On Monday, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto launched a campaign to combat hunger in the country and presented a four-point plan to tackle the issue.
The national program will assist about 7.4 million people in 400 municipalities, suffering from extreme poverty and food insecurity, meaning that they cannot meet even their most basic nutritional needs for some of or all the year.
The Mexican president announced the new action plan in Las Margaritas, a town in the state of Chiapas. During the 1990s, Las Margaritas was a center for the Zapatistas, a leftist revolutionary movement that protested against the government, partly in response to Mexico's signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada.
While emphasizing the plan urges community action and local governments’ responsibility as well as pledges to strengthen agricultural production in suffering areas, Pena Nieto did not provide additional information nor specified the total expected costs. Some experts have criticized the program for being a revamp of former policies started in the mid-1990s.
According to the World Bank, over 53 percent of Mexicans live in poverty, surviving on less than $2 per day, while around 24 percent are currently experiencing extreme poverty, living on less than $1 per day. The rural inhabitants of Mexico suffer the most drastic consequences of poverty, given that many basic services that help people survive in urban areas, are not accessible to them. The poverty rate sharply increased under former President Felipe Calderon’s rule, as it returned to the same levels as during the 1980s.
Since winning the presidential elections in 2012, Pena Nieto started enacting a series of ambitious reforms, particularly in the security, economic growth and poverty fields. Just a week after taking office, he pushed the 2013 budget through Congress and managed to gather support from his political adversaries for a landmark education bill. The bill established a professional system of hiring, evaluating and promoting teachers without "discretionary criteria", which had been extensively used, as teaching positions had previously been bought or inherited.