MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s president sells himself as lifelong champion of the rights of women, who he calls “more honest” than men. To stress the point, he made history upon taking office in December 2018 by putting women in half his cabinet posts.
But Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s prickly reaction to criticism of the government over brutal murders of women in recent weeks has riled feminists and undermined support for him among female voters, helping to fuel protests and calls for a massive walkout next week.
Support for an unprecedented women’s “strike” on Monday March 9th, has swelled, even as Lopez Obrador has tried to paint the event as a cynical attempt by political opponents to discredit him and capitalize on problems he says they created.
Such comments strike many as tone-deaf and lacking empathy, exposing a weak spot for a government already battling to tackle gang violence, impunity and a stagnant economy.
“As a woman and a citizen, I feel outraged,” said Claudia Calvin, a consultant on gender and technology. “It’s despicable that the head of this country has been unable to understand the importance of women and the impact of violence.”
Allies of the president reject such criticism.
Irma Sandoval, head of the Public Administration Ministry, which monitors federal employees, described Lopez Obrador as “the most feminist president in modern history.”
Polls suggest women are increasingly skeptical.
Lopez Obrador remains popular. But support for him has never been lower ahead of the strike, in which women will withdraw from work, school and public spaces.
A survey by pollster Consulta Mitofsky showed his approval rating among women fell some 3 percentage points from January to February to 52.7%. Among men, it dipped 0.6 points to 59.2%.
The president’s tendency to dismiss criticism and the women’s protests has caused unease inside the government.
Saying he would put “the poor first”, Lopez Obrador took power pledging to tackle chronic inequality and violence.
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