MEXICO CITY (AP) — President Andrés Manuel López Obrador heard frank disagreement Thursday during his tour of three opposition-governed states that are among Mexico’s most violent.
In a visit to western Jalisco state, Gov. Enrique Alfaro told López Obrador that he disagrees with the president on some points, but distanced himself from a public letter circulated Wednesday by writers and intellectuals. That letter accused the populist president of “concentrating power in his hands, to the detriment of the other branches of government and the states.”
Alfaro noted he disagrees with the president on renewable energy. López Obrador favors fossil fuels and in May his administration cited the coronavirus pandemic as a justification for new rules to reduce the role of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power — a policy that is being challenged in the courts by Alfaro and others.
But the governor said he wants to join with Mexico's leader in confronting the problem of crime and killings caused in large part by the violent Jalisco New Generation drug cartel.
"In Jalisco, there is unity with the president. We share the need to close ranks for the good of the country, and we understand there is no other path to undertaking the enormous challenge of regaining peace," the governor said.
The two leaders face a major challenge in Jalisco, which is the home base of the cartel of Jalisco New Generation. The state leads the nation in the number of bodies found in mass graves and clandestine burial pits.
“In the face of threats, intimdations, we say to Governor Alfaro that he is not alone, that we are with him in facing the challenge of crime," López Obrador said.
But the president defended his policy of avoiding direct confrontations with the cartels. He prefers to address social problems like poverty and unemployment that he says contribute to the crime problem.
“This problem cannot be solved with massacres. It is going to be done more with intelligence than force,” said López Obrador, who stopped in Guanajuato state Wednesday and was heading to Colima state.
Alfaro and López Obrador also have had differences over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic, with the governor favoring more tough measures to enforce social distancing and mask wearing. López Obrador seldom wears a mask and does not favor the use of force or fines in health measures.
Mexico reported 6,406 more confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday, and 668 more deaths — in line with the daily numbers in recent weeks.
Mexico now has had 324,041 confirmed cases and 37,574 deaths related to COVID-19, though both numbers are clearly undercounts as Mexico has performed very little testing. The country, with a population of nearly 130 million, has administered only about three-quarters of a million tests since the pandemic began.