Mexico: so far from the United States

I used to say that in Latin America there were two impossible missions.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
31 March 2024 Sunday 04:23
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Mexico: so far from the United States

I used to say that in Latin America there were two impossible missions. The first, sell ties in Cuba. The second, being a feminist in Mexico. To give you an idea: in the Mexican version of the Spanish language, something that is very good is said to be “very cool”; while if something is useless, “I don't care.” However, in Mexico there will be a woman president after the June 2 elections. Before in the United States. Or that in France. Or that a head of the Government in Spain.

For several decades, Mexico was the best example of the type of intermediate regime between dictatorship and democracy, which some indicators call “partially free,” and for which I had used an old Spanish expression: “dictablanda.” There was a certain freedom of expression and association, several parties participated in the elections, but the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) fraudulently obtained an average of 80% of the votes and controlled all public institutions.

Since the 1980s, the economic system based on foreign protectionism, government interventionism and clientelism was being exhausted; State oil was no longer a good international business and there was no more land to distribute to the farmers. The PRI tried to postpone the crisis through the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Canada and some privatizations. But economic liberalization put the political system even more in crisis. In 2000, the PRI finally lost the presidential election.

Since I went to Mexico for the first time 25 years ago, I have been seeing the economic progress, especially in the north and in the capital, which is no longer called Mexico City but Mexico City. There has been democracy. But also high political instability. Three different parties won four presidential elections.

The current president is a new party, the National Regeneration Movement, abbreviated as Morena (in a nod to the nickname of the patriotic Virgin of Guadalupe). For the president of the last six years, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, better known as AMLO, the main enemy is what he calls “neoliberalism.” Yet his administration renewed the North American free trade agreement and has not raised taxes on big business, while engaging in some financially ruinous public works that he leaves unfinished.

López Obrador's popularity comes primarily from his social policies, especially in education and health and the increase in the minimum wage. His greatest undemocratic blunder has been his attempt to interfere in the appointment of judges, the electoral authority and other regulatory agencies with partisan maneuvers.

López Obrador organized a poll to select his preferred candidate to succeed him: Claudia Sheinbaum, the current mayor of Mexico City, who is innovative for being a woman and also for being an engineer and of Jewish religion. The two main opposition parties on the right and left, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), plus what remains of the PRI, have joined the candidacy of Xóchitl Gálvez, a woman, senator and also innovative because she is from an indigenous family.

There is a suspicion that if Sheinbaum, who is ahead in the polls, were to win the presidency, López Obrador would watch her from behind and prevent her from altering her program and her projects. In the time of the PRI, the presidential candidate was selected by the president in office with the famous finger. But as political scientist Jorge Castañeda explained, the finger was above all a mechanism to keep possible successors united around the president in the hope of being the one covered, but, once elected, the new president did not maintain any commitment to his predecessor. .

Privately, López Obrador assures that he will completely withdraw from the public scene and will live on a ranch in the south of the country. For the sake of the democratic game, it would be good news if the next president forgot about the plans to manipulate justice and independent agencies or if her party did not obtain in Congress the two-thirds qualified majorities required for the reform. constitutional.

One would expect emigration to become, as in the US, a prominent issue on the public agenda. But many Mexicans are happy that their relatives live better in the great neighbor to the north and send them money regularly, while, for the rulers, the emigration of the most nonconformists can be a relief.

The country's main problem for the security of citizens and democratic credibility is organized criminal violence. Mexican cartels export narcotics to the US and US manufacturers and merchants export illegal weapons to Mexican criminals. The dead number in the tens of thousands and narco-corruption of local rulers and public officials is widespread. Candidate Gálvez proposes the creation of a Binational Customs Agency with the US. Political scientist and consultant Eduardo Guerrero has proposed a North American Security Treaty. As was the case with trade, more North American cooperation is required in emigration and security.

A traditional jingoistic saying attributed Mexico's problems to being “so far from God and so close to the United States.” I would say that now it is almost the other way around: Mexico is still too close to rhetorical nationalism and far from cooperating with the US on all issues of mutual interest.