Back in 1982, I was living and working in Mexico City and experienced my first presidential election south of the border.
It was not much of a contest. The ruling party, or the PRI’s Miguel De La Madrid-Hurtado was elected and inaugurated president of Mexico. He followed Jose Lopez-Portillo, a man so corrupt that most of my Mexican friends couldn’t talk about him without using X-rated language. It got to the point that Lopez-Portillo lived in seclusion because crowds would literally “howl like a dog” whenever he was around. In fact, I heard those howls myself one day he walked into an expensive restaurant in Mexico City.
President De La Madrid turned out to be a decent man. At least, his wife (or First Lady) was not in the news every week with her extravagant spending. He left office with a decent reputation but couldn’t break up the corrupt Mexican bureaucracy. He honestly tried but those bureaucrats have a way of “leaking on you” as President Trump has learned.
A year ago, the current president, Enrique Pena-Nieto, decided to do something about corruption. He named a commission. He tried to reform PEMEX and the super corrupt teachers’ union.
Unfortunately, people are unhappy about the speed of the reforms again. It’s hard to convince cynical Mexicans who have seen this movie before. This is from the NY Times:
Mexico’s landmark anti-corruption drive, inaugurated by President Enrique Peña Nieto under intense pressure to answer the scandals jolting his administration, is being blocked by the government’s refusal to cooperate on some of the biggest cases facing the nation, according to members of the commission coordinating the effort.
Attempts to look into the use of government surveillance technology against civilians, the embezzlement of tens of millions of dollars through public universities and allegations of widespread bribery to win construction contracts have all been thwarted, commission members say.
Marred by scandals that have embroiled his administration, his allies and even his own family, Mr. Peña Nieto agreed to the creation of a broad anti-corruption system last year that was enshrined in the Constitution, a watershed moment in Mexico.
But after nine months of pushing to examine the kind of corruption that ignited public outrage and brought the new watchdog into existence, some of its most prominent members say they have been stymied every step of the way, unable to make the most basic headway.
After announcing the new system with great fanfare, they say, the government is now refusing to allow any serious investigations into its actions.
As my Mexican friends would say: “Nada nuevo” or nothing new!
To be fair, I think that President Pena-Nieto, like President De La Madrid, did try to “drain the swamp” but it’s very hard to do in Mexico.
Unfortunately, all of those decades of one-party PRI rule have made the bureaucracy so powerful that there is no commission or study that will change anything. It will take a Pinochet-like coup, or a strongman who breaks the back of the public sector unions, or maybe a revolt from the states sick and tired of financing Mexico City.
So Mexico goes on, and Mexicans get more cynical by the minute. Do you think that we hate the political class in the U.S.? Talk to any Mexican and he will tell you what he thinks of politicians. (Warning: Cover your kids’ ears when he really gets going!)
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