Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has reacted in all of the wrong ways to the enormous social protests in Mexico, the U.S. and over 100 cities abroad calling for justice for the 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa teachers college. Instead of responding to protesters’ demands for increased democracy and accountability, he has politicized the violence and stubbornly hung on to old, authoritarian ways.
If Peña Nieto were serious about addressing the root causes of the public security crisis, he would assume his responsibility, rearrange his cabinet, investigate probable complicity of the armed forces and work closely with community police in the states of Guerrero and Michoacán to clean up local governments.
Instead, he has tried to divert the blame to opposition political parties, centralized power and stepped up arbitrary arrests of student activists. He has also made superficial bureaucratic reforms, such as changing the emergency hotline number from 066 to 911, and modifying the national citizen identification system. And his top military commanders have threatened the population with increased repression.
The key problem is that Mexico’s “democratic transition” has failed to empower society or settle accounts with the past. Instead, like the Russian and many African and Eastern European transitions, liberalization has meant only the diversification of the power bases for the same old moguls and oligarchs.
Mexico is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. It received a failing score of 35 out of 100, tied with Bolivia, Moldova and Niger, in the 2014 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index. Mexico is also one of the most unequal countries. It is home to the second-richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, as well as to more than 65 million poor.
Mexico has also suffered the consequences of the drug and arms trades. The U.S. spends more than $109 billion a year on illegal drugs, of which a large proportion ends up in the hands of the drug cartels south of the Rio Grande. Meanwhile, an average 252,000 U.S.-made guns cross the border south each year, yielding approximately $127 million in revenue for gun manufacturers.
The return of the old, authoritarian Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) to power with Peña Nieto has turned back the clock on politics. For instance, the new president’s “Pact for Mexico” has canceled the power of Congress and transferred decision making to opaque, informal political bargaining behind closed doors. Simultaneously, attacks on journalists, students and human rights activists have skyrocketed. As a result, just 21 percent of the Mexican population is “satisfied with the functioning of democracy,” according to the most recent Latinobarometer study. This is the second-lowest number in all of Latin America, after Honduras. Mexico also has the highest level of citizen rejection of existing political parties (45 percent) in the entire region. Peña Nieto’s public approval ratings have fallen to a record low.
To help explain these numbers, consider that only 6.2 percent of all crimes committed in Mexico are even investigated by the authorities. Most Mexicans distrust the authorities so much that they are too afraid or think it is not worth it to report crimes. The root of the present crisis is therefore not bureaucratic failure but a systemic lack of confidence in the political system as a whole. This explains why the central demand of para seguir leyendo oprima aquí