Fact-checking the first presidential debate

Did kidnapping rates drop while Obrador was the Mayor of Mexico City? Is it true Nuevo León doesn't have social welfare programs? These and more claims debunked here

Fact-checking the first presidential debate
Presidential candidates moments before the first presidential debate – Photo: CUARTOSCURO.COM
English 25/04/2018 11:45 Newsroom Mexico City Actualizada 12:08

This Sunday's first presidential debate gathered the five candidates running for President ahead of the 2018 General Election.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Ricardo Anaya, José Antonio Meade, Margarita Zavala, and Jaime Rodríguez engaged in a criticism exchange in which numbers and allegations flew about but how many of these statements are true?

Kidnapping rate dropped during Obrador's term as Mayor of Mexico City – True

When I was Mayor of Mexico City, kidnapping dropped by 38% while at a national level, during the PAN administrations, it tripled and there is evidence to prove it.” - Andrés Manuel López Obrador

It's false that when he was Mayor of Mexico City there was security, for every 100 cases in the country, kidnappings rose 88%...” - Ricardo Anaya

Four out of ten vehicle thefts in the country happened in your city, four out of 10 kidnappings happened in your city; your administration was a mess, families weren't safe.” - José Antonio Meade

During the presidential debate, López Obrador was questioned on his administration as Mayor of Mexico City. Ricardo Anaya and José Antonio Meade accused Obrador of having “one of the worst” administrations regarding security, to the extent that citizens had to organize a protest march on the subject. Both candidates specifically criticized the claim that Obrador had lower kidnapping rates.

Project Verificado 2018, of which EL UNIVERSAL is a member of, reviewed official crime rates between 2000 and 2005 and found the claim is true, kidnapping rates in Mexico City did drop during Obrador's administration but not by 38%. The kidnapping rate per every 100,000 inhabitants in Mexico City during those years dropped by 27.22% as in 2000 there were 141 kidnapping cases and in 2005 only 103. This crime spiked during 2004, with 145 cases reported, and this was also the year in which one of the largest protest marches against insecurity was organized.

Anaya's statement regarding an 88% increase in kidnappings; however, is also true. He got the percentage from comparing the kidnapping rate of Mexico City to the rates of the other states of the country. That is, his information isn't based on a total number of cases reported or the rate calculated per 100,000 inhabitants – as it usually is.

López Obrador, in turn, stated that during the administrations of Fox and Calderón, the number of kidnappings tripled. According to the information available, during the Fox administration kidnappings increased by 12.25%. Yet during the rule of Calderón, kidnappings indeed tripled, going from 428 cases to 1,421.

Regarding the data mentioned by José Antonio Meade about vehicle theft and kidnappings, the information is inaccurate. Total kidnapping cases in Mexico City between 2000 and 2005 account for 32% of the total kidnapping cases reported in the country, thus it's not the 40% Meade claimed.

As for vehicle theft, out of the 883, 411 total cases reported in the country between 2000 and 2005, only 24% – that is,  208, 916 – were reported in Mexico City during those years.

Overall, crime rate in Mexico City dropped by 12.87% during Obrador's administration.


A million victims – False

Violence in the country is a very serious matter and the strategy implemented by the PRI and the PAN hasn't worked (…) there are over a million victims of violence. We have to do whatever we can to bring peace.” - López Obrador

There are already a million victims only during the last two administrations; the strategy isn't working, we have to change it.” - Ricardo Anaya

Neither candidate provided the sources for the numbers provided nor did they specify what they meant by “victim” but Verificando 2018 reviewed its sources to estimate the number of victims in Mexico and found that the data provided by both candidates is false.

The latest reports of the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System show that just in 2015, 2016, and 2017 there were 839,621 victims, with homicide and physical assault being the most frequent charges, according to statistics.

This means that only in a period of three years, the number of victims is close to one million. Both candidates referred to the previous two six-year administrations.

El Bronco lowered crime rate in Nuevo León – False

Nuevo León is the only state which has lowered crime rate.” - Jaime Rodríguez

A review of the data of the Executive Secretary's Office of the National Public Security System proves Rodríguez's statement is false.

Crime rate data prove crime rate pertaining to both, local and federal jurisdictions, increased 12.88% between 2015 to 2017 – the years Rodríguez acted as Governor of the state.

