Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Steps of the Mexican Dinosaur

Chicago.- Before the year 2000, México was not really a democracy. For 70 years this country was a piece of land ruled by members of the PRI (The Institutional Revolutionary Party), a propaganda machine disguised as a political party and full of corrupt and greedy people. During this era elections were a sham. People were paid or bribed to vote for the PRI. Somehow even the dead could vote, and many Mexicans were to poor to know that this was happening or to fight back for their rights. But then in 2000 the unthinkable happened. The PRI was defeated by Vicente Fox from the PAN (the National Action Party), bringing a much-expected new era to the country.

The PAN started a transition to transparency and a quest to end political corruption. It also brought its politicians closer to their counterparts of the United States. President Vicente Fox acquired rock-star status and opened up a hermetic México to the world. The PAN won the presidential elections again in 2006, and it started a war against the drug cartels that has cost many lives but has also disrupted organized crime. During the PRI's  dictatorship  political opponents dissappeared, justice was non-existent, and a culture of corruption grew so large that not even the alternacy of power has been able to deal with it.

And now the PRI is back. This party won the presidential elections of 2011 and took back the reins of power last year. But this time the PRI promises it has changed, although none of its politicians has ever admitted to the atrocities they committed or offered an apology to the Mexican people. Since its return, The PRI has achieved the passage of a telecommunications act and an education reform that includes the evaluations of teachers, and is now pushing for energy and financial reforms.

I champion the achievements of México after it expelled the PRI in 2000. There have been no more economic crisis like the ones that plagued the country in the 20th century. I had no choice but to leave the country after the last one in 1994. México also weathered the Great Recession of the United States, and is one of the strongest economies in the American Continent. But the problem of poverty and inequality still exists, just like it did 200 years ago when the Mexicans got rid of the Spanish. And young people with no opportunities are being recruited by the drug cartels left and right, a problem that will not end until something changes the balance in the distribution of wealth.

Today was the anniversary of the second Mexican Revolution. I say the second revolution because México has had two.The first one was started in 1810 by the Catholic priest, Miguel Hidalgo, in order to overthrow the Spanish colonizers who had been exploiting the Mexicans for three centuries, and was successful in winning independence. The second revolution was started in 1910 by President Francisco Madero after the poor repudiated Porfirio Diaz dictatorship and the extremely unequal distribution of wealth. This struggle overthrew the regime, and secured a constitution that protected the rights of workers and equality.

The PRI was founded in 1929 by President Plutarco Elías Calles, one of the last revolutionary leaders. The party's original name was the National Revolutionary Party (PNR), and under its rule México nationalized the oil industry and outlawed illiteracy "a key moment in México's modernization," according to Reuters. But the PRI became intoxicated with power, and it used its grip on the presidency to corrupt all levels of government and affiliated institutions. They held back México's development for most of the 20th century.

So now that the PRI is back there is great reason to be suspicious. The reforms that they are now championing are the same ones that the PAN wanted to pass for 12 years, but the PRI never let them, holding México back for 12 more years. The PAN was also much better at combating the drug cartels, and worked together with the United States across borders to diminish them. The PRI has scaled back this binational efforts. President Enrique Peña Nieto also lacks Vicente Fox's rock-star style, or President Enrique Calderón leadership skills. The latter PAN president was a relentless leader against organized crime.

Many call the PRI a dinosaur, which could be due to the size it acquired while it opressed México for seven decades, or because it came back from the past to reign over the Mexicans one more time. "The PRI belongs—in its long analogy to prehistory—to a far away past whose consequences we feel with all of the weight of horror and crime," PROCESO noted. But this time México is better prepared, and times have changed.  This time when Mexicans get tired of their government, they don't have to launch an armed revolution to exert political pressure. They could follow Egypt's or Tunisia's examples, and straighten up or even scare the Mexican dinosaur away.

Enlace a historia en español/Link to Spanish version.