It's hard to predict much good news coming from Mexico in 2009. For two years now -- and for far longer, as we all know --Mexico has been at war.
Back in 2006, President Calderón began his administration facing what were, in fact, two Mexicos: one licit and one illicit. In much of the northern part of the country, the drug Cartels have built a parallel State, with its own tax system, informal welfare programs and "police" force.
The truth is, Mexico was well on its way towards becoming a failed nation. It might still be.
Ever since the tragic and bloody outcome of the student uprising of 1968, Mexican society has frowned upon the use of legitimate force by the State. In this country, Weber is read backwards. Police can't even move a handful of protesters off the capital's main highway for fear they will immediately be branded as "repressors" (in fact, the word "repression" is an automatic synonym for almost any kind of public use of force here). That is an unfortunate and dangerous combination.
The country's troubles are only made worse by most of its politicians. With no reelection in the legislative branch, Mexicans constituents have almost no way of demanding results. Once in power, Mexican senators and representatives vote along party lines, guided first by ideology, then by their own particular interests and, lastly -- if ever -- by their duty to the people who voted for them. This is, of course, a tragedy.
But there is hope. Mexican democracy has been maturing steadily. In 2006, it withstood the violent onslaught of Andres Manuel López Obrador, the loser of that year's election. Since then, Mr. Obrador has kept at it, trying to boycott the government's initiatives and quietly hoping for the country's implosion. Although his implosion fantasies won't succeed, he has become a thorn in the president's side. It was his political pressure, for example, that forced Calderón to backtrack from his intentions to reform the country's energy sector, even though most polls showed that a clear majority of Mexicans wanted a full reform bill not the "mini reforma" that was finally approved.
Next July 5th, Mexico will hold its midterm elections. There will be more than 1500 public offices in play, including the whole "Cámara de Diputados", Mexico's House of Representatives. Since the times of the PRI's dictatorship, Mexicans haven't bothered to learn much about their prospective legislators. When asked, many people don't even know who represents them in Congress. If that changes next year and the country's electorate takes its task seriously enough, Mexican politicians might start working for the people instead of benefiting from them. That would be good -- maybe even great -- news.
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