MEXICO CITY -- The last time Mexico experienced a political crisis more serious than the one it is undergoing today was in 1994, when a group of so-called Zapatista guerrillas staged a semi-armed uprising in the southern state of Chiapas. The president's handpicked successor was assassinated, and, as if that was not enough, the value of the peso had plummeted by nearly 70 percent. Today's crisis is not quite as bad, but it is getting close.
In December 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto took office under inauspicious circumstances. He was elected with just 38 percent of the vote, without a majority in either house of Congress, and with the opposition in control of Mexico City, the capital. The presidential runner-up, opposition leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, questioned the results of the election.
Peña Nieto faced serious challenges. His Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had governed Mexico for 70 years, until it was swept out of power in 2000. A large majority of Mexican voters continued to suspect it of corruption, authoritarianism, and economic incompetence. Peña Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderón, had bequeathed him a war on drugs that had already caused more than 60,000 deaths; at least another 22,000 Mexicans were missing.
At first, it looked like Peña Nieto would be able to turn things around. He cut a deal with both opposition parties -- the center-right National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) -- and proceeded to win significant legislative changes. He was hailed as a world-class reformer. The country was living the "Mexican Moment," as his handlers labeled it, and appeared to be on the verge of fulfilling, at long last, its great promise.
Two years on, success seems to be slipping through Peña Nieto's hands. The country and its increasingly grey-haired president are experiencing one tragedy, scandal, or disappointment after another.
The price of oil, from which the government obtains one-third of its revenue, has plunged 40 percent in six months. With last year's economic growth projected to be 2 percent, following just 1.1 percent growth in 2013, Mexico will barely have grown faster during the first third of Peña Nieto's six-year term than it did during the last quarter-century.
Meanwhile, a pact Peña Nieto made with his predecessor is returning to haunt him. In exchange for support in the Senate for energy-sector reform, he gave Calderón and his aides a tacit blanket pardon for any conceivable misdeeds committed by Calderón's presidential administration. This hurts Peña Nieto's image in exactly the areas in which Mexicans most mistrust their leaders: violence and graft.
The massacre of 22 civilians by the army last June in Tlatlaya, a small town west of Mexico City, and the disappearance and subsequent murder and incineration of 43 students, also close to the capital, was not a new type of development in Mexico. Extrajudicial executions and disappearances were common under Calderón.
But this time something snapped. Protests erupted across Mexico. The government mishandled both episodes, believing that they would blow over. Peña Nieto has yet to visit Iguala, the town where the students were abducted and murdered. He waited a month after they disappeared before meeting with their parents, and spent a week in China and Australia in the middle of the crisis.
Meanwhile, charges of corruption have been piling up. Just hours after Peña Nieto canceled a contract with a Chinese railroad company to build a fast train north of Mexico City, it was revealed that his wife had acquired an ostentatious home -- thanks to a mortgage extended to her by the Mexican partner of the Chinese railway firm.
The conflict of interest was so brazen, even by Mexican standards, that the first lady -- a popular former telenovela actress -- quickly announced that she would sell the mansion. Then, in early December, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Peña Nieto's finance minister, Luis Videgaray, had also purchased a home in late 2012, just before taking office, from the same contractor, with a similar mortgage. On the second anniversary of Peña Nieto's inauguration, his approval rating had dwindled to 39 percent, with 58 percent of the public disapproving of his performance.
Peña Nieto has tried to soldier through the crisis by promising reforms aimed at improving security and strengthening the rule of law. The trouble with this strategy is what no Mexican president has been willing to acknowledge: the country has never experienced the rule of law.
Before the advent of democracy in 2000, order was imposed by the iron hand of a corrupt, authoritarian state. When its grip was loosened, any semblance of law and order disappeared. Unless and until this is recognized, reforms in this area will lack credibility for Mexicans and foreign investors alike, and thus are unlikely to be effective. Unfortunately, Peña Nieto, whose party ruled Mexico in the bad old days, is unlikely to be the president who breaks the mold.
Mexico was once accustomed to crises (even if it hasn't had one for 20 years); but they typically erupted at the end of a presidential term. Peña Nieto has four more years in office, and he is constrained by the political elite that brought him to power from implementing the drastic measures -- a cabinet reshuffle, criminal accountability for corruption and human rights violations, and radical judicial reforms -- that Mexico needs.
But the alternative could be worse: a populist backlash that destroys much of what Mexico has achieved over the last two decades.
The last sentence says it all:
The world is concerned about Mexico, and maybe even willing to help, but don't mess with our wholesale plunder of natural resources and our various monopolies on services provided in Mexico.
Those that say, don't know. Those that know, don't say.