Overall, murder rates increased by 35% between 2015 and 2017, pursuant to the same source.

Crime dropped between 2011 and 2014 - True

“From 2011 to 2014, crime dropped considerably to rise again,” - José Antonio Meade

Verificado 2018 checked data from the Executive Secretary of the National Public Security System regarding Meade's claim and found that overall crime rate in Mexico did drop during the years mentioned by the candidate.

From 2011 to 2014, crime rate decreased per every 100,000 inhabitants, a trend which continues in 2015 yet there began to be an increase in 2016 which spiked in 2017.

Nuevo Leon doesn't have social welfare programs – False

In Nuevo León, we don't have social welfare programs.” - Jaime Rodríguez Calderón

The independent candidate claimed there are no social welfare programs in Nuevo Leon, which is false.

A social welfare program is a transfer of funds or assets to the population to alleviate social problems without the need to solve the source of said problems, according to civil society organization Frente a la Pobreza. And based on this definition, it's easy to conclude Rodríguez is wrong.

Nuevo Leon has assistance programs that cover public transport fares, funerary services, medicines, and accommodation.

There are other social welfare programs aimed at people living in poverty conditions, which consist of “supporting the family's economy and complementing the diet of the most vulnerable individuals by distributing, temporarily and/or permanently, basic provisions.”

Moreover, Nuevo León also supports senior citizens and people with disabilities with a monthly stipend of MXN$ 700.

This information is available at the official website of the state, in the section “Welfare and of the DIF Nuevo León.”

For more information on welfare programs in Nuevo Léon, please check the following links:


Amnesty increased homicide rate in El Salvador - False

In El Salvador [with an amnesty], there were 108 homicides per every 100,000 inhabitants, that is, 5 times more than what we have in the country.” - Ricardo Anaya

Anaya insisted that El Salvador is an example of how amnesties do not work out and even stated that homicides increased, because of it, to 108 per every 100,000 inhabitants. However, his statement is false.

The government of El Salvador encouraged a truce among criminal gangs between 2012 and 2013 to reduce violence and, in exchange, gave imprisoned gang leaders certain benefits.

Murder rate was dropped 50% until there were, on average, 6 homicides per day. When the truce fell apart in 2014, the number of daily deaths reached the 14 victims per day by 2015.

Roberto Valencia, a journalist for the Salvadoran newspaper El Faro, said this matter is not about “whites & blacks.”

“If you take a look at the numbers, these prove that after the negotiation was struck, there comes an era with the lowest homicide rates in a decade. Before the truce there were, on average, 14 murders per day and, in the blink of an eye, the country had 5 or 6 murders a day for the next 15 months.”

According to the journalist, the rise in murders wasn't a direct consequence of the truce negotiations, “...it's attributable to the poor final negotiation and the non-compliance of certain commitments agreed to by the government.”

“In my opinion, the statement of the candidate doesn't reflect reality,” concluded Valencia.

Poverty decreased in Nuevo León - True

Nuevo León is the only state where poverty decreased (…) We have lowered the extreme poverty percentage by almost by 20 points. We're the only state in the country which can raise a white flag on this issue.” - Jaime Rodríguez Calderón

Jaime Rodríguez Calderón (El Bronco) became Governor of Nuevo León state in October 2015 and stepped down in December 2017. That is, he was in charge of the state administration for two years and two months.

To know whether poverty decreased during his administration, we compared the last two official data gathered on the subject in 2014 and 2016.

According to official information published by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL), in 2014, a total of 20.4% of the population of Nuevo León was considered to fall into the “poverty” range, a percentage which dropped to 14.2% two years later.

The above means that poverty between 2014 and 2016 dropped by 27.9%, which makes Rodríguez's claim true.

However, the candidate specified there had been a decline in “extreme poverty,” but pursuant to the CONEVAL data, in 2014 1.3% of Nuevo Leon's population lived under extreme poverty conditions – that is 66, 700 people – and two years later this percentage only dropped by 0.6%.

Moreover, Nuevo León wasn't the only state where poverty decreased.

According to the CONEVAL, between 2014 and 2016, poverty decreased in most Mexican states, although Nuevo León was, indeed, the state with the highest drop.