Luis Rubio

A virtue of the President that merits recognition is transparency: in contrast with his recent predecessors, there is full congruence between his discourse and his vision of the country and of the function of politics and its relationship with the economy. He tells it as he sees it. Different from his forerunners, he entertains not the least concern for claiming to be what he is not, nor the least intention of governing for everyone. Nor does he claim to resolve the country’s problems nor much less to create a platform for the future. His agenda waxes nostalgic as does his congruous vision. The question is whether it is sustainable.

In the eighties Mexico abruptly changed direction in its strategy of development. Therein lies the President’s great bone of contention: his vendetta regarding it derives from that moment in Mexico’s history believing that the post-Revolutionary development project was betrayed. Behind this notion lies a nodal fallacy: that the change was voluntary promoted by contrived technocrats who did not know the country’s history and who, consequently, imposed a world view contrary to the interests of the nation.

The veering off course that the country underwent during those years responded to two inescapable circumstances:  one was the virtual bankruptcy of the Mexican government at the beginning of the eighties. The immediate cause of the crash was the fiscal excesses of the governments of Echeveria and López Portillo, which precipitated the economic collapse of 1982, the debt crisis, a recession nearly a decade long and extraordinary levels of inflation. The indirect cause was that those governments resorted to the concentration of power and functions in the presidency with the objective of restoring the capacity of economic growth, which resulted in being impossible, provoking the collapse. The pretense that by pursuing today the failed objectives of that time could end otherwise simply by avoiding fiscal excesses is unsustainable.

The other cause of the crash was that the world had changed. What the technocrats, despised by the president, observed was that the so-called model of “stabilizing development” that had yielded such good results in prior decades was no longer sustainable. If the objective was to advance and accelerate the development, the country would have to change its growth model, in congruence with the growing diminution of barriers to industrial, commercial, financial and informational exchanges that the technology had begun to drive. In a word: Mexico had to immerse itself in the world or be immersed in the crisis.

The great challenge in attaining those grandiose objectives lay in the incompatibility of the old political system with a modern economy, one integrated with the rest of the world. That is, to be successful, the country had not only to change its economy, but also all its internal structures. However, the “secret” behind the abrupt swerve in direction in the economic project that started in the eighties was that the “real” objective was that of reinitiating the accelerated growth of the economy to avoid modifying the political system. The incompatibility here was understood, but it was claimed to be manageable.

In that contradiction, in that original sin, resides the true difference between the current government and its precursors. The governments of the eighties forward carried out multiple institutional reforms, all of those conceived to protect the economic reforms and confer effective content on the regulations that were required because of both the reforms themselves and of the commercial agreements that had been negotiated.  Thus, were born the regulatory entities in matters of competition, communications, energy, etcetera. In parallel fashion, the Supreme Court of Justice was reformed and, in ministering to the growing post-electoral conflict, the electoral institutions were built.

The paradigm was one of limiting the vast presidential powers, which the presidents that came thereafter observed, at least by keeping appearances. Along the way, incongruencies presented themselves that produced the clash between the demands of a modern economy and the tangible reality at ground zero: beginning with the vast regional disparities in growth, but also the rise pf organized crime, the violence and the insecurity of the population, the dysfunctionality in the Federation–States relationship, and the perverse incentives of the local authorities in fiscal, security and judicial matters.

Those incoherencies and contradictions are the essence of the break brought about by AMLO. In contrast with former presidents, he has acted under a distinct paradigm: he does not profess to construct a modern country. Rather, his project consists of exactly the opposite, in cancelling the modern part of the country to restore the congruence between the economic and the political.

From that perspective, there is no need for him to provide explanations on the espionage engaged in by the government, on the fate of the public expenditure or on the links between his government and the other nations to which he devotes time and resources. In a closed system, one that is introverted (and inevitably authoritarian), the government does not have to explain anything.

The incongruencies are real and within sight of all. The new incongruency lies in pretending that what does function can be cancelled instead of resolving what stands in its way.