Another Revolution

At 102 years of the Mexican Revolution, the PRI is getting ready to return to the presidency. The circumstances of the country of today and its daily reality are nothing like the times at which Madero called for the uprising against PorfirioDíaz, but the moment is equally transcendental. Not only is a president coming from the PRI returning, but also it will be the first occasion in decades on which the politicians return to power. The hope is that those who return have learned a lesson from their former fellow partisans who left defeated, first due to their performance and then at the ballot box.

The citizenry is anxious for a change and fearful of its implications; many Mexicans believe that fraud was involved in the elections and some exhibited a worrisome propensity to reject institutional channels to resolve disputes and, even, a willingness to adopt violent ways to get what they wanted. Despite the stability enjoyed at present by the country and the relatively benign economic situation (above all compared with other latitudes), the inescapable fact is that dissatisfaction is ubiquitous and generalized.

Faced with this panorama, the government that will initiate its six-year term in office in a few days evidently has been pondering its priorities and options. The various members of its team have been poring over options, proposing alternatives –some in public, whether indirectly or not- and competing for the ear of the incoming president. Different from the amateur governments of recent times, control of the scenario is notorious: despite insistence for the upcoming president to show his hand (in the legislative agenda, the cabinet, programs and priorities), the discipline speaks for itself. No politician puts his cards on the table or opens spaces until he finds himself in place and in control and until he possesses the possibility of administrating the processes.

What no president in the making can elude is the reality that confronts him and the complexity that this entails. On a certain occasion Kissinger affirmed that “competing pressures tempt one to believe that an issue deferred is an issue avoided: more often it is a crisis invited.” The diversity of problems and themes that require attention increases the complexity and endorses a milieu, so eloquently described by a U.S. diplomat. At the same time, we must remember that it was precisely during this same weekend in 1994 that fundamental problems were discussed and lack of decisions in this respect led to the worst economic crisis that the country had experienced since the Revolution.

The great success of the old PRI system resided in its capacity to put problems off. After pacifying the country, the PRIists, who doubtlessly for many years maintained a tight closeness with the population in all strata and provided extraordinary social mobility, became comfortable and devoted themselves to avoiding problems, to postponing these and to administering the conflict. In some instances they did not achieve this, but at some moments their mantra ended up being, in the words of a certain personage of the times, “better not move it”. The PRI of the past was entirely devoted to power: the ideology was the instrument, not its raison d’être. On its part, development was a relevant objective, but only when it did not alter the established order or the interests of the beneficiaries of the “PaxPRIista.”

The technocrats who came into power in the eighties introduced order and discipline into the governmental function, as well as a forceful sense of purpose and a logic of future. Clear minded that it had become impossible to maintain power without development and systematic economic growth, they initiated reforms that had the immediate effect of providing oxygen to the economy, but clearly not a lasting solution. The contrast with the Chinese Communist Party is palpable: although the latter’s purpose is exactly the same as that of yesteryear’s PRI, preserving power at any price, their action reveals the understanding that this is only possible to the extent that the party as well as the country achieves a permanent transformation, because without this it is impossible to satisfy the needs of the entire population.

Today’s reality demands regeneration of the PRI itself as well as of governmental activity. What the reforms of the most recent decades achieved is the existence of a hypermodern and competitive productive plant, limited solely by a dreadful quality of government. Worse yet, as ironized by Indians with respect to their country, it frequently appears that the economy functions at night while the bureaucrats are asleep. A country with a sense of future requires an environment that favors progress and prosperity. Except for the most daring or those with the greatest advantages at the outset this is not certain at present for the overwhelming majority of Mexicans.

Although the clamor with respect to the government not yet inaugurated that it put its cards on the table is unjust, what this urgency reveals is an acute uncertainty of what is to come and concern because the priorities that the government-elect decides to drive translate into perceptible improvement in a very near future. Instead of pacifying the fault-finders, initiatives in matters of transparency, corruption and accountability(independently of their importance) have had the effect of generating skepticism concerning the clarity of the complexity of the moment that characterizes the team getting ready to govern.

Clearly, the country requires a drastic rise in its economic growth rates and this is only possible within an environment of fiscal security, regulation that fosters investment and political and economic stability. Everything that contributes to achieving these conditions should be accelerated; everything against these should be annulled.

It took many decades to recover financial stability and the fact that a candidate emerging from the party that caused all of those crises has returned to power demonstrates how much the national reality has changed. The party that promised to center the government on the citizenry and that did not comply lost. Now the PRI, which promised an effective government, possesses the unusual opportunity of achieving a reform agenda that got the country out of the hole three decades ago but that was never consolidated.

The difference between success and failure is enormous in results, but is very small –on occasion unperceivable- at the moment of making decisions on priorities, changing ministries and appointing functionaries. It behooves us for the president-elect to have the wisdom to know the difference.