Discourse vs. Reality


Discourse vs. Reality

Luis Rubio

What carries the day: the discourse or the reality? The discourse says “we’re doing well,” “I have other data,” “for the good of all, first the poor.” The reality, however, says something else: the country is not progressing, unemployment has spiked, poverty has increased, education deteriorates even more so, the lack of opportunities grows and violence rises incessantly. The discourse affects perceptions, sidetracks attention and mitigates the sense of urgency.     Sooner or later, reality will impose itself. The question is how much later, because on that depends how the country will evolve in the middle term.


Two factors keep the country functioning: the exports and the remittances. The government has done practically nothing to promote the increase of exports, the main engine of economic growth: there is no new infrastructure, violence spreads throughout the territory and especially along the routes leading to the border where the exports have to cross, and key factors, such as electricity, are grounds for politico-ideological disputes that translate into uncertainty regarding their upcoming availability. In a word, the principal wellspring of employment, growth and opportunities is stymied.


In terms of the remittances, the government does everything possible to promote migration to the North (which has flourished dramatically once again) on denying opportunities, punishing mothers who have no one with whom to leave their children on the closure of day-care centers and favoring violence through their policy of bear hugs for criminals. The growth of the remittances during these last years, from the middle of the Peña-Nieto government, has been extraordinary and explains in part the stability of vast rural zones, but also represents a monumental social challenge for families who are thus fragmented. As social policy, migration is, to say the least, a policy of dubious moral quality whenever it entails the loss of large numbers of the citizenry with greater potential for development and creativity.


The administration forges ahead without the government taking note of the consequences of the negligence implicit in its strategy of “development.”  This precise moment of the six-year presidential term is relevant because the capacity to manage the multiplicity of variables characterizing a country that entertains the complexity of Mexico is on the wane vis-à-vis the sexennial clock. The presidential discourse can feign that everything’s going fine, but its own ability to exert an impact on the social and economic processes is disappearing in parallel with the rise of the natural and inevitable altercations that emerge within the context of the definition of candidates for the presidential succession.


This is not a novel challenge for the Mexican political system, whose history is extraordinary in two ways: first, in avoiding catastrophes. And second, on being able to count on an uncommon capacity to redress the damage caused by politics and strategies gone awry.  From that point of view, this is not the first time that Mexico finds itself before a tessitura as complex as the current one; what is not evident is whether the old political system continues to count on the conditions and elements to avoid a catastrophe.


During the seventies, the seemingly golden era in the eyes of the present administration, the country advanced irrepressibly toward catastrophe, but the presidential discourse -infinitely less sophisticated and effective than the current narrative- upheld the appearance of stability while it promoted polarization of the society. Notwithstanding this, none of that could avoid the catastrophe that followed.   That circumstance was very distinct from today’s because the financial excesses and the foreign debt were all but evident, all of that without the currency sources that, thanks to exports have radically changed the present scenario. On the other hand, in contrast with this moment in time, the economy had been growing at a singular rhythm that not only enlivened the triumphalist discourse but also appeared to justify it in the terrain where it matters: that of reality.


It is important to situate this in that circumstance to understand the spirit of the moment and to contrast it with present-day circumstances. The economy had been growing at nearly 8%, employment was almost 100%, real salaries were on the rise, scholarships were multiplying and Mexico, as a country, was seen as an example of opportunity and potential.  Independently of the factor that sustained that dream   -the price of oil- it is easy to grasp the sensation of the moment. Everything was pressing upward in the collective imaginary until, suddenly, it collapsed, with terrifying social and economic consequences.


None of the economic variables of today justify catastrophic scenarios like those, but Mexico’s present complexity has nothing to do with that so primitive a country in relative terms. Today’s economy and the society function thanks to the existence of the Mexico-United States-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the National Electoral Institute (INE), both under attack, the latter in explicit fashion, the former, de facto. The Mexico of today requires institutional strength, checks and balances and an effective government. The “new” Supreme Court of the Nation has already proven its relevance, but it might not be sufficient.