“Raise ravens and they’ll pluck your eyes out” is the epitaph of Carlos Saura’s extraordinary film Cría Cuervos. The same can be said for all of the unions, radical groups, dissidents and parallel organizations that the PRIists and their acolytes created over time with the idea of these serving to counterbalance or as alternatives in the face of the excesses of their own constituencies. Fifty years later, the reality is quite distinct: the original party sectors (workers, peasants and the so-called “popular”) languish (although their leaders continue to plunder) while the groups engendered as supposed counterweights defy the government in Guerrero, Oaxaca and in diverse sectors of the economy. A government that aspires to enforce its authority will not achieve this insofar as it does not put its own house in order.
In the Greek tragedies the audience knows ahead of time that the matter will end in disaster. The only ones who appear to be undaunted are the bureaucrats and politicians who imagine, as if they thought of themselves as Sophocles, that they can avoid the horror to come. The tragedy unfolds and plays out toward its inevitable conclusion, but the actors seem impassive, ignorant of what is to follow. They brought about the phenomenon, financed and drove it, but are not responsible for anything. The tragedy develops as if it were an inexorable process, one in which no one can interfere. The only thing left is arrogance, pride and the politician’s deception because, although clearly being the guilty parties, they exist in a state of forgetfulness, adopting maximalist stances, as if their actions involved no consequences. History is marked by politicians who changed parties, acquired new loyalties or continue, deep down, to espouse the same ones, but who are incapable of uttering a lone mea culpa. What is left are union bosses who everyone now wants to forget, the guerillas created ex profeso, the dissidents operating under the auspices of the federal government and the paid demonstrators. What can’t be ignored are the consequences for the peace of the country and for the daily lives of the citizenry.
If one does not accept the origin of the rampant disorder it is impossible to respond or, more to the point, to aspire to recovering the authority’s legitimacy. It’s easy is place the blame on whatever or whichever ex-president or party, but the reality is that the disorder in the country began as far back as 1968 and nothing since then has altered the trend. I don’t want to suggest with this that all governments after that date were dishonest, ignorant or irresponsible. The point is not to grade them but to ascertain the reality in which we live today.
The disorder was the product of two factors that were in certain fashion contradictory. One was the decision (explicit or implicit) of the governments to abdicate their responsibility of governing, defining this as keeping the peace, creating conditions for the country’s development, penalizing clearly illegal behaviors and adhering to the mandate of the law and that of the institutional framework. Governmental paralysis set in due to the weight of the sensation of the illegitimacy that characterized the PRIists since then and of the PANists’ incompetence that came later. This factor is no longer real.
The other factor that led to the current disorder concerns the clash of perceptions, realities and actions that has distinguished public policy making in these decades and that has paralyzed the present government. First is the fact of Mexico’s open economy. Although many continue to dispute and condemn the fact, the reality is that the Mexican economy has been basically open since the mid-eighties; contradictions in the bosom of this opening and the absurdities that some of its limitations has spawned can be discussed, but the fact is that the main motor of the Mexican economy are its exports. This can please or displease, but nothing changes the facts. The government can accept or reject this reality, but it would be to its benefit to accept it soon.
In second place we come upon the immaculate past, this as if it were an absolute condition. From the past emanate all of our myths and others that have been affixed to these. Here we encounter an obsolete petroleum policy, apathy about gas, the myths about the U.S., the lack of recognition of the chaos that specific PRIists generated in their pursuit of power without making amends for the costs and risks entailed in their actions, and the pretension that it is possible to differentiate between domestic and foreign investors. In a global economy the only thing that exists is a market in which investors require judicial, patrimonial and physical certainty, energy resources and functional dialogue with the government. If order is sought, we must begin by resolving the problems and myths generated in the PRIist tent, that of today and that of before.
Finally, perhaps the country’s greatest challenge can be summed up in a very simple contraposition: modernity vs. tradition. Modernity implies constructing the country in form: with all of the structures of authority, but also with the checks and balances that are crucial for guaranteeing certainty to the population, to the investors and to our foreign partners. Modernity implies a government capable of acting (and the present one has exhibited an abundant capacity for this) but also a viable and realistic development project, something that does not appear to be present in the contemporary vision.
What’s important to citizens is a functional government that does not abuse them as well as a growing economy. This is a definition of modernity that, it seems to me, the entire population would accept. The problem is that as long as the government does not embrace modernity as its own, the latter will never put in an appearance.
Within this context it is logical for the population to subscribe more to skepticism than to the optimism evinced by international publications. Surveys show an acute abyss between the population’s opinions with respect to those of the opinion makers. The experience of past few presidential terms suggests that, to the degree that there is a divorce between both contingents, the government will come out losing. Will Rogers, an American actor of the early 1900s, said it well: “it’s easy to be a humorist, you have the whole government working for you”.
The last thing President Peña’s government wants is for the population to end up engulfed in the traditional pessimism of the Mexican, but the only way to avoid this is guaranteeing its rights and freedoms and achieving sustainable economic growth. Ironically, in contrast with the PRIist era of yesteryear, both will coincide when the government accepts the legitimacy it earned in the ballot boxes and complies with its responsibility of enforcing the law and constructing solid and permanent institutions.