Schools without floors. Classrooms without desks. Hospitals without medications. Violent robberies on roads without surveillance. Municipalities in Chiapas where whoever has more firepower rules. Endless lines everywhere, filled with elderly people fainting under the scorching sun, standing there to try to make the state to do something for them. Dams without water and entire communities without access to the vital liquid. Clear signs of the dismantling of the state. Obvious indicators of how the “rheumatic elephant” is not only stranded, it is agonizing. The 4T (Fourth Transformation) is killing the nation.
President López Obrador complained about having to prod the elephant to get it moving, and then the Mexican president decided to decree its death by starvation. He chose to replace the pachyderm with messenger pigeons delivering checks, pensions, and cash. The population, accustomed to an absent state, neither understands nor protests against its destruction.
Like the elephants at risk due to the lack of water in parts of Africa, the Mexican state is a threatened species. This is detailed in the most recent issue of the magazine “Nexos,” dedicated to the 4T butchery. With the argument of combating corruption and kicking privileges, the López Obrador government has been dismantling the Mexican state. Decree after decree, cut after cut, reform after reform, AMLO has filed down the elephant’s ivory tusks, taken away its food, and is about to cut off the pachyderm’s legs.
Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the architects of the neoliberal creed, have found no better pupil in the man who “puts the poor first” but leaves them out in the open. The transformation boasts of reduced poverty but fails to understand or address increased precarity.
The true beneficiaries of the 4T are those comfortably settled in the seat of power, deciding how much money to squander, how many resources to divert for political or electoral reasons, how much to dedicate to the Maya Train because it’s a presidential priority, above the purchase of medications. Above the promised well-being but sacrificed.
The impact is brutal on the emaciated elephant, it is painful. In 2023, 30 million more Mexicans have no access to healthcare services. Infant mortality is on the rise due to setbacks in cancer medication and treatment schemes. Poverty in learning and abandonment are growing. The number of consultations provided by public health services has plummeted since 2019, leading to a lack of treatment for diseases such as cancer and HIV. The organization Signos Vitales has just documented how deficiencies are growing for the Mexican society in general, and the gaps are widening.
It is surprising to see the population’s passivity. Their submission to the dismantling of the nation. Perhaps because, for those who survive at the base of the pyramid, the state has never been a permanent presence. They have managed to endure its absence for decades, working informally, engaging in street vending, selling sandwiches and tacos on the corner, going to a private doctor even if they have to pay their entire income. When there is an emergency or a crisis, they have already learned that they cannot rely on state support.
The reality is that Mexican people do not have unemployment benefits, robust social safety nets, an IMSS (Mexican Social Security Institute) that provides immediate care, or a police officer showing up at the time of a robbery, or at the moment a parade of drug traffickers is going down the main street of a small town.
The elephant—even in its rheumatic version—was a promise, a dream, not a reality.
Perhaps that’s why people prefer to receive the money that AMLO sends them instead of demanding a better school, better public transportation, or a safer community. You don’t miss what you haven’t had, and for the most vulnerable, the elephant was a chimera. It rarely provided support and security to move forward, to get around, to defend themselves.
Today, public services are worse than ever or just nonexistent. Today, the protection of the people is through the President’s words, but not where it counts: on the streets, in hospitals, in places where the rheumatic elephant once was. Today, AMLO orders the distribution of money, and like any emperor of the middle ages, with his foot on his prey, he boasts that he he is about to kill the Elephant, while his entourage applauds.
AMLO is like a hunter on a quest to kill the Elephant, and the members of Moerna are like the natives that help the man who holds he rifle, but who knows, maybe at the end of the expedition, the one carrying his bags will die of dengue or thirst.
By Denise Dresser