Welcome to La Basura Mañanera! A long-lost tradition of mine to sort-of translate news stories coming out of this country and put them into whatever context my tiny-self could possibly muster. All of the articles here were taken from Animal Politico; in my mind Mexico’s best news source. Here’s what you need to know!
1st bag: You talk way too much.
The response to Coronavirus in Mexico has been mostly handled by the states until now. The mediatic battle between governors seemed to center on Jalisco, Nuevo Leon, and Oaxaca’s promise to instate “mass testing.”But, obviously, these plans were a bit overzealous and... erm... failed.
The feds have done a very limited number of COVID-19 tests (between 3000-6000); these are very expensive, and Mexico’s equivalent of the FDA (Cofepris) is still adamant to certify private labs. This doesn’t mean you can’t get a COVID-19 test in Mexico; pay the right price (150-200 dollars) and a private lab will tell you if you have it or not... The only problem is that, to the feds, those tests are invalid and cannot be added to the number of confirmed cases.
Jalisco and Oaxaca’s solution was to apply “quick tests” that could possibly detect the tale-tale signs of infection without the complicated PCR test, those who tested positive would have the Cofepris test taken to confirm infection. However, Jalisco’s governor went on a radio interview yesterday and admitted that their suppliers for the quick test suddenly decided not to supply the 15,000 tests the state had ordered. Oaxaca on the other hand, simply stated that they canceled their purchase of 10,000 tests because they didn’t meet Cofepris guidelines.
Nuevo Leon’s health secretary readily admitted that he doesn’t know the origin of the 30,000 tests they intended on applying, nor were the tests approved by Cofepris.
Supposing Nuevo Leon did apply some tests, the number of cases of COVID-19 in Mexico could spike this weekend, and it might force the federal government into certifying more state labs.
Mexico City, which will likely be the epicenter of this pandemic, is also fighting a bizarre outbreak of Measles. Measles is a seriously contagious disease that could heavily impact the older population. Although the vaccine has been part of the universal vaccination scheme since 1990, only 86.9% of those eligible have gotten it, as opposed to the 95% recommended by the WHO. Additionally, due to supply shortages, more than 770,000 children eligible did not get the vaccine in 2018. In order to contain the spread, the health department distributed 160,000 vaccines in the affected boroughs.
Another issue the city governments have had to deal with is the sudden spike of lootings across the capital. According to the police the crimes have been coordinated through social media, and lootings of the kind spike whenever there’s a national crisis like the increase of gasoline prices in the later years of Peña Nieto’s administration. The police have been quick to insist that the lootings more likely qualify as a Burglary since most people have tried to steal electronic devices and alcohol.
Both Mexico City and Mexico State (the two federal entities in charge of the Mexico City metropolitan area) have announced they’d increase police presence alongside the restrictions that will be placed to limit the spread of COVID-19. In the case of the latter, even National Guard troops have been sent to the supermarkets and departmental stores that have been affected by the lootings.
3rd bag: Trying your luck
Standard and Poors reduced Mexico’s rating from BBB+ to BBB citing the oil crash and COVID-19's impact on the American economy. JP Morgan expects the Mexican economy will contract 7% in 2020, with the 2nd quarter bearing the grunt of the contraction at 35.5%. The Mexican peso has been on a wild ride, reaching a historic low of 25 pesos per dollar; a staggering devaluation given the peso stood relatively strong at 18 pesos per dollar in December.
It’s just safe to say that the incoming global recession will hit particularly hard in Mexico. As the saying goes “When America coughs, Mexico catches a cold”, but we seem to be in an even more delicate position than in 2008, so we might just catch pneumonia.
Mexico heavily depends on foreign investment to maintain economic activity; while the Peso’s devaluation might bring in new investors, our economy has been sluggish under Obrador’s administration due to some bizarre moves like canceling the Mexico City airport and trying to rescue PEMEX through the construction of a multi-billion dollar refinery in Dos Bocas, Tabasco.
Obrador’s latest controversy, the closure of a beer brewery in Baja California has the potential to further shake foreign investors. The controversial facility owned by Constellation Brands was built in an area with insecure access to clean water. As residents complained Obrador promised to carry out a public referendum. Like past referendums, the process was shrouded in secrecy, and it did not involve Mexico’s Electoral Authority. Constellation Brands likely has NAFTA’s legal protection on its side, and it is possible that they’ll be paid damages due to the sudden closure.
4th bag: Fear of sleep
Lopez Obrador announced on Friday’s press conference that he’s “considering” the removal of daylight saving time, after a suggestion by a congressman in November of last year. He insisted that the removal of DST would depend on a technical report by Mexico’s energy secretary.
The reason Mexico’s federal government has been ridiculed internationally by our pandemic response is very simple: Mexico is a very poor country. A great majority of people live paycheck to paycheck and around 60% of the workforce isn’t registered into Mexico’s Social Security, those who are registered, however, do not enjoy unemployment benefits. This means that in order to apply strict measures to slow the pandemic, the government would need to carry out the herculean task of finding channels to fairly aid vulnerable groups and also heavily indebt itself in the process. As mentioned by members of the health secretary; forcing people into home isolation might also cause a spike in domestic disturbance cases.
Although Mexico’s population is very vulnerable to COVID-19 due to our limited healthcare infrastructure and the high rates of morbid obesity and diabetes, the government seems adamant in keeping the economy going as much as possible in the face of COVID-19. Otherwise millions would descend into extreme poverty, and hundreds of thousands would face malnourishment.
Admittedly, the feds have announced some measures to protect vulnerable groups, the social housing administration announced they’d pause rent and mortgage payments, senior citizens will get a two month advance on their pension, and the president signed an executive order forcing employers to pay some vulnerable employees even if they go into home isolation (this EO, however, is unclear). The vast majority of economic stimulus packages have come from states which have either advanced yearly benefits or announced new plans. What to do about the epidemic is, very much, a topic of intense discussion between the general public and the federal government.
It’s just safe to say that, like most countries that faced COVID-19, Mexico will come out of this looking very differently than before.