Hello everyone! In this week’s edition we go into the AMLO-Biden virtual meeting (is Mexico getting more vaccines?) the country’s elite ‘medical tourism’ trips to the US and the DEA’s new #1 target.
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We can’t say we got an agreement with Biden… but we also can’t say we didn’t get an agreement - AMLO
Odd title, isn’t it? But that was essentially AMLO’s response when he was asked if he was able to secure vaccines from the US during his call with President Biden. In all honesty, he didn’t get an agreement and the U.S.’ original position seems to remain the same - they will not share their vaccines with Mexico (or any other countries) until every American gets access.
“It’s subject to the decisions made by both the U.S. and Mexican teams. They will decide if it’s possible and when.” - AMLO
So like never? The U.S. has ordered enough doses to vaccinate at least 400 million people - its population is around 331 million (vaccine hoarders!) - and it is set to receive them all by the end of July. Due to significant vaccine hesitancy in the country, and the fact that children might not be able to get it soon, the US might start sharing (AKA selling) their surplus before the vast majority of its population gets a shot. AMLO went on to declare that their key number is 100 million people - as of yesterday (March 3) 52.9 million have received at least one dose.
Let’s also remember that Mexico ranks third in global deaths due to Covid-19 but has only vaccinated 2.09% of its population - other countries in the continent like Chile and the US have vaccinated just over 20%. Mexico’s physical proximity to the US and its interconnected land border, might help place its own vaccination rate in the U.S.’ priority list in the upcoming months.
On a similar ambiguous note: Both presidents also talked about immigration. AMLO had previously mentioned he wanted the US to expand a work visa program for Mexicans and also to (finally) reform its immigration laws to provide a legal pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. After the call, the Mexican President did say Biden had a more open approach to immigration (well, Trump didn’t set the bar that high) but didn’t provide any specific immigration policies, other than a $4 billion pledge made by Biden to help develop Southern Mexico and some Central American countries.
On a more pleasant and less ambiguous note: AMLO did say he found Biden to be … not a “cardboard politician but rather a man of feeling,” as the American President, who is the 2nd Catholic President, talked about paying respects to the Virgin of Guadalupe when he visited the country - one of Mexico’s most beloved symbol of national identity.
Last week we brought you the latest on Felix Salgado Macedonio, Morena’s candidate for Guerrero’s governor race, who is accused of rape, and who the President has vehemently defended. This week, the New York Times covered the story from multiple angles (it’s a must read!), including one of Salgado Macedonio’s victims: Basilia Castañeda, a woman who alleges that the politician raped her when she was 17 years old in 1998. Fearing for her life, Ms. Castañeda didn’t go to the police until two years later. That didn’t work. The employees at the local prosecutor’s office convinced her to backtrack because Mr. Salgado was too powerful. When she filed her own statement last November, the state’s AG office informed her her case could not be pursued because the statute of limitations had passed.
Despite the strong opposition, and even the political divisions that the accusations against Salgado Macedonio have created, inside and outside the President’s party, nothing really has seemed to have changed.Last Friday, Morena announced that they would re-do the selection process. What sounded like a triumph, became a bad joke very quickly. Salgado Macedonio will be able to participate again in the process, which is a poll among Guerrero’s citizens, a poll he previously won last year. And what about the accusations? Morena called them baseless, as the local AG hasn’t brought up charges against the (still) candidate. Why didn’t the local AG prosecute before? Local authorities feared AMLO would go after the state’s governor. The New York Times
The global trend of inequality in vaccine distribution is not surprising; richer countries get more doses, and the richer and whiter people within those countries get more access to them. A recent Slate article by Lorena Rios gives us a peek into Mexican vaccine tourism, which has become the main topic of the elite’s whatsapp group chats these days. They share tips and anecdotes of their epic vaccine quests. Most are equipped with US passports, residency cards, and business connections to aid them along the journey. Medical tourism in the US has generally been welcomed as a boon to the local economy, but the vaccine is fundamentally different, it is free (paid for by US taxpayers), in low supply, and is intended for US residents. Overall, vaccine tourism might seem fairly innocent, but it could result in taking away the vaccine from undocumented immigrants. If outrage builds against the tourists (think mobs shouting “They Took Er Vaccines!” - Southpark reference) authorities across the country could be forced to require government issued ID proof of residency, thus discluding undocumented immigrants. But while Mexico is far behind on distribution and COVAX remains underfunded, medical tourists will keep trying their darndest get the vaccine. Slate
López Obrador has proudly stood as the President of austerity. That means, among other things, carrying a very simple security detail - when he flew commercial to D.C. he was accompanied by 2 cabinet members and one “bodyguard”… just one. This week, an intruder burst onto his daily morning news conference stage and approached him (in the middle of the conference) to express his concerns. When the President was asked how the man got into the conference, he instructed one of his aides to answer. “We don’t know,” she answered. A day later, the President said new security measures were going to be put into place, but assured everyone that they wouldn’t be extravagant. “He who has done nothing wrong has nothing to fear,” he replied. Associated Press
It turns out that there is an oversupply of housing in Tulum, which is giving buyers some negotiating power. Now before you get all excited imagining your new condo and beach acro yoga lifestyle, this by no means makes anything affordable for most people. It just means that last years’ growth of average property prices was 7.5% instead of 10.8% the year before, giving buyers of newly constructed homes some negotiating power. However, in comparison with prices in major US cities, it could be seen as affordable, especially for remote workers on a US salary. A studio near the beach sells for $100k, $500k gets you a three bedroom townhouse, $1.5m a four bedroom house, and $3 mil will put you beachfront with five bedrooms and an infinity pool. Financial Times
In spite of the critics, the federal government’s vaccination plan is (partially) prioritising remote and poor regions. Some health experts are worried that most of these communities had relatively low covid-19 caseloads, in contrast to urban highly populated cities like Monterrey, Mexico City and Tijuana - who have received limited amounts of doses. However, more surprising, is that some of the towns in Chiapas that are now receiving the vaccine have rejected them. The lack of information, conspiracy theories and some local indigenous tradition have caused vaccine hesitancy among the population that the government prioritised. The Washington Post / CNN
After drug lord el Chapo Guzman was arrested, a void has been filled by Nemesio Rubén Oceguera, AKA “El Mencho”, leader of the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación. Their influence stretches across six continents, 28 of Mexico’s 32 states, and several major U.S. cities, including LA, NYC and Atlanta. According to a DEA special agent, the cartel’s violence is comparable to that of ISIS and has made it the Agency’s No. 1 priority. If you are interested in knowing more about El Mencho and why he has been more difficult to track down than his rivals, we definitely recommend reading this piece. NBC News
What else we’ve been reading:
Who is Biden considering to be his Ambassador to Mexico? [Al Día News]
Mexico may reduce protection area for endangered ‘vaquita marina’ [Associated Press]
Meet the Woman Breaking Basketball’s Glass Ceiling in Mexico [Vice]
Are you still raffling the plane,
no not anymore,
and this little cachito
(cachito means raffle ticket, but it may also refer to an unspecified part of AMLO’s body)
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Translation: They’re risks of the job
Context: AMLO was asked about a commercial flight he took over the weekend where other passengers were shouting insults at him