Mexico, Cultivating the Pandemic, Waiting for Disaster
After weeks of underestimating the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mexican government is finally beginning to recommend social distancing more emphatically.
Mexico, along with Chile and Brazil, are among the countries in Latin America that have taken the least severe measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In all three cases, it is because of government efforts to protect the economy, fearful of the impact of a national quarantine.
For weeks, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador dismissed the severity of the pandemic - claiming things like his saints' images protected him from the virus, recommending that his citizens embrace each other, and hugging supporters at political rallies.
On March 28, finally, AMLO released a fourteen-minute social media statement recommending that Mexican citizens stay in their homes and go out only for what is absolutely necessary.
In this statement, he made it known that public servants who could carry out their work remotely, or were not indispensable for the time being, had already been sent home and he invited the private sector to do the same.
He also presented the already famous graph that explains the need to "flatten the epidemiological curve" so as not to overwhelm the health system, as if he had just seen it for the first time.
However, nowhere did he mention the words "decree" or "quarantine," so the indication to stay home is still a simple recommendation. Nor did he close borders, nor did he mention any mechanism for containing the economic and social crisis that will inevitably result from efforts to contain the pandemic or the failure to do so.
Meanwhile, the very distressed Undersecretary for Prevention and Health Promotion, Hugo López-Gatell, has insisted on the indispensability and urgency of keeping the population at home en masse.
"La única manera de reducir hoy la transmisión de #COVID19mx es quedándonos en nuestras casas, de manera masiva, y durante un periodo estipulado ya de un mes. Habrán muertes, pero se puede retardar la velocidad de contagios": @HLGatell, subsecretario de @SSalud_mx. pic.twitter.com/iCGvZ4HLiM
— Animal Político (@Pajaropolitico) March 29, 2020
"This is the last chance we have to contain the situation. We are already in a period of an exponential and accelerated increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, but we still have the opportunity to stop it," the undersecretary said, according to the Animal Político.
In Mexico City, according to the same media, only 30% of the population has followed the order to stay home, but in the absence of a clear response from the government protecting the most basic rights of the population, it is understandable that this would be the case.
Time and again we see the phenomenon repeated in all Latin American countries: in the face of hunger, no quarantine is worthwhile.
In the streets of Mexico City, street vendors and stalls of all kinds continue to open every morning, several of them with signs that say "Dear customer, we inform you that we will be working until the coronavirus kills us."