For Mexico, like the rest of the world, the coronavirus pandemic took the spotlight throughout the year, affecting the country profoundly and shedding light on longstanding socio-economic and health issues.
But 2020 will also be remembered for its violence and corruption and the government’s efforts to counter them.
At the end of February, Mexico reported its first case of COVID-19, and during the year, the disease spread throughout the country. By itself, the coronavirus posed a significant threat to the health of Mexicans. The country became one of the leading nations in terms of deaths caused by the virus, reporting an unprecedented 10% mortality rate for every 100 cases of infection.
The pandemic exacerbated longstanding socioeconomic inequalities.
COVID-19 also sheds light on the highly prevalent health conditions that affect most of Mexico’s population. Obesity and diabetes are comorbidities linked to the most severe and fatal cases of COVID-19, and both chronic illnesses are very much present among Mexicans.
By Nov. 19, Mexico had officially surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 related deaths, making it the country with the fourth-highest death toll.
The government’s response to the pandemic has led to problems as well, with a recent article published by The New York Times detailing how the federal government deliberately underreported the number of new cases and the level of the bed and respirator occupancy in the country’s capital.
The misleading figures undermined the pandemic situation in Mexico City. By the end of December, COVID hospitals were overcrowded with hospital beds and respirators, reaching over an 80% occupancy rate.
Mexico gets hold of vaccine
However, Mexico became the first country in Latin America to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, which arrived in Mexico City on Dec. 23, with the first round of vaccination starting the following day.
The Pfizer vaccine’s latest shipment arrived on Dec. 30. The third batch of 7,800 doses adds up to 53,625 for the month.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said at a press conference that since Dec. 24, the government has vaccinated 18,529 citizens, all medical workers, at COVID-19 hospitals.
“On Jan. 4, a bigger shipment will arrive with more than 53,000 doses, and each week, on the 11th, 18th and 25th of January, much larger shipments will constantly arrive with more than 480,000 doses,” he added.
Arrest of Emilio Lozoya and Odebrecht Investigations
Emilio Lozoya was the head of Mexico’s state oil company, PEMEX, during President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration. Investigations involving the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht S.A. for bribing political officials in several Latin American countries to lead to Lozoya’s arrest on Feb. 12 in Malaga, Spain.
Since his arrest, Lozoya has played a significant role in President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s fight against corruption. The former chief executive of PEMEX has accused high-profile functionaries of involvement in the Odebrecht scandal, including former President Pena Nieto.
‘The day without us’
March 9 marked a historic event for women in Mexico. In the wake of surging levels of gender-based violence, women staged a day-long protest to raise awareness of the country’s rising cases of femicides. The protest, called “A Day Without Us,” saw millions of women across the nation staying home from work and school.
Women constitute over 45.5% of the workforce and 77% of unpaid domestic labor. According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, the economic cost derived from the women’s protest rose nearly to 37 billion pesos.
In Mexico, up to 10 women are murdered a day, with 2020 resulting in the most violent year to date for women, with a steady monthly increase of 1.4%. From January to October 2020, there were 801 femicides, 12 more than those reported in 2019.
President goes to Washington
A controversial encounter between President Lopez Obrador and US President Donald Trump took place on July 8. The reason behind the meeting was to mark the launch of the new deal between The United States, Canada, and Mexico, which replaced the North American Free trade Agreement.
The inflammatory comments made by the Republican president about Mexican immigrants and most critics condemning the presence of the Mexican president as a campaign bid from Donald Trump did not stop both controversial presidents from portraying a friendly encounter.
Presidential plane raffle
On Sept. 15, the federal government carried out the national polemic raffle of the presidential plane. However, the raffle did not hold the actual airplane as the prize; instead, the award would consist of $100 million in monetary prizes.
President Lopez Obrador proposed an initiative ever since his campaign in 2018 where he promised to sell Mexico’s Air Force One, using the money for social causes.
His slogan “Even Obama doesn’t have it,” the then-candidate for the 2018 presidency criticized the overly luxurious presidential plane of $130 million acquired by his predecessor.
In total, the government managed to sell over 3.6 million tickets, collecting $91 million and paying up to $63 million in prizes.
Arrest of former secretary of national defense
Oct. 15 saw the Department of National Security of Mexico’s former director through 2012 to 2018, Salvador Cienfuegos, arrested by American authorities at an airport in California for drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
The case took a turn when the US Department of Justice announced that all charges regarding Cienfuegos arrest were dropped in order to leave the case investigation in the hands of Mexican authorities.
Cienfuegos’ arrived at the international airport in the city of Toluca, Nov. 18. So far, he is not under arrest nor apprehended, although an investigation is currently underway, according to Mexican authorities.
The foreign minister of Mexico, Marcelo Ebrard, stated that it would be “political suicide” not to prosecute Cienfuegos. To this date, no charges or order of apprehension have been issued against the disgraced official.
Salvador Cienfuegos served as minister of National Defense of Mexico during ex-president Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration.
Senate passes bill to legalize use of Marihuana
With 82 votes in favor, 18 against, and seven abstentions, Mexican legislators made history on Nov. 19 regarding the consumption of cannabis in the country.
With the approved bill, Mexican senators enacted The Federal Law of Cannabis Regulation and set to reform The General health law and the penal code. The initiative was proposed by senators of the Morena party, the federal political party in the country.
Citizens who are older than 18 years of age will be able to grow, carry and consume Marihuana and its derivatives, as long as they count with the proper permits issued by the newly formed Mexican Institute for the Control and Regulation of Cannabis.
Former governor of Jalisco state murdered
On Dec. 18, Aristoteles Sandoval, who served as Governor of Jalisco from 2013 to 2018, was dining at a local restaurant in Puerto Vallarta with three other people, two of them being his personal bodyguards. Initial reports stated that Sandoval was shot in the back multiple times after he went to the restroom.
Sandoval was still alive when his bodyguards tried to get him out of the restaurant to reach a hospital. However, while trying to exit the restaurant, multiple shots were fired at them. One of the bodyguards was gravely wounded. Sandoval would pass away from his wounds moments after.
According to local authorities, upon their arrival to the crime scene, they found clear signs that the scene was profoundly manipulated; bloodstains were cleaned, broken glasses removed, and even security cameras were found to be torn down from their place.
In recent events, two women who worked at the restaurant where Sandoval was murdered have been apprehended for manipulating and “cleaning” the crime scene.
Jalisco is one of the most violent states in Mexico, with the presence of the New Generation Cartel of Jalisco lead by Nemesio Oseguera-Cervantes AKA “El Mencho,” who has amassed great strength and power in the region.
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