Go Back or Change

Luis Rubio

The discussion in which the country should be engaging is what comes after this government. Some propose that by returning to before 2018 everything would be resolved; others propose a clean slate to start over.  Wherever one finds oneself between these extremes, in 2024 the country will find itself under the utmost of precarious conditions.

The first certainty is that there is nowhere to which to return. The majority of the citizenry voted to disapprove of what existed after giving an additional opportunity to the PAN (2006) and one more to the PRI (2012). AMLO won in 2018 because people were fed up with promises without satisfactory results for all. No one can doubt that during the past decades exceedingly favorable things were achieved that seemed impossible only some years before, but it would be equally absurd to fail to recognize that the results were not always benign and that in the interim, too many resentments had accumulated. To deny these basic circumstances would be to trigger yet another absurdity.

A second certainty is that the future does not pertain to anyone in particular, starting with the president and his acolytes. The future cannot be generated by a small group, however powerful, whatever its ideology or social position. Thus, the future belongs to the citizenry in its entirety. It is individual actions that, on their amalgamation, produce the society being built. The way is made by walking.

Finally, a third certainty is that the stability, functionality, growth and development of a society and its economy require stout moorings that create circumstances that satisfy at least two criteria: one is to protect the rights of the citizenry and its interests. That is, that engender institutional mechanisms of access and participation in decision making and that establish procedures that solve disputes through methods that are known and available to all, unlike the present methods that negate justice to the majority. In a word, all of society should feel itself to be an integral component of the social fabric, and not, as demonstrated by AMLO, a society divided, a good part of which is alienated from the advances and successes that have indeed been achieved by parts of the society and the economy. The other criterion is that the distribution mechanisms of wealth should be transparent, technically developed and subject to audit, so that the Treasury is not utilized for personal promotions nor for diverting public resources for the enrichment of those found (temporarily) in power.

Mexico’s problem is not “technical”, that is, it does not rest on having the best legislation for the this or the most adequate strategy for that. All those factors are obviously necessary, but also obtainable. The problems of Mexico do not arise from the lack of laws or lawyers and legislators capable of redacting and improving them; the same can be said for competent professionals to administer the public treasure, justice or the strategies of public policy that would be susceptible to redressing the problems or edifying new realities.

Throughout the last century, Mexicans have witnessed the presence of exceptionally endowed functionaries and visionaries in parallel with others who were embarrassing, incompetent and destructive.  The problem is not one of capacities, but instead of the absence of limits. Therefore, the challenge lies in the citizenry obligating the politicians to act within the earmarked institutional frameworks. And that is a political challenge, one of power.

Going back or changing is not the choice facing the Mexican citizenry. Its true dilemma lies in breaking the bonds imposed by a political structure that confers excessive power on a single individual, to the degree that his mere gift of gab can dismantle institutions, cancel highly transcendent (and costly) projects, or initiate economic as well as criminal processes against whomever they please. Four years into these misdoings have made it evident that the institutional constructions of the past decades were pure and simply a facade not (necessarily) because their authors thought so, but rather because they never understood, and thus did not calculate, the reality of the power that the presidency consolidates. Or, in benevolent terms, because they assumed that no one would come to wreak havoc on it all as their raison d’etre.

The issue is not new: it arose from the constitutional reforms undertaken in 1933, whose objective was to strengthen the presidency by eliminating the Supreme Court and the legislature as effective counterweights. Along the way, the “system,” which had conferred so many years of stability to the country, consequently turned into an impediment to the natural development of the citizenry, with all that implies: an educational system dedicated to control instead of to development; an economy with excessively dominant entities, beginning with those of the State; and a judiciary subordinate to the executive. In sum, a too powerful presidency with great capacity of positive action, but with a similar propensity toward destruction.

The coming challenge will be much greater than any that any Mexican currently alive has known.