To really change Mexico, it’s now or never



CITY OF MEXICO – Four years is not a lot, but it is enough to allow a country to lay the transformative bases of its development, or to destroy the gains of the recent past.

The difference can often boil down to the presence, or absence, of the right political and economic strategy – and that kind of singular leadership that can lead to the right solutions. As Martin Luther King said, only light, not darkness, can banish darkness.

For Mexico, where will this light come from?

President Enrique Peña Nieto’s six-year term began in December 2012 with an exuberant determination to implement reforms and with the creation of a political mechanism to do so, the Pact for Mexico, with the main opposition parties.

However, the glitches were not long in coming. They started with proposals for constitutional reforms that touched particular sectors and interests – reforms always do – combined with the government’s reluctance to confront them. Some reforms have been frozen, others diluted and others effectively renegotiated. The result was many small changes but little likelihood of gaining tangible benefits, alongside a new and dangerous tendency to destroy the (small) institutional life we ​​already had.

It became evident within a few months that the criteria used to implement the reforms had less to do with their success than with avoiding disrupting specific interests. Take the education reforms: each of the union sectors that rose up against them extracted a concession or exception clause. It is to some extent natural and laudable for a government to prioritize social peace and stability by making occasional concessions. But these are only useful if they save time and allow the subsequent and full implementation of the reforms. Otherwise they become political done that limit the government’s ability to meet its long-term goals.

Nineteenth-century French political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville called reforms the most dangerous phase for a government, and in this case the danger Peña faces is that it has shaken the foundations of the old constitutional order but failed to shake it. has nothing to show for them. It undermined interests and groups (like the large teachers’ union) that supported the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) without replacing them with a new coalition of supporters.

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Peña Nieto and Barack Obama – Photo: White House

A tragic step

Even before the massacre of 43 schoolchildren in Iguala, the government was in trouble. Iguala had the effect of uniting all those who felt threatened and wronged in the country, many of them otherwise having little in common and little mutual sympathy. The government’s inability to respond to the violence amplified the event, which was obviously dramatic and tragic, but not exceptional in a country that has seen 100,000 violent deaths in just under a decade. He also changed the political equation. What has not changed is the government’s vision, as it has stubbornly followed a scenario and conceptual framework that no longer works in Mexico.

After that ? These countries with strong structures, which do not depend on the dexterity or the state of mind of individuals, can go through difficult times for a long time without collapsing, like our neighbor to the north the United States. This cannot happen in Mexico, where the absence of institutions gives so much power and responsibility to the person in charge.

Simply put, the country cannot continue to drift like it has for another four years. The government must act, and act differently. The strategy of avoiding conflict at all costs leads to anarchy.

Paradoxically, this government has the characteristics necessary to lead the process of political transformation, but it seems reluctant to touch the interests close to the president himself, let alone join his natural allies and beneficiaries – the citizens.

Successful reformers tend to prioritize their political goals over friendships. In their book In praise of betrayal, Denis Jeambar and Yves Roucaute find that honoring one’s word and being honest are laudable in principle, but it was not a notion scrupulously embraced by the great leaders of the past. President Peña should consider whether he wants to take the state ship to a new destination or let it sink under the weight of corruption, resistance from vested interests and an economy that shows no signs of failing. real growth.

Argentine General Juan Perón used to say that the most sensitive part of the body is the wallet, and this applies to both workers and the rich. The current uncertainty must be tackled with credible and sustainable rules, clear policies and a functioning economy.

A wave of destruction could overwhelm us, and it’s up to the President to stop it by changing the rules of the game. A determination to impose the rule of law would be a good start.


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