Little White Heresies

A proposal to solve the problem of narcotrafficking and construct a new development platform is circulating on the Internet. Some perhaps might brand this as unviable, and it certainly is no more than an expression of deep frustration, but a keen and experienced observer of our political/governmental idiosyncrasy affirms that “this is the most serious and best conceptualized program that I have seen. Above all, because it is perfectly feasible and doable by our excellent political class”. The issue merits serious consideration.


The proposal is elegant in its simplicity: it proposes ending narcotrafficking in three years by means of an infallible methodology, the NONAMEX project.


The project comprises five steps: “I. Legalize the drug business; II. Declare it a strategic area for national development; III. Nationalize the narcotics production industry; IV. Create an autonomous entity to run a state monopoly on drug production and commercialization: the National Operator of Mexican Marijuana and Alkaloids (NOMAMEX); V. In a national assembly headed by the following delegates and senators: Carlos Romero-Deshamps; Napoleón Gómez-Urrutia; Joaquín Hernández-Galicia; Elba Esther Gordillo, and Martín Esparza-Flores, among others, constitute the Mexican Union of Narcotics Industry Workers; VI. Wait a couple of years; VII. Create a legislative commission charged with auditing NOMAMEX, and VIII. Problem solved. In the third year, we will be able to observe, among the National Narcobusinesspeople, strikes, internal power struggles, and absenteeism. The narcotics industry will have imploded by then and will require a fundamental judicial reform. It is entirely certain that products will become scarce and will cost 40 to 50 times what they should, completely inhibiting demand and steering all members of the thriving industry headlong into poverty”
The author, presumably an individual named Francisco Vidal-Bolado, added an illustrative corollary: “This methodology has demonstrated its results experimentally, and chief among its achievements have been the oil industry, the sugar cane industry, the agro industry, the electrical power industry, the mining industry, and the fishing industry, among many others”.
One may either laugh or cry on reading this proposal, but we can not but recognize the spirit that produced it. Our politicians believe that no one notices what is going on in our environment. The laws that are approved are not conceived of for normal citizens, those who want to live their lives and take advantage of the opportunities that life generates, but rather are projects designed by and for bureaucrats who engage in nothing better than pillage and plunder. The text also reveals profound resentment toward our public officials, not only because of their waste of national resources, but also due to the absence of practical and workable solutions.


The proposal reminded me of another project of similar depth and disenchantment. Fifteen or eighteen years ago, Josué Sáenz, the self-avowed “high-level functionary of the low-level bureaucracy”, proposed the immediacy of creating a “trust fund for the protection of the penguin”. Due to its geography, said Sáenz, Mexico could claim to be part of the Antarctic Treaty and, as such, could create a legal framework destined to protect the penguins. He proposed sending our ruling class to be in charge of administering the trust fund. The Penguin Trust Fund (FIDEPIN), stated Josué Sáenz, would keep our politicians busy, but the latter, he concluded, “will most certainly finish off the penguin”.


The theme changes but the tenor remains the same. Mexicans need nothing other than a climate of certainty within which to work. The Golden Ages of economic growth in Mexico took place punctiliously when this certainty was achieved. In the fifties and sixties, the population basked in a legal platform that was credible, people trusted in the word of the authorities, and the economy worked: savings and investments were generated. It took the regime emanated from the Revolution decades to win the trust of the population and, little by little, to lay the foundations for the development of an emerging business sector. Years of construction fell through when, at the beginning of the seventies, the government changed the rules of the game and incorporated all types of regulations and restrictions that did nothing more than swell the bureaucracy and restrict economic growth.


In the eighties, there was an attempt to restore the climate of certainty, but the sole mechanism found that would be capable of generating confidence was a bilateral agreement with the U.S., the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This instrument eliminated the arbitrary powers of the bureaucracy in many an economic sector, which fostered the growth of investment and, briefly, relatively high rates of economic growth. Regrettably, the political war that began with the rescue of the banking system through the FOBAPROA, the inconclusive political transition, and the lack of a sense of direction as well as of the institutions with which the democratic era came into being, ultimately undermined trust. It is not by chance that the only part of the economy that presently works in a nearly automatic manner is that which is regulated (and, thus, protected) by NAFTA. All of the others stayed behind in history or are alive but harassed by regulations and red tape that hold the country back from flourishing.


Propossals to end narcotrafficking or to save the penguin are none other than the mental lucubrations of desperate Mexicans who know to perfection how our country works. Their proposal is nothing more than a satirical portrayal of daily life, which is obvious to all except to those in whose hands lies the possibility of changing the reality. And worse, experience shows that the obstacles to any change are so formidable –the interests so convoluted- that even when a president that made his early career in business comes into power or when upright officials who understand the problematic are charged with responsibility, they end up entrenched, incapable of carrying out change and constrained to explaining why none is possible. Frequently, Congressional leaders do nothing more than condone the system to safeguard their own privileges.


The political change in 2000 did not transform the power structures in the country: it modified the power flows and the relative checks and balances among those who wield it, but did not change the fact of political, bureaucratic, union, and business control. It is impunity and privileges that render narcotrafficking possible and that hold back the development of the country. Only when both of these take their leave will it be possible to deal with the narcotrafficking, and, if luck would have it, save the penguins…