Citizenry vs. Status Quo

Luis Rubio

We Mexicans have witnessed a myriad of reforms in all orders and many of these have transformed the country, in the economic as well as in political ambit; this has created opportunities for transcending toward the development, that were inconceivable in the seventies and the beginning of the eighties when the old world collapsed and the viability of the economy as well as that of the post-revolutionary system had clearly given its all. What the reforms did not solve, nor did they even propose to address, was the constitution of a new system of government, coherent with the consequences which the very reform processes brought about with them.

That is, on modifying the bases of decision making in economic matters (above all with the liberalization of imports and investments) and of the manner of access to the power (with the electoral reforms), the political reality of the country was altered -the very entrails of the power- but nothing was done to institutionalize those new realities and power sources. Even less was done to modernize the system of government that, in its essence, was created at the end of the 19th century, under Porfirio Díaz. So many and such profound reforms have not changed a fundamental thing: the power structure.

The political parties and the political class have done a juggling act and played musical chairs, but the same have ended up continuing to bask in the system of privileges. The way of acceding power has been reformed but not who accedes to it; that is, these have been reforms for the benefit of the political parties and the political class: the citizenry has been absent from the scene and their problems and demands, although known in these ambits, are not recognized as valid or relevant. Yes, there is prodigious insecurity and violence, but what can we do; yes, there is rampant corruption, but it is something cultural; the infrastructure is of the worst kind, yes, but we are attempting to find a competent contractor to address it.

After decades of reform, it is unmistakable that a reform to make the country functional and viable will not derive from those who do not want that reform. If it is not going to come from there, could it come from the society?

In a recent investigation on this phenomenon, I applied myself to the study of what the society has been doing while the politicians pretend they are governing. What I found is an immense social effervescence: a society that is no longer willing to wait, essentially because it has no choice but to deal with the insecurity that is its reality.

The Mexican society has appropriated an uncustomary militancy over the last decades. All types of civil organizations have come into being, accusations are presented, manifestos proliferate and discontent grows. There are organizations that propose solutions, others that evaluate the government; some denounce corruption, others engage in combating delinquency and criminality. Some of these entities are the product of specific circumstances or events –an abduction, a murder, the construction of a new airport-, others respond to more general concerns. Some seek immediate impact, other a long-term one.  Many of these organizations are not visible, other are permanent protagonists. There is some of everything in the public arena.

Much more transcendent, and revealing, is the manner in which innumerable communities, in all nooks and crannies of the country, have organized themselves to attend to their most basic needs, the needs that, in a serious nation, would have been seen to by the government. There are extraordinary examples of communities that, as in Cheran, Michoacán, have taken the initiative, above all in matters of violence and criminality, and have taken it upon themselves to safeguard their localities and convert them into territory where the entry of bands of criminals is not permitted. In Santiago Ixcuintla, the story is distinct, but the result is similar: in this municipality in the state of Nayarit there has not been a sole abduction in more than six years. In Monterrey, Sister Consuelo Morales of the CADHAC human rights league has achieved the adoption by the Attorney’s Office of a model for more efficient work by the public prosecutors; in the states of Veracruz and Morelos (Tetelcingo) the families of missing persons have come together as groups, have trained themselves in forensics (women who have become experts in DNA and forensic samples) and in the search for clandestine grave sites. In some cases, the authorities have accompanied them in their efforts. These are mere examples of the thousands of stories that proliferate throughout the entire country: years of violence and criminality have forced the population to stop hoping that the government will respond and they have organized themselves to attend to their community needs.

It’s impossible to conclude from these few examples that the country is at the brink of a grand scale transformation. The obstacles for such a feat are immense and the capacity to organize and mobilize is obviously limited; however, nothing impedes that, little by little elements or organizations will arise that catalyze these initiatives and change the political reality of the country. This plainly offers obvious opportunities to the traditional mountebanks, but also to social organizations with a national presence.

What is beyond question to me is that the country will change when individuals and organizations of very distinct origins join together despite their differences and, then, take the step that the old system persisted for decades in rendering impossible.