Other Legacies

Luis Rubio

Fears, interests, inertia and a great dose of myopia impeded the country from carrying out an integral transformation in the past four decades. Reforms of diverse sorts, some more profound than others, but always in partial fashion, were promoted: there were always limitations and powerful interests that biased the reform processes for the sake of safeguarding special interests, union, bureaucratic and political niches and opportunities for corruption. Notwithstanding this, there were many successful reforms in the economic ambit, but the political system was left practically intact, engendering a myriad of spaces in which the process of economic reform interacted -rather clashed with- the realities of power and of politicians.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador repeatedly affirms that during the last 36 years nothing advanced, that everything was defective. Those statements are factually in error, whenever the evidence is overwhelming in the opposite direction: whoever has driven through the Bajío in recent years can appreciate the spectacular transformation undergone by states such as Querétaro and Aguascalientes and, from there, the entire region to the north and a good part of the northwest of the country. If one observes export behavior, Mexico has become a true world power. In a word, the transformation is real, to which dozens of millions of Mexicans can testify.

But AMLO is absolutely correct in that the change and progress that has come about has been highly unequal on not benefitting in the same manner the whole of the population. Those who have visited the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas or Guerrero know well that there, progress has been much more limited, that the ways of life, the social control and the political control of yesteryear continue to prevail and that daily life for the majority of the population has not changed in decades if not in centuries. At the same time, AMLO should be content since, had things been different, he would never have been elected.

The point is very clear: Mexicans are paying the price of the reticence in terms of reforming the country integrally, so that the unabridged population, of all regions was to have the same opportunity of entering into the world of growth and productivity. That has been happening in nations like Chile and Colombia, not to mention various Asian and European nations, where the reforms were integral, without looking back, and without the inordinate desire to perpetuate spaces for depredation on the part of special interests through enterprises and opportunities for corruption.

In the ongoing, internal sparring of the PRI race for its leadership, one can observe this phenomenon keenly: two countercurrents, one looking toward the future, another longing to keep alive the stagnation of the past, because that benefits retrograde groups. What can be recognized in the PRI is nothing more than a microcosm of the country in its entirety: those who want to go forward vs. those who want to return to, preserve or recreate an idyllic past that did (almost) nothing good for the man in the street.

In addition to making possible the triumph of a reactionary and retrograde political project, the country is suffering through the consequences of reforming inaction in the most diverse ambits. First of all, in the poverty that persists despite so much reform, but that is explainable: one need do no more than watch the scarce infrastructure constructed over the last decades in the south of the country, an infrastructure without which it is inconceivable to attract productive investment, in addition to the educative involution of the region, which speaks for itself. Second, the enormous difficulties confronting persons and companies, above all small and medium enterprises, to raise their productivity, without which they could never prosper. And, third, and most transcendental in that it reveals the main scourge of the country, the universe of extortion that characterizes everything that is carried out, in all domains, and which constitutes a genuine modus vivendi for the bureaucracy, the police, the political parties, the judiciary and the governments (at all levels) and from which not even the greatest nor the most powerful enterprises are safe, even though they possess better means to face it.

These matters are not exceptional in the world and have been broadly studied from Montesquieu to the theorists of the modernization of the XX century. In order to prosper it is indispensable to have a system of government that creates conditions for progress and the transition from the old status quo to a new reality is always tough and complex, bequeathing innumerable malfunctional spaces along the way, as could be the violence of the present day.

To truly achieve integral and balanced growth, the country is required to complete the transformation that was cut short in the past decades. The president could persevere in his process of retraction toward the past (which augurs no good) or take advantage of his extraordinary circumstance –of legitimacy and political capacity- to construct and implant roots for a new open and democratic political structure in conjunction with a transformed system of government, compatible with the realities of the XXI century and susceptible to promoting prosperity in all the population. The question remains: forward or backward.