador that has shielded Mexico from the contagion effect of the wave of protests in Latin America translates into actions that aim to solve a structural problem in the country: inequality.

By Mexicanist Source Proceso