Mexico wants to teach criminals civic values, but it's offensive for victims
The López Obrador administration published an ethical guide that suggests ex-cons can redeem themselves through reflection, education and therapy.
Reintroducing formerly-incarcerated individuals is a necessary aspiration in a society that is aware that its higher the rate of poverty and inequality equals a higher the level of crime. In other words, a criminal is more often than not, the child of a system and its failures, and people in said societies often look at them as criminals rather than victims.
Although there are initiatives and programs to help people who have made mistakes to reintegrate into society, there is something stubbornly hypocritical in trying to point out a path without addressing the multiple oppressions and inequalities that led them to the wrong side of the law.
A new ethical guide promoted by Mexican President Lopez Obrador intends to address the crisis of loss of "cultural, moral and spiritual" values that exists in the country by telling the corrupt that "they can redeem themselves through reflection, education and psychological therapy." Rather than be the guiding light it hoped to be, the publication raises the question of who exactly it is for.
That's especially in a country where, according to statistics, there are 40,000 missing persons and 37,000 unidentified deaths from it's drug war — in 2020 alone there are nearly 5,000 people missing — and a rate of femicide that is astronomical, with the victims and their families often unable to get any justice.
"Mexico's crisis is not just an economic crisis, it is not just a crisis of material well-being," President Lopez Obrador said last November when he presented the Ethical Guide for the Transformation of Mexico.
"It is also a crisis of loss of cultural, moral and spiritual values. In recent times there has been a whole process of degradation of public life, a decline. To face this degradation, this decadence, it is not enough with actions that improve the material conditions; it is also important to strengthen the values and obtain the well-being of the soul," he told reporters in a morning press conference.
The guide was prepared by a committee of six people, including communications coordinator Jesus Ramirez, and recalls the Cartilla Moral, another pamphlet created by writer and diplomat Alfonso Reyes on behalf of the Ministry of Education in 1944.
AMLO said that on this occasion, it is a review "in the light of the new times" and contains teachings on 20 values, principles and themes including respect for difference, freedom, love, forgiveness, fraternity, work, economy, family and even plants and animals.
The document states that redemption is "the overcoming of mistakes, the awareness of evil and repentance that implies the recognition of guilt and the intention not to commit a crime or an immoral action again."
It also adds that punishing criminals with prison remains "a possibility."
With overtones of religious dogma, the document also encourages "asking for forgiveness and pardoning," since it releases "the one who gives it and the one who receives it."
"Asking forgiveness if you have acted badly and granting it if you have been the victim of mistreatment, aggression, abuse [or] violence," it reads.
The government has also announced that 8 million new ethical guidelines will be distributed to the elderly in Mexico so they can instill values in their children and grandchildren.
It's a curious move, considering the alarming figures of COVID-19, with more than 1,133,000 cases and 107,565 deaths (according to data from Dec. 2). Most are elderly people, who find no greater protection than involuntary solitude and are at risk of isolation.
Are initiatives like this guide useful for more than just leveling broken table legs? Actions, not words make the difference.