For every action (force) in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s Third Law of Motion is similarly applicable to physics and politics. Governments define their objectives and means to achieve them and the population has to deal with the consequences: nothing and no one can avoid this elemental principle. The situation becomes worse and deepens when the distance between the rhetoric and the world of concretion widens till all sense of reality is lost, which is what daily early-morning press conferences are all about. When the President utters his famous retorts –“I have other data” or “I am not going to fall into provocations”- he disqualifies any criticism or alternative view, confirming his self-centered attitude. The results of his administration -or the absence of same- and his inability to build a consensus will not be long in coming.
The consequences of a government that resides in its own stratosphere will have to be paid for by each and every Mexican, but there are three that seem to me especially transcendental due to their harshness, preeminence and seriousness. The first of these has to do with destruction of human capital inherent in the Fourth Transformation. The strategy of the government has consisted of eliminating all of the technical capacity that it had; promoting a brain drain; the termination of an enormous amount of research projects; the cancellation of scholarships to students and to those studying abroad (and thousands of others that will no longer have access to this); the judicial prosecution of scientists; and, in general, a prodigious waste and the spending of resources on unnecessary and retrograde projects, such as that exemplified by the president himself on promoting his famous juice-producing sugar mill similar to those invented in the 17th century, clearly an already surpassed technology and one that would not contribute, before or now, to diminishing poverty or to improving the population’s standard of living.
The second consequence derives from the distraction of the governmental monies toward undertakings and budgetary items that are not only not profitable, but that in many cases imply systematic and long-term losses, reducing resources for future administrations. The cancellation of emblematic projects such as the airport, the brewery and, more recently, the exclusion of the Talos Energy enterprise from exploiting the Zama oil field are all cases-in-point of decisions on the part of the present government that sent the unmistakable message that private investment, national as well as foreign, is not welcome. In addition to this, the insidiousness and contempt for the importance of the relationship with the United States triggers decisions and brings impacts, perhaps not immediate, but undoubtedly unmistakable.
Each of those decisions will entertain its explanation and political rationale, but all will have consequences, and all imply additional expenditures as well as a cost of opportunity. The price of the airport will be double: on the one hand, what was lost and what is owed to bond holders and other participants; and, on the other hand, the new investment in an airport whose successful operation will be difficult. The case of Zama will be infinitely greater because of the income that the government will cease to perceive, as well as the indemnities that will have to be paid to Talos, as well as the resources required for an attempt to develop the oil field (for which Pemex has no experience). This concerns a self-inflicted cost that generations of Mexicans will defray in the future. Worse yet, a totally unwarranted cost.
The third consequence, the one that the President pretends does not exist, is that of the destruction of any source of long-term certainty, that which engenders trust among the citizenry, avoids extremisms and generates opportunities for economic development. The president may believe that his words and his clienteles are enough to create a promising future, but he is wrong: as you sow so shall you reap and, in his case, the latter occurs more that the former. Not by chance has he fired the head of his project of manipulation and political control after the election, thus confirming that his priority is not development but control and the permanence of his personal agenda. The president may be bringing new talent to his Cabinet but, in that his words and actions convey the contrary, the benefit gets diluted and what is left is closed-mindedness, polarization and disdain.
The students who saw their studies truncated will seek other options, many will not return and all will end up frustrated and resentful. Mexican scientists, professors, researchers and social leaders -those of today and those of the future- will see this stage as what it is: one of destruction and the cancellation of opportunities. The Americans will not stay with their arms crossed.
The project that he promised would end poverty, corruption, violence and inequality will conclude in accentuating each and every one of these scourges. The applauses of today will be the burnt fingers of the future: the eternal history of Mexican administrations. Instead of improving the reality, it will have worsened. Another six-year term lost, but worse.
“There are some things,” wrote Hemingway, “that cannot be learned quickly, and time, which is all we have, must be paid heavily for their acquiring.” Time lost has no substitute and this government will have delayed the development of the country much more than the six years corresponding to it, all for merely scratching the itch of trying to reinvent the wheel, that which in the XXI century is digital. Nothing more distant to it than the much-alluded-to sugar mill.