Buenos Aires Weather | Pandemic and poverty threaten Mexican elections

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed thousands of lives in his poor Mexico City neighborhood, but Edgar Alonso is still determined to get out and vote in Sunday’s midterm elections.

The 48-year-old, who runs a small electronics business in a densely populated Iztapalapa market, home to 1.8 million people, said he still has faith in the electoral process.

“Covid is fate. We can’t control it,” he said.

“We must go and vote and exercise our rights as citizens,” he added.

For Alonso and others like him in Iztapalapa, poverty and the daily struggle to survive are what motivate them to vote for candidates they hope will make a difference.

“If we just sit here doing nothing, things will stay the same all our lives,” he said.

“What we want is real change.”

Yet not everyone shares his enthusiasm in Iztapalapa, one of Mexico City’s poorest neighborhoods, where the coronavirus has killed nearly 6,600 people — more than in all of Israel or Ireland.

Alejandra Gómez, a 62-year-old kindergarten teacher, said she felt hopeless when one of her children fell ill with Covid-19.

She wonders how many people died because they couldn’t find an oxygen tank.

“Why are we going to vote? Let everyone be there like useless objects,” she says, strolling through the steep streets of the neighborhood, without however ruling out voting.

‘To starve’

Although pandemic lockdowns crippled much of Mexico’s economy for months, life in Iztapalapa never came to a complete halt.

“People had no choice but to go to work. They told us ‘either we will die from the pandemic or we will starve,'” said Jazmín Pille, a 35-year-old Revolutionary Party candidate. institutional (PRI) of the opposition. .

Accompanied by supporters, including her mother and one of her daughters, she distributed campaign leaflets and shared her political proposals with anyone who would listen.

On Sunday, Mexicans will elect 500 members of the lower house of Congress as well as 15 of 32 state governors and thousands of local politicians.

Midterm elections saw an average turnout of 51% in Mexico, compared to 65% in presidential elections, according to official figures.

The question is whether more people will stay home this year because of the coronavirus.

‘Natural disaster’

Mexico’s official death toll from Covid-19 of more than 227,000 is the fourth highest in the world, but infections and deaths have been on a downward trend for several months.

In May, only 13% of Mexicans considered the pandemic the main problem facing the country, compared to 56% in April 2020, according to a survey by the newspaper. El Financiero.

In another survey conducted by Consulta Mitofsky, the fear of being a victim of a crime (44.7% of respondents) far exceeds that of being infected with Covid-19 (17.8%).

Behind this apparent disinterest in the pandemic lies the reality of a country where half the population lives in poverty and cares more about surviving.

“It feels like a natural disaster, something where there was not much to do,” said Maximo Jaramillo-Molina, founder of the Institute for Inequality Studies.

Up to 9.8 million more Mexicans have fallen into poverty due to the pandemic, the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy estimated in February.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a left-wing populist, has kept a grip on the government’s purse strings, saying it would be unwise to increase the national debt.

Mexico’s public spending rose just 0.3% in 2020 from a year earlier, compared to 23.8% in Brazil and 20.1% in Argentina, according to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“They didn’t help us at all. They closed a lot of businesses. A lot of people were left without work,” said Arturo Reyes, a 54-year-old butcher who plans to vote for the PRI, a harsh critic of the government management of the pandemic.

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by Jean Luis Arce, AFP