This editorial originally appeared in Spanish in La Jornada on May 30, 2024. It was translated by Denys Vigil.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador expressed his satisfaction with the drop in the working poverty index. At 35.8 percent, it’s the lowest level since 2009, when they began documenting the number of households with sufficient income to cover minimum needs. In contrast, this indicator reached 40.5 percent during Felipe Calderon’s 2006-2012 term and 42.5 percent in the previous 2012-2018 government of Enrique Peña Nieto, which shows that not only was this income deficiency abated, but that an upward streak inherited from previous administrations was cut.

Working poverty is an outrageous hardship, since it cannot be attributed to the lack of will of individuals to get ahead, but rather to the pettiness of employers or failed business models that do not allow jobs to be created in conditions of respect for human rights. Therefore, this reduction is worthy of celebration and should give rise to the reinforcement of policies favorable to workers, the vast majority of the people.

However, the drop in this indicator is not the only positive news in terms of combating poverty. Between 2018 and 2022, every day 3,800 people overcame income poverty, a true milestone if one considers that throughout an entire decade, 1,700 people fell into poverty every 24 hours. These figures are not the product of chance, but of the determination of the authorities to dignify salaries and rescue the purchasing power that was lost as a result of the perverse containment of salaries dictated by successive neoliberal governments.

By raising the minimum wage from 88 to 249 pesos per day (from 2,687 to 7,468 pesos per month), the Fourth Transformation broke with 24 years of salary reduction in real terms and, more importantly, buried the myth that increasing wages would unleash catastrophic consequences for the economy, from hyperinflation to the mass flight of productive companies. The predictions of the alleged experts were exposed as mere propaganda aimed at increasing business profits at the expense of millions of workers, since in this period, far from a capital flight, the highest foreign direct investment in history has been recorded.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the eight agencies that evaluate Mexican public debt confirmed to their clients that there is no reason to fear that the country will fail to meet its financial commitments. This approval is particularly significant because some of these rating agencies have used their power to blackmail states into adopting policies subservient to big money — which the current federal government has refused. The most notable example is the previous pressure to privatize Pemex (the public oil authority) and the CFE (public energy authority), and the fact that the level of investment is maintained without ceding sovereignty shows that it is feasible to simultaneously maintain macroeconomic balance and strategic national interests.

Taken together, these data prove that neoliberalism was never the answer to the serious lags suffered by a large part of the Mexican population. On the contrary, it deepened poverty by diverting public resources into private hands and institutionalizing the transfer of wealth from the bottom up. Much remains to be done to guarantee a dignified life for all inhabitants, but today it is clear that the return of this predatory neoliberal model would be a condemnation for the majority.