Order and Disorder

Luis Rubio

A “trilemma” occurs when there are three critical objectives but only two are attainable at the same time. From the time that I became acquainted with this formulation it seemed to me that it described well the contradictions that characterize Mexico: the search for political and economic stability above the disorder, the violence and the propensity for anarchy; the desire to consolidate a democratic regime; and the eagerness to build a competent and functional governance. The past four decades have been witness to important efforts to advance in these three ambits, perhaps without coming to a halt to notice the inherent contradictions in the objective, thus, the impossibility of achieving it.

The reforms that were advanced between the eighties and the last decade were conceived to advance the first objective, especially economic stability. The goal was to create conditions to attract private investment for the purpose of developing an industrial development platform. Each of the components that was integrated into the process, from the liberalization of trade in    1985 up to the energy reform of 2013, constituted an additional scaffold to conform the scenario that has permitted the consolidation of an export manufacturing industry.  Today’s entire Mexican economy depends on those exports, therefore, despite all the avatars, the achievement is none the lesser.

The flip side of the coin is that everything was wagered on the construction of that export platform, which implied forgetting (and, in fact, losing) the majority of the population that remained trapped in the prevailing disorder, as much due to the poor government itself in general, as to the uncontainable wave of violence and criminality that razes increasing numbers of communities. Both factors –the incompetent government and the organized crime- complement each other and provide mutual feedback: those who occupy governmental posts derive political and personal benefits, while organized crime prospers and proliferates at the expense of the health and tranquility of the citizenry.

The desire to erect a democratic regime has been present since the dawning of Mexico as an independent  nation,  undergoing various exceptionally successful moments in the XIX as well as at the beginning of the XX century, but it was not until the second half of the last century, after the Student Movement (1968) and the growth of a solid and competitive opposition, that a democratic schema began to take shape that obligated the forging of an electoral regime into which everyone would  fit. However, observed in retrospect, that regime travelled faster than what the government and its sources of power were (are) willing to advance, yielding the results that one sees today: a government incapable of providing security to the population, an endless waste of resources; the total absence of transparency in the exercise of the governmental function; and, on top of everything, a government that does not satisfy even the most minimal standards of health, education, infrastructure and, in general, conditions for development.

The propensity toward anarchy that vast regions of the country experience is not the product of chance. A very high proportion of the population lives in submission to extortion and/or violence, in addition to injustice, generated by these same organizations and that impede not only the normality of daily life, but also the development of the country. The worst of it all is that there is not even a recognition of the nature of the problem or of the incompatibility of the current system of government with growth, stability, or democracy.

The question is, well, where to start. The promoters of the democratic transition assumed   that the professionalization of the mechanisms and the administrative organs of the electoral processes would in themselves resolve the problem of governance. It was reasonable to think like that, given that the approval of the respective reforms enjoyed near universal legislative support, with the decided participation of all the political forces. From that perspective, the wager made sense. Nonetheless, the result a quarter of century later is not commendable.

Scholars of the chaos marking nations such as Iraq and Syria have arrived at the conclusion that anarchy is the greatest threat to the construction of viable society. In the words of Robert Kaplan*, “A year of anarchy is worse than a hundred years of tyranny.”

Mexico has not reached the extreme of those nations, but parts of the country suffer in a climate of violence that is not very distant from what takes place in some zones of the Middle East. Also, although the level of dysfunctionality typifying Mexico is not like that of those nations, its inability (and indisposition) to resolve problems is comparable.

The bottom line is that the country runs the risk of advancing toward an ever more generalized chaos and that the democratic processes would not be able curb. What is urgent is to transform the system of government for it to be possible to build a lasting peace, create conditions for development and establish a sustainable platform of economic and political stability. Urgent and important at the very same time.

*The Tragic Mind