“In the struggle for survival”, said Charles Darwin, “the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment”. The Mexican government appears to be emerging from a battle for survival, and we Mexicans, commencing with our politicians and pre-candidates, we seem to be indifferent to the predicament. Little is being done to construct the framework that will allow for a “new” Mexican state, a new system of government, appropriate for today’s conditions, which are very distinct from those of yesteryear. According to Darwin, the Mexican government is struggling for its survival, but it will not win if it does not erect the structures necessary to be able to win.

The most direct and visible battle, but not the only one, is that which the government is waging with narco traffickers. With the latter, there are bullets, violence, and many deaths. But the objective pursued by the government is less clear, because it has been changing. It is also not obvious because there is so little emphasis on the reconstruction of authority at the municipal level as the fundamental bastion. Instead of redefining the strategy for adjusting itself to the changing circumstances, the government has been redefining the objective. At the beginning, this appeared to be to eradicate the drug market, later to recover the territories that the narco traffickers had appropriated, and now everything seems to be concentrated on arresting or killing the heads of the distinct mafias. In contrast with what happens here, strong governments possess instruments to act and the capacity of mobilization and they do not aspire to anything other than a very specific thing: to establish rules for the narco in such a way that any infraction will be penalized instantly and explosively. This is how the Spanish and U.S. governments work: it is not that drugs or narco traffickers are absent from their territories; rather, the difference lies in that that these individuals know that any violation of the implicit rules of the game (such as killing a police officer or provoking mass murder) would imply a brutal and crushing response.

The Mexican government does not act like this because it does not have the capacity to do so; thus it is that it is found fighting a struggle for its survival. In Spain and the U.S., the local governments are the first line of defense, and state forces are only resorted to when things get out of control. The federal police participate in extreme circumstances only and the Army, practically never. Our problem is that, in nearly the entire country, there are no capacities at the municipal, nor at state or federal, levels; therefore, the Army ends up being the first line of defense. What this tells us is that our problem is not one of narco trafficking or of criminality, but instead, one of the absence of State. This is the underlying theme.

The deficit of the government with which we are afflicted originates in the nature of the PRIist system, but also in the manner in which it was dismantled. The PRIist system achieved its strength through the weight of the government and by its capacity to control everything from the center, and, based on that, by imposing an iron hand. The discipline kept the politicians, the opposition parties, the population in general, and even the delinquents and criminals in line. All of this was accomplished by means of unusually intelligent exercise of power, but not thanks to the existence of strong institutions that made it effective.

In the judiciary ambit, to cite an evident case, the government has never constructed a professional police force or an independent district attorney. Justice was administered with political criteria, and discretionary exercise of power, that is, arbitrariness, was its calling card.  What made the system work was the enormous control apparatus that, violating all respect for the rights of the citizenry, allowed for the administration of criminality. But that was before, within an environment of extreme power concentration, when the population was one half the size that it is at present and when access to means of communication and information that are everywhere today did not exist. In the PRIist system, there was no recognition of the fact that the fear that led to the discipline and respect for authority were an anthithesis, not synonymous: the people were afraid of the government but they did not respect it. For this reason, the pretension of many PRIists regarding the system’s being able to be revitalized or reconstructed is simply ridiculous.

The security crisis that we are experiencing did not start with the defeat of the PRI in 2000. It grew as the country grew, began to open up and decentralized despite the PRI. Let us not forget that one of the worst years for the system took place in 1994, precisely at the moment of the greatest concentration of power. The security crisis has diverse origins, but its explosion is directly correlated with the inexistence of a functional (and legitimate) government system capable of organizing and imposing itself.

The PRI’s defeat had the effect of accelerating governmental decomposition. Though debilitated, the capacity of the PRIist control system was maintained to the end; however, in as much as the power began to migrate toward the states, municipalities, political parties, and power groups (which from that moment on were to be called the “de facto powers”), the control system collapsed and, with it, every discipline-generating instrument. Unfortunately, practically none of the states or municipalities recognized the phenomenon: in an almost sudden manner, these levels of government became the first line of defense against a rising criminality that, due to years of carelessness, had not been confronted. Thus, from the end of the nineties but, above all, from 2000, the country was inundated in a sea of criminality from which today, eleven years later, there is as yet no way out.

In an ideal world, what would proceed would be to develop government capacity at the local, state, and federal levels. In the real world, there has been some advancement, modest, at the federal and nearly none at the state and municipal levels. In matters of security, the municipal level in Mexico has practically disappeared, and the lines of the state governments are blurred; the persistence of the state governors’ control with respect to the municipalities does not help. In our most decentralized world of today and within an environment of ubiquitous information, it appears clear that only a refocusing of the governmental function at state and municipal levels would permit beginning the reconstruction of the government and, with that, the establishment of limits for the bands of narcos and criminals. The way out does not rest on the reconstruction of an exacerbated federal government, something impossible at present, but rather on the construction of a true State. Nothing less.