EDITORIAL: Slow approach

Was AMLO’s first year cautious, or indecisive?

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador begins his second year in office today. Sworn into office on Dec. 1, 2018, AMLO, as he is known the leftist populist was elected largely on promises to cut poverty and drugrelated crime, as well as public dissatisfaction with the only two other parties that have held power in the past century.

Like so many others who have made their political careers by criticizing those in power, Lopez Obrador might have discovered that finding fault is much easier than finding solutions.

Mexico’s economy has shown only marginal growth during AMLO’s first year. While it hasn’t fallen into recession, the country’s gross domestic product — the total value of goods and services produced — grew by only 0.3 percent in his first quarter in office and was flat during the second. Third quarter expansion was a scant 0.3 percent. The president’s stated plan to spend the country out of poverty by expanding welfare, particularly among indigenous people, has met public resistance.

A major focus of AMLO’s presidential campaign was gangrelated crime, and his criticism of his immediate predecessors’ efforts to use the military to fight it. “Hugs not bullets,” was the theme of his antiviolence initiative, and featured the creation of a civilian National Guard to maintain peace and relieve the military of such domestic duties. However, violence has only increased and the guard, which admittedly is still being trained, has been overmatched. A case in point was the Sinaloa cartel’s seizure of the city of Culiacan to force the release of cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s son shortly after his arrest. That successful occupation led to similar standoffs in Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo. Mass shootings are on the rise, including the massacre of three women and six children in Sonora state last month.

After that incident U.S. President Donald Trump issued tweets offering to send the U.S. military in to fight the cartels; Lopez Obrador smartly declined the offer.

It must be noted that much of the National Guard’s attention has been drawn away from the cartels and toward border issues, as Trump has threatened sanctions if Central American refugees continue to arrive at our southern border through Mexico.

On that topic, AMLO drew cautious praise for his acceptance of the refugees after their U.S. rejection. However, he also has been criticized for not doing enough to ensure that they are safe and their basic needs are met.

Mexican residents largely support the president’s efforts, although criticism has grown about the frustratingly few details he has given about his programs. Often he answers reporters’ questions by repeating his old criticisms of past administrations and not by describing any new plans.

Surely, some people want to see major initiatives — even if they fail, at least they show that he’s doing something. Others recognize that Lopez Obrador inherited major problems in Mexico, and it will take time to fix them. They’d prefer sure, steady action that doesn’t make things worse before making them better.

We wish the president luck in his second year, and hope that his constituents’ patience pays off.