The days and weeks pass and the reality begins to sink in: things are more complex than the government in the making supposed and anticipated. The question is what it will do about it.
The speed with which the president-elect took control of the discourse stunned all of Mexico -and the world- but it did not surprise anyone. Since Peña Nieto disappeared from the map after Ayotzinapa, Andrés Manuel López Obrador took control of the narrative and created the conditions that made his overwhelming triumph possible. Perhaps it was inevitable that this would happen, but the fact has consequences: on the one hand, it has allowed the next president full control; on the other, it has made it impossible for him to ignore the real complexity of the country today: with 53% of the vote, the buck stops with him. These months have served to make clear that AMLO has a decision of essence to make: what to prioritize and how to do it.
Recognizing reality does not imply that the future should be a mere continuation of what has not brought favorable results for the population, but it is the starting point. One government after another in the world for almost half a century has accepted the premise that “there is no alternative” in the famous words of a British prime minister. For several decades, the world was moving in one direction and all nations competed for the same sources of investment, which created very precise conditions for a governmental strategy.
The circumstances that created the competitive environment for investment have not changed, but it is obvious that the willingness of voters to tolerate mediocre results has disappeared. The overwhelming vote for AMLO makes this quite clear. But that does not change two core factors: first, that there is no going back in the world of instant communications or the ubiquity of information. The voters turned out for a candidate and conferred upon him an extraordinary mandate, but they did not throw away their sources of information or their smartphones: it would be naive to assume that they will tolerate the destruction of what does work. The other element that is not altered is the fact that there are external constraints to what a government can do to change the direction of development.
Changing the direction of development is not only possible, it is necessary. The model followed to date started from the (implicit) premise that the political status quo had to be left untouched, which in fact implied preserving power strongholds, thus limiting the potential for development to those already living in the modern world: those who can compete, export and survive in the world of globalization would be the big winners; the rest were left to their own luck.
The problem is not the economic model that the country has followed since the 1980s, but the way in which a large part of the population has been de facto excluded. The economic reforms of the eighties and beyond were intended to create conditions for the country to prosper, but only as long as they did not alter the existing structure -political, trade union and business. This is what created a dual economy: those that could compete and be successful versus those that lagged behind. The challenge for the next government is very simple: destroy what does work (the environment that favors competition and success in the global world) or redefine its agenda so as to create conditions for that all Mexicans can be part of that success.
Although it seems paradoxical, there is no contradiction in this: the problem does not lie in the economic model or the ability of Mexicans to be successful, but in that everything that exists is biased to prevent Mexicans from making it. Mexicans emigrate because there are no conditions to be prosperous; Once they arrive at their destination, they are as successful or more as the best. One can see how the Oaxacans in Los Angeles or in Chicago are as capable as everyone else, but not in Oaxaca. The question thus becomes: Does the problem dwell on the Oaxacans as individuals or in the socio-political reality of Oaxaca?
The dilemma for the next government is that its premises and prejudices do not match reality. The reason why NAFTA is so popular is that therein are found the best jobs, the best paid and with those with better prospects: the lesson is that Mexico must generalize the conditions that make these circumstances possible. However, no matter how obvious the lesson, one government after another has been avoiding action for five decades: they have been dedicated to preserving the status quo, including an ancestral and unviable industrial plant, instead of creating a process of real transformation that creates opportunities for all to be successful.
The dilemma is simple and transparent: to break with the impediments to the success of the modern economy -in fact, make it possible for 100% of Mexicans to have access- or to insist on an agenda aimed at developing unproductive clienteles that will end up killing the sources of income of the country. There is nowhere to go: either addressing the issues that previous administrations have not wanted to attack or to remain in today’s mediocrity. The mandate gives for this and much more.