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AP News disses AMLO — Without the Facts

Jesús Hermosillo is a Los Angeles-based Chicano observer of politics in the United States and Mexico. His analyses from a social justice perspective and his fact-based research refute misleading or false mainstream narratives.

The piece/ Under the headline, “Mexico’s president says he won’t fight drug cartels on US orders,” calling it a ‘Mexico First’ policy, Mark Stevenson of AP News writes that AMLO has offered “various justifications for his ‘hugs, not bullets’ policy of avoiding clashes with the cartels,” among which is a “prickly nationalism” that causes him to prioritize Mexico’s problems over those in the US.


The claim/ Stevenson’s report adds to speculation — fueled by recent media reports of old, unproven (and long-dismissed) allegations by mostly unnamed informants — that AMLO is or has been in the pay of drug cartels. It implies that the president has openly vowed to protect criminals, quoting his words out of context (“we also take care of the lives of the gang members, they are human beings”), and suggests he has done little to reduce crime.


The back storyStevenson cites the peripatetic president's several trips to Badiraguato, Sinaloa, a municipio (county-like jurisdiction) that happens to be a cartel stronghold — "at least a half dozen times" — without describing his reasons or mentioning his frequent visits to other regions for comparison.


It’s actually unclear if the reported number of trips there actually happened, given that not all media coverage of his travels has been factual. Moreover, AMLO’s penchant for personally overseeing major federal infrastructure projects — like the recently inaugurated Badiraguato-Parral highway now linking the states of Chihuahua and Sinaloa — could also be one reason he has visited some places more than others.


But Stevenson’s most offensive omission is what AMLO actually means by “hugs, not bullets.” Besides turning away from his predecessors’ (DEA-directed) anti-drug militarism — in step with progressive thinking on both sides of the border — the “hugs” part of the government’s approach is meant to give young and rural citizens alternatives to the lure of organized crime.


Federal programs like Youth Building the Future (paid apprenticeships) and Sowing Life (agricultural subsidies) in fact, may be partly why the 2023 homicide rate (also unmentioned by AP News) has fallen 20% on AMLO’s watch: from 29 per 100,000 residents in 2018 to last year’s 22 per 100,000.


Stevenson also sounds critical of AMLO’s apparent attitude “that Mexican cartels selling drugs to gringos [is] a US issue, not a Mexican one,” but makes no mention of the US’s failure to end the illegal trafficking of guns that make criminals so dangerous. 


The bottom line/ The piece is simply the latest reminder of mainstream media’s overriding role as protector of US corporate interests, a mission made easier when the task is defaming Global South governments deemed disloyal to Washington's directives.