Governmental changes are always paradoxical: one administration exits knowing that it did not achieve what it had proposed and another begins believing that the moon and the stars are within its reach. Whatsoever the nation or the moment in history, political transitions are always a study in contrasts between optimism and pessimism, derailed expectations and realism with respect to all that has been gone through. The inauguration of a government is always promising, but the end is closer than it imagines.
The phenomenon is not new and reflects the nature of humanity. In his Letter to Father, Franz Kafka pens a suggestive paragraph: “…The world was for me divided into three parts: one in which I, the slave, lived under laws that had been invented only for me and which I could, I never knew why, never completely comply with; then a second world, which was infinitely remote from mine, in which you lived, concerned with government, with the issuing of orders and with the annoyance of their not being obeyed; and finally a third world where everybody else lived happily and free from orders and from having to obey.” Kafka was referring to his father, but he could also have been speaking about life in society or a change of government: the ones inside, the ones outside and those who pay the consequences.
Now the most arrogant and simultaneously incompetent adminstration in the modern history of the country is coming to an end: a lethal combination that rendered impossible the consolidation of its pertinent reforms and these becoming the bedrock of a better future. Its arrogance impeded the outgoing government from understanding that the politics of the era of ubiquitous information lies in explaining and convincing, not in imposing, pretending that the future would vindicate it. Its deeds not only defeated it, but also made possible the worst succession scenario that it could have been imagined.
Once the government takes its leave, another begins, which is paradoxical in that the latter has generated the highest level of expectations Mexicans have ever known, but one that sets out from the principle that Mexico is a poor country, incapable of rising up and transforming itself. While Peña Nieto envisioned a grandiose future without having the least idea of –or disposition for- constructing it, López Obrador gives rise to unaccomplishable prospects but does not envisage that the Mexico of the future can be successful. He entertains peak clarity with respect to the urgency of including the entire population in the development project, not only the segment that has been the beneficiary for a long time, but his vision is retrospective and modest.
Peña Nieto thinks that he has left the country at its most pivotal point in time, at the zenith of development; López Obrador clings to the issue of poverty and devotes himself to the symptoms of a country that have left innumerable Mexicans behind. The Mexico City Airport illustrates the contrast: Peña, expansive, who dreams of a splendid future without having convinced the citizenry, face to face with López Obrador who cannot visualize more than limited and small undertakings for an impoverished country and one without possibilities.
López Obrador entertains a very limpid vision of that he wants to achieve, but not a project specifically designed for this. The strategies he has outlined from the beginning of his campaign, but especially during these long interregnum months, reveal a propensity for annenuating symptoms -of poverty, unemployment, disabled elders- to a greater degree than resolving problems and attacking causes. There is herein a confusion of causes and symptoms and a natural inclination for amassing clienteles and loyalties. There are obsessions rather than strategies. His problem is that the latter will serve to mitigate the privations and resentments but will not satisfy the enormous expectations that he has generated.
Peña Nieto leaves behind a polarized country, one whose citizenry despises politics and politicians for their corruption and incompetence. But the Mexico that he leaves has a vastly more solid economic platform than most of our neighbors in the continent to the south and of many other latitudes and one with prodigious potential for advancing. Together with the lacks, errors, corruptions and arrogance of those taking their leave, the new team appears to be incapable of recognizing that there are good things on which it can and should build. With greater proclivity for terse judgments than for diagnoses based on solid evaluations, the entering government will soon find the limits to their lack of consistency, as illustrated by the Airport eye to eye with the Tren Maya.
Some years ago I was privy to the anecdote of a Colombian exfunctionary that comes to mind because it is applicable to this time of transition and to each of those who were and will be responsible for heading up domestic affairs. The Colombian, recently named Undersecretary, felt that he was floating on air. A few days after being named to office, on a raw, rainy and stormy night, he got into his automobile, one of the privileges of the post, and gave instructions to the driver. On arriving at the first traffic light, he saw a very well-dressed man, soaked and shivering from the cold, waiting for a taxi. On regarding him carefully, he noticed that the man was none other than his predecessor as Undersecretary. My friend never forgot the lesson: power is temporary and must be used to advance or is wasted and one ends up in utter ignominy. Paradoxes.