Luis Rubio

Everything was going well when the madness began. The desire to transform had been limited to eliminating obstacles that did not enjoy greater popular recognition and expanding cash transfers to favorite clienteles. Both steps responded to an impeccable logic: if it does not enjoy legitimacy, it can be eliminated at a minimum cost, and the funds derived from this act would make it possible to expand and consolidate the sources of support. Indeed, polls show that the political cost of eliminating entities, institutions and funds, even for such fundamental things as the health sector, has been minimal. Perhaps that led the president to consider that everything is possible and that the only limit is the imagination.

In fact, there are many things that required (and still require) to be modified and that had not been possible to a large extent due to the ability of various interest groups to hinder governmental action: unions, businessmen, politicians. No one can have the slightest doubt that there are immense items of waste in public spending; that bureaucratic inertia inevitably leads to demanding more resources instead of raising productivity and improving results; and that there are various items in the public budget that have the opposite effect to that originally conceived. The way opposition party leaders behave given the federal resources they receive by law is a good example of this, but that is another issue.

Without prior commitments, President López Obrador had everything in his hands to carry out that transformation that he promised but which was later reduced to nothing more than concentrating power and destroying sources of potential counterweight to the presidency. Many of the major impediments to the country’s economic growth and development could have been removed, opening huge opportunities for the future. That didn’t happen. And now the panorama is clouded by measures that allow anticipating increasingly complex and conflictive scenarios for the budding succession process.

The last few weeks have witnessed the willingness to tempt fate, even without acknowledging it. The attacks on the Supreme Court of Justice and especially on the minister president do not cease and are now accompanied by decrees that entail, at least in political terms, a clear spirit of contempt. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Immediately afterwards an expropriation, in this case of the trans-isthmian railway. These two examples constitute a huge escalation with respect to the already sour and aggressive tone of the daily presidential morning rants. And there are still fifteen months to go.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the communist governments of its satellites, the head of the Hungarian party, Karoly Grosz, coined a lapidary phrase that begins to seem like a prediction of what is to come in Mexico: “The party was shattered not by its opponents but -paradoxically- by the leadership.” Right at the moment in the political cycle when Mexican presidents traditionally tried to consolidate what they had achieved and prepare for the final leg, hoping to avoid the turmoil and potential crises that accompanied many presidential transitions, President López Obrador raises the tone and undertakes a new onslaught on more and more fronts.

The objective is clear: to win the presidential elections at any cost. The obligatory question is obvious: if things are going so well, why so much circus? Or, in plain terms, why run the risk of unleashing forces that could later prove unstoppable at this stage of the game, opening more fronts every minute?

There are two speculative possibilities: one is that there is no such certainty of winning, which would require doubling down. The other is that the ease with which the president has managed to advance his agenda throughout these past five years has led him to consider that anything is feasible and at a low cost. The Japanese thought something like that in World War II and ended up committing hara-kiri.

The problem lies not merely in the unhinging of the traditional limits of Mexican politics (which, by the way, do not have to be immovable), but in the aggressiveness of the strategy just now when the inexorable vulnerabilities of all presidential transitions begin to ascend and, with them, the risks of ending badly. Suicidal instincts seem to have been unleashed.

Ortega y Gasset said that “This is the most serious danger that threatens civilization today: the intervention of the State; the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State, that is, of spontaneous historical action, which in the long term sustains, nourishes and drives human destinies.” The path taken in recent days not only takes Mexicans away from civilization to bring the country closer to tyranny, but also leads to potentially critical situations, just the opposite of what has motivated the president since the first day of his term.

If the course is not altered, the country could find itself, in the least of cases, facing a constitutional crisis that could well be exacerbated if the election does not go as the president wishes. Interesting times, as the Chinese would have it.