Mexico’s president has said he will only wear a mask when the country eradicates corruption – a promise made the day after Mexico outperformed Britain in a total of 19 Covid-19 deaths.
Speaking to reporters on Friday morning, Andrés Manuel López Obrador said: “Do you know when I should put on a mask? When there is no corruption. Then I’ll put on a mask and stop talking. “
Like his populist counterparts Jair Bolsonaro and Donald Trump, the president, popularly known as Amlo, has been skeptical of masks since the coronavirus pandemic began. He has never encouraged masking and has only worn a mask in public when he was required to do so because he took a commercial flight.
On a Friday when asked about a threat from opposition politicians to demand a ban to force him to wear a mask, Amlo said: “Let’s do it. So let’s hurry up and end the corruption so that I put on a mask and stop talking. “
Given the extent to which corruption is entrenched in Mexico’s politics, business, and daily life, some Mexicans interpreted the president’s response as never wanting a mask. (Amlo seemed to have forgotten that in November last year he claimed that “corruption and official banditry” had already been defeated in the country.)
Since the first coronavirus cases were discovered in Mexico, Amlo has regularly compiled public health advice with petty politics and used its daily morning press conferences to troll opponents as much as inform the country.
He has offered home-grown advice to avoid the virus: lose weight, avoid junk food and find spirituality – just to name three nuggets.
Other senior officials have also been ambiguous about wearing masks. Hugo López-Gatell, the country’s full Covid-19 tsar, has offered complicated answers to seemingly simple questions about the effectiveness of using face coatings.
As in Brazil and the United States, wearing a mask has adopted cultural and political connotations in Mexico – where views on Amlo are deeply polarized.
“The face mask has been politicized here in the same way as in the United States and Britain, among other countries,” said Rodolfo Soriano-Núñez, a sociologist in Mexico City.
Soriano-Núñez said that although those in the United States refuse to wear masks are seen as a way to provoke liberals, in Mexico it is seen as a way to “own the posh crowd” that Amlo describes his opponents.
On Thursday, Mexico’s deaths for Covid-19 peaked at 46,000 fatalities. The weak transition moved it past Britain to third on the list of countries with the worst deaths.