Women are being killed in Mexico at record rates, but the president says most emergency calls are ‘false’

FILE - In this April 5, 2020 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks at the National Palace in Mexico City. Over the May 17, 2020 weekend, the administration of President Lopez Obrador has cited the coronavirus pandemic as a justification for new rules that will reduce the role of renewable energies like solar and wind power, granting a reprieve to the governments own ageing, fossil-fuel power plants.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File)
FILE - In this April 5, 2020 file photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador speaks at the National Palace in Mexico City. Over the May 17, 2020 weekend, the administration of President Lopez Obrador has cited the coronavirus pandemic as a justification for new rules that will reduce the role of renewable energies like solar and wind power, granting a reprieve to the governments own ageing, fossil-fuel power plants. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Women are being murdered in Mexico at an alarming rate, but the nation's president has downplayed a surge in calls to emergency hotlines, declaring most of them are false.

Since stay-at-home measures were ordered March 23 to slow the spread of the coronavirus, there has been an increase in homicides where women are the victims, according to government data released last week. April was the deadliest month in the last five years with a record 267 murders of women.

Yet President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has dismissed the scale of the problem, blaming the "neoliberal" governing model of his predecessors. "I'm going to give you another fact, which doesn't mean that violence against women doesn't exist, because I don't want you all to misinterpret me," the leftist leader said mid-May during his daily morning presser.

"Ninety percent of those calls that serve as your base are false, it's proven," he told a journalist when asked about his government's own data on emergency calls about violence against women.

A record 26,171 emergency calls about violence against women were made in March according to the government data. The following month, when the "quédate en casa," or stay-at-home regulation was in full effect, there were 21,722 calls, the same government report states.

López Obrador's explanation for the calls has been disputed by a leading advocate for women. "It's not that the calls are false, it's more that the calls aren't followed through to completion, so they're considered incomplete," Maria Salguero, a Mexican femicide investigator and creator of a national femicide map told CNN.

Speaking by phone, Salguero added that calls frequently come from neighbors and do not always result in authorities going to the neighbors' house for a follow-up statement, which can lead the emergency calls to be considered incomplete.

Victims themselves may be afraid to call for help if they live with the aggressor, or even to file claims. "If authorities arrive, the female might not want to press charges anymore," she said. "At least the call puts the brakes on the aggression."