The cartoon depicts Herman Munster, the abnormal fictional personage of the T.V. series of a half century ago, seated kindly next to a little girl who tells him: “I thought you were a monster, but you’re tender and sensitive,” to which Herman responds, “The thing is that I’m only campaigning for votes.”
Whatever went on before the election of 2018 ended there; now, AMLO is responsible for whatever comes next: a circumstance that is not always benign, for there’s where biases hit the pavement.
No single matter affects the citizenry in such a direct and brutal manner and with such consequences in the long run as security. Families and companies are forced to live with permanent insecurity because the government has been unable to act successfully. A family that has undergone the abduction of a loved one continues to experience it throughout their existence, and this affects their decisions on savings, consumption and behavior. Insecurity acquires political connotations because those responsible for guaranteeing it have failed, and that’s true at the federal, state and municipal level and involves all political parties across the board.
Enterprises and institutions suffer from insecurity in many ways. Part is the result of what those who make them up endure: How can a university investigator in their laboratory, or an employee at a store counter, concentrate on their work if they do not know where their daughter is? Commercial enterprises with a presence on the street experience insecurity especially in the form of extortion and they know that the authority is corrupt or inexistent.
The big companies devote themselves to prevention, assigning immense resources to contracting police officers, guards, security walls, patrol cars that follow delivery trucks and such. It would be infinitely more productive to devote all of those resources to novel productive investments that generate more growth, jobs and opportunities.
Insecurity destroys the most essential part of the human being because, as Umberto Eco wrote, it “kills the possibility of being able to hope.” No country can prosper under a regime of insecurity such as that which has been our fate to live through.
One of the factors that defines the State is the monopoly of force, but the inverse of this is likewise defining: tax collection. This concerns two sides of the same coin: the one responsible for security is also in charge of collecting the funds allocated for defraying expenses for the operation of the government. In both cases, this is about a monopoly, in that if this does not exist because organized crime charges taxes in the form of extorsion, the State ceases to fulfill its raison d’etre.
The Mexican government long ago lost the monopoly of force, thus it does not control the entire territory, it does not impede the bands of thieves from stealing, killing, extorting and kidnapping in all quarters and does not satisfy condition number one of the governmental function: citizen peace and security. The president rejects the scheme that prevailed to combat crime, but his plan is clearly insufficient. To begin with, it concentrates on attempting to hinder organized criminals from recruiting unemployed youths but does not address the essence of security: a functioning government that protects the citizenry, which entails police forces and the judiciary from the bottom up. This cannot be created in one moment, but it will never come about if it’s not started immediately.
A businessman explained his perspective of the problem clearly and directly: the Tax Authority is bent to collect taxes, intimidate the taxpayers and erect obstacles, by means of interminable bureaucratic procedures, to the functioning of economic activity. However, the businessman went on, no one worries about the new “tax” collectors: not those who send out citations but rather those who burn down stores or factories when protection money is not paid. From the taxpayer’s perspective, both are the same: the two collect taxes and extort the taxpayer, whether the latter is a professional, the owner of a company or a simple employee. Whoever does not pay the taxes will have to deal with the Finance Ministry or, in recent years, with the mafias of extortionists who are infinitely more persuasive, besides being lethal.
It’s clear that the issue of security did not start with the Lopez Obrador administration, but the events of Culiacan and the murder of the LeBaron family attest to the fact that its strategy does not match up to the challenge. But, given that the previous strategy was not a paragon of virtue, what’s serious is the government’s rejection to carrying out an honest diagnosis of the true nature of the problem.
I have no doubt but that the main failure of the last decade in this matter has been one of focus and of concept. The essence of security is simple: a) above anything else, the objective is to protect the population, not to confront the criminals; b) security starts from below, on every block and in every neighborhood, and cannot be imposed from the heights of Olympus; c) the federal forces, including the Army, should become central components of the process, but their function is to support the development of local capacities, not to make these forces permanently responsible for security; and d) there is no greater problem nor one accompanied by more wear and tear in terms of a government’s legitimacy than security. If you doubt this, ask Peña.