The symptoms -and paradoxes- are evident everywhere. No one can avoid seeing them, whatever their circumstance, party persuasion, or activity. The country is springing leaks all over and, at the same time, it possesses impacting strengths that are not wholly exploited because something limits them, stands in their way. Mexico has made enormous advances in numberless areas and, nonetheless, there is something that does not jell: the change materializes but is not consolidated and the population does not perceive the benefit. The daily political disputes, which naturally are magnified during electoral periods, have their raison d’être because they reflect a national sense.
Whoever takes in the general panorama cannot help observing the contrasts that characterize us because they reveal our way of being, but also the self-imposed limitations to development. Here is a small sample, clearly not an exhaustive one, from our day-to-day life:
- We have a thriving export economy, but we do not build the infrastructure necessary -including security- for this to multiply.
- There is not a sole domestic economy, but at least three, with dramatically differentiated growth rates (that of the state of Aguascalientes seems to be an Asian enclave when compared with that of the state of Guerrero, which barely remains afloat), but the political discourse concentrates on how to protect the South instead of what would be needed to be done there to imitate the North.
- The governors do not do their job: rather than govern –which would imply constructing efficient security systems with competent infrastructure for attracting investment and jobs and to improve the life of their populations-, they devote themselves to frivolousness and to fabricating their next political opportunities or to financing those of their cronies. Some become involved in political skirmishes at the national level as a mission, forsaking their reason for being. Is that what they get paid for?
- We have edified a costly and not very representative legislative branch that, nonetheless, is not accountable to the citizenry, but to the particular interests of the legislators themselves and their political bosses. Decisions are not made after relevant debates, interparty negotiations or individual conviction, but instead in the aftermath of not always sacrosanct “exchanges”. The private offices of some legislators are irrefutable proof of the criteria that enliven their decisions and actions.
- Companies raise their productivity prodigiously, but their clients find themselves harassed by extortionists who demand protection money.
- The federal government sets the control of the public finances to right, but everyone demands more expenditures.
- The legislators approve electoral laws and those concerning matters of corruption, but along the way they create mechanisms for violating these very laws, as illustrated, particularly, in the financing of political campaigns.
- Ambitious reforms are promoted, but afterward the monies necessary for implementing them are not forthcoming.
- Mediocre infrastructure is frequently constructed that is usually insufficient from the day it is inaugurated. Worse, it is not maintained or monitored: anyone who has driven along the “circuito mexiquense,” a beltway through the State of Mexico around Mexico City, will be able to observe the presence of gasoline thieves (huachicoleros) and highway assailants, but not that of a police officer to take care of those traveling through the area.
There are thousands of examples and everybody knows these and many other manifestations of what the country is: the extraordinary steps forward and the immense waste. Projects with vast reach and worth –the same in matters of structural reforms as well as in infrastructure, the building of institutions (such as the Supreme Court) and the freeing-up of markets- but later these are limited due to the absurdities of the political system and, very especially, because of the indisposition of the old political system to open up and to part with its privileges.
As in the gothic novella entitled The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, about a same person with two faces, one good and one perverse, the Mexican Government, –in reality, the political system, in that it includes all who participate therein- is two things at once: a progressive entity and a promoter of change and development and, on the other hand, a ruthless organism that abuses the population, preys off it and pretends that no one notices. Of course, it is impossible to catch sight of each of the abominations that take place in all ambits of the public sector, at all levels of government, from the most modest municipality to the Presidency itself, but what is indubitable is the general effect: things are not concluded because that would imply affecting some beneficiary of the system. And in these, all political parties are exactly the same.
In this way, the incredulousness of the ordinary citizen is perfectly explicable when the functionary affirms that the public works being carried out are going to transform their municipality or when a Secretary eulogizes a determined reform. Difficult to believe because benefits take time, but also because on many occasions they are not what had been said they would be at the beginning: Mexico City’s second-storey loop solved traffic from one extreme of the city to the other, but the exits were not thoroughly thought through; hence, the interminable bottlenecks just shifted place.
The country is going to change, and it will no longer be so at odds with itself, when there are no longer a Jeckyll and a Hyde, when the government is reengineered so as to be able to dedicate itself to solving problems and governing for all, not only for itself.