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 05:03
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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, selling ties in Cuba. The second, being a feminist in Mexico. To give you an idea: in the Mexican version of the Spanish language, a very good thing is said to be “es muy padre”; while for something useless, "me vale madre". However, Mexico will have a woman president after the June 2 elections. Before 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 regime intermediate between dictatorship and democracy, which some indicators call "partially free" and for which I had used an old Spanish expression: "dictablanda". There was some 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 running out; state oil was no longer good international business and there was no more land to distribute to the peasants. 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 first went to Mexico 25 years ago, I have been seeing economic progress, especially in the north and in the capital, which is no longer called DF but Mexico City. There has been democracy. But also high political instability. In four presidential elections three different parties won.

The current one in the presidency is a new party, Moviment de Regeneració Nacional, 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". However, his government renewed the North American Free Trade Agreement and has not raised taxes on big business, while embarking on some financially ruinous public works that he leaves unfinished.

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

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

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

In private, López Obrador assures that he will completely withdraw from the public scene and go to 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 forgets about plans to tamper with justice and independent agencies or if her party does not get the qualified two-thirds majorities in Congress that are required for reform constitutional

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

The country's main problem for citizen security and democratic credibility is organized criminal violence. Mexican cartels export narcotics to the United States, and manufacturers and merchants in that country 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 United States. Political scientist and consultant Eduardo Guerrero has proposed a North American Security Treaty. As with trade, more US cooperation is needed on immigration and security.

A traditional patriotic 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 United States on all issues of mutual interest.