Luis Rubio

The problems pile up while the capacity to respond diminishes. If to this one were to add the utter unwillingness of the government to find solutions to the problems that appear (and to those that it unnecessarily generates), the explosive potential, above all in an electoral year, intensifies without limit. It comes as no surprise to anyone that problems such as insecurity, criminality, corruption, protection racketeering, and electoral conflicts mushroom in uncontainable fashion.  Assassinated candidates for office, disappeared journalists, expropriations without the least of warnings and the incessant attack on anything giving rise to a discrepancy in the presidential line are all examples of the contentious environment characterizing Mexico today. These are also evidence of the complete absence of governance.

To the latter one must add the day-to-day governmental affairs that do not function as they should, from schools to the supplying of drinking water or medicine, to cite three obvious examples. The same may be said of the extraordinary budgetary and financial imbalances taking place during the present year and that will inevitably impact the finances of the next government.

If one accepts the conventional definition of governance of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) (“governability comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions that determine how power is exercised, such as decision-making with respect to  issues of public concern and how citizens articulate their interests, exercise their rights, comply with their obligations and mediate their differences,”) the country is in effect not being governed; nor does there exist the most minimal understanding of or the disposition to erect the scaffolding for that to occur. Were one to add that the problems do not lie exclusively in the here and now, but instead in the planning and anticipation of the future needs and challenges, the country maintains stability truly by a miracle. And miracles are always put to the test during the processes of presidential succession during which the outgoing government comes to lose the capacity of action, while the following government has not yet begun to focus on and organize itself for that capacity.

A sensible government that recognizes its limitations would search out ways to decentralize decision-making to reduce risk and elevate the capacity of managing the existing ones, but Mexico’s has been employed in centralizing all of the decisions no longer in the government in general, but rather in the person of the President. The institutional scaffolding constructed during the past decades proved not to have the capacity to respond in the face of the presidential onslaught, but it was at least an attempt to attend to this cardinal problem. Today the only existing decentralization, if it can be called that, is that which has been carried out on transferring an increasing number of decisions to the Army.

Resorting to the Army makes sense due to the vertical nature of the institution, which confers upon it a capacity for action even beyond that which an authoritarian government could exercise. However, the diversity and dispersion of the activities entrusted to it have rendered impossible the attainment of the proposed objectives. I do not write this as an evaluation of what has been transferred to the Army, but as a generic appreciation: no one can undertake the construction of any type of work, administer airports and airlines, respond to natural emergencies (such as earthquakes or floods) and the national security. The diversity of responsibilities is such that the performance involved is always poor. It is not by chance that nations in which the government and its entities managed everything (like the former Eastern Bloc) ended up decentralized so as to raise the population’s standard of living. That is, it is impossible to control everything and, at the same time, to comply with the essential core of any government, which is the physical and patrimonial safety of the population and the creation of conditions for economic progress.

It is clear that these factors have not been a priority (or even an objective) of the current government, but their absence constitutes a major challenge for the passing of the electoral year in which Mexicans are immersed and, second, for the incoming government to possess the capacity to operate and move ahead. It is easy to lose sight of the transcendence of these elements when the President entertains high levels of popularity at the same time that the most visible economic variables (such as the peso-dollar exchange rate and the price of gasoline) remain stable and at politically benign levels, but whosoever has observed the country’s evolution over the past decades  knows well that this are unstable, when not ephemeral, factors. In other words, the absence of governance not only entails a risk for the outgoing government, but also for the country in general precisely at the most delicate moment of the sexennial period: that of the transition of power.

Max Weber, the German sociologist at the beginning of the XX century, wrote that there are three types of legitimate authority: the charismatic, the rational–legal and the traditional. Mexico has lived through five years of the charismatic exercise of power, the most unstable of the three according to Weber. On abandoning the responsibility of governing, the President has ceded the State to the criminals and to chance, therefore guaranteeing that the stability at present would be exceedingly precarious.