Mexico City (CNSNews.com) – The left-wing candidate leading Mexico’s presidential race has drawn widespread criticism for saying he will consider giving amnesty to cartel leaders to reduce drug-related violence.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador drew opposition this week for saying he will consider using amnesty to reduce the nation’s surging homicide rate and drug-related violence.
A poll published Wednesday shows Lopez Obrador and his party MORENA enjoy a slight lead heading into next year’s presidential election.
In an interview with reporters while campaigning in the state of Guerrero, Lopez Obrador said he would look at amnesty as a way of “guaranteeing peace” in Mexico.
Asked specifically if he would consider amnesty for drug cartel leaders, he said he would analyze it.
He offered no specifics on how amnesty would be implemented and he promised to take into account the rights of crime victims.
Mexico’s murder rate has surged this year. Observers blame the spike in violence on cartel splintering and turf battles as a result of the government’s war on the cartels as well as on corrupt and inept law enforcement.
Preliminary estimates put Mexico’s homicide rate at 23,953 last year, according to figures recently released by the nation’s census bureau.
Lopez Obrador acknowledged to reporters that drug use is on the rise in Mexico, but said the real problem was “too much poverty,” leading to increased participation in drug trafficking.
And he directed some of the blame at the United States.
Mexico’s problem, he said, “depends a lot on the consumption in the United States where there are no programs to prevent addictions.”
“There are no programs in the U.S. to address the problem of drug trafficking, to ensure young people have options and alternatives to drug consumption.”
His comments drew fire from citizens’ groups, political opponents and crime experts in Mexico.
Giving amnesty to cartel leaders is not “legally, morally, or socially possible,” said Francisco Rivas, the director of the citizens’ group Observatorio Nacional Ciudadano, which compiles crime statistics in Mexico.
The amount of unpunished crime in Mexico is “out of control,” Rivas said.
“Impunity will not reduce the violence. When you don’t sanction crime you open the door to others to commit crimes. It’s very unfortunate he thinks this way.”
“The principal problem is impunity in the country,” agreed Marcela Figueroa Franco of the citizens group Causa y Comun.
“The problem is that no type of crime is punished in Mexico, and the people involved in organized crime aren’t only drug traffickers. They commit other crimes, like kidnapping,” she said.
“Something has to be done to rescue the young people who have been co-opted by the delinquents, who have entered organized crime.”
Security expert and professor Raul Guillermo Benitez said Lopez Obrador “doesn’t understand the nature of organized crime in Mexico.”
“They would continue the violence to do their business, even with amnesty,” he told CNSNews.com.
Amnesty would only give drug traffickers greater freedom of movement and power in the streets, and “they would end up with more power, not less,” he argued.
Benitez said Lopez Obrador was “receiving a lot criticism for the proposal. Business people are very critical of it and the military too, is very angry. NGOs are very mad.”
The head of the PAN party called the proposal to consider amnesty for drug criminals “demented” and “one more crazy idea,” from Lopez Obrador.
“In Colombia the government tried to negotiate with Pablo Escobar and the results were a total disaster,” PAN president Ricardo Analy Cortes said in a statement.
He also criticized the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, noting that 2017 has been the most violent year in the last 20.
Lopez Obrador received the highest positive rating of all presidential candidates in two recent polls.
In a Nov. 27 poll by the firm Gabinete de Comunicacion Estrategica he earned a positive rating of 46.8 percent, while independent candidate Margarita Zavala, the wife of former President Filipe Calderon, came in second, at 38.7 percent.
A poll by the Mexico City firm buendia&laredo published Wednesday put Lopez Obrador in first place at 44 percent, ahead of Zavala at 29 percent.