I think focussing on changes at the top for real social change is a mistake. The top of the political structure is supported by the bottom, like a pyramid. Unfortunately those at the bottom have become dependant on what scraps fall off the plates of those at the top and believe that is all they can hope for. Real change can only come about from the bottom up, from the hearts and minds of the people. This is why I so admire the families of the Normalistas and those who have stood up to take control of their villages. Imagine if this took hold all over Mexico. That thought makes my heart soar. Mireles brought some hope but it appears that he was squashed in the usual fashion, from the top. Those at the top know this and that's why the violence contines, permitted to intimidate those at the bottom. I live with rampant corruption every day. No hope for assistance if you cross the wrong person, even in error. You have to accept whatever certain pendejos dish out. 'Call the Police"? now thats a joke. I am currently in hiding because of mis grande boca.
The author has deleted this message.
This post was updated on .
In reply to this post by Rubbertoe
Rubbertoe: Excellent summary of the Mexican situation. Scholars like Denise Dresser, Anabel Hernandez, and some of our Borderland Beat contributors have been stating similar views here.
IMO, Mexico is so totally dysfunctional from generations of oligarchic oppression that is aided and abetted by ingrained tribalism, racism, and intractable poverty... Mexico is too far gone to change into a "truer" Democracy without a wholesale violent revolution that gets rid of the root causes "simultaneously","concurrently" and basically all at once. This model for wholesale societal changes occurred during the bloody but effective French Revolution.
I do not see "tinkering" with this or that problem "from the bottom up" (i.e. crime, corruption, impunity, racism, mal-education, povery,etc) as necessarily the way to go to correct things. Mexico has a systemic disease where all its organ systems are infected.
Also, within this, the Mexican people are too invested in things as they are. Those that are not are a minority of honest intellectuals or too weak to be of consequence to change things. Apart from Dr. Mireles, I do not see any real charismatic leaders that can inspire Mexicans to destroy the Mexico that "is" today. Mexico's governmental, business, and social systems are too corrupted, interdependent and intertwined to only work on correcting them piecemeal. Apart from pobre Indios tribes, name "one" Mexican institution or societal entity that is not "seriously" compromised or corrupted. In this, I even includes segments of the Catholic Church. Yeah, we see great manifestations of " Ya me canse" people actions... but the evil oligarchic system repairs itself as by giving out T.V. sets to the poor and just waiting for things to cool down.
Mexican Television and journalism: This is a separate, but very important topic. Suffice it to say that these means of communication are but important "tools" that help keep Mexico in a dysfunctional rut.
The United State: I hope the USA sides with the "people" whenever the revolution begins. I fear that the troubles in Mexico will shake and divide this nation in horrible degrees. Perhaps, the millions of Mexican immigrants here will have a substantial say (material and ideological) in the way things go in the Mexico of revolution.
No, IMO, Mexico must purge its societal poisons or cancers "all at once" and this means wholesale revolution on many fronts. Sadly, I do not think any of what needs to happen will actually happen in my lifetime. Mexico will probably just go along like before... tinkering here and there on things that actually do not matter one bit, except as feel-good palliatives for the masses. Mexico is "La Dictadura Perfecta" A video worth consistent with what I opine click: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DI0-b0bEONI
Don't you just love the narco-corridos, tele-novelas, fiestas, sports events and other mental pills?
Rubbertoe, I'm sorry that you have to be in hiding. I pray that you keep safe because Mexico needs outspoken patriots like you.
In reply to this post by Mars220
I also find the last sentence curious. "A populist backlash that destroys much of what Mexico has achieved over the last two decades." Exactly what is it that Mexico has achieved over the last two decades, except more concentration of wealth, more economic inequality, more entrenchment by the oligarchy, more depletion and looting of natural resources, more displacement of campesinos, ejidatarios and indigenous communities, rising corruption, impunity and violence? In my alleged mind, a populist backlash is precisely what Mexico needs to stop it from sinking even deeper. Maybe the result of a "populist backlash" would be worse, but for sure, if the present system is allowed to continue, there's no question it will be worse. What's wrong with a little populist backlash now and then?
If Castaneda has felt the need to write this, he being a member of and spokesman for the elite, it means that the elite is finally getting worried. The elite that has for centuries been untouchable in Mexico is, perhaps, finally being touched. And I do not for one minute believe that they are being touched by the injustice that passes for a judicial system in Mexico and that touches everybody else but them. No, I mean they are being touched by the monster they have created with their authoritarianism and their corruption. The impunity they have enjoyed for so long has actually turned against them. Se les monto el chango y no hallan como desensillarlo.
In reply to this post by Mars220
"But the alternative could be worse: a populist backlash that destroys much of what Mexico has achieved over the last two decades. "
Synopsis: Mexico needs change but I'm not sure that change is good.
|Free forum by Nabble||Edit this page|