The day after the elections: the Potemkin government in Mexico

“Political language is designed to (…) give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” -George Orwell

In Mexico, a stagnant political discourse clings to a vanished state of affairs. Government buildings still have external names, for example National Human Rights Commission, Energy Regulatory Commission, Attorney General’s Office or Ministry of Education. These banners have formed a cognitive dissonance to the extent that the names are still used to evoke a vanished reality. Political debates and analyzes generally boil down to the question of the extent to which “institutions are in danger” or the country’s “democratic decline”, but these expressions do not take into account a much more perilous and irreversible situation: the institutional engine room of the country, the “levers and levers” of government. The buttons no longer exist, and the shell of disappeared institutions will thwart and delay any political project in Mexico for years to come.

Mexico is no longer in a period of institutional weakening. The most hidden and threatening big picture, and the most pervasive legacy of the current administration, is the destruction of Mexico’s entire institutional machinery. The elimination of institutions, the arbitrary reduction of federal funding for essential public services, the firing of professional civil servants, the appointment of political sycophants, and the explicit instruction to bureaucracies to cease fulfilling their responsibilities have rendered most institutions inoperable. With the biggest elections in Mexico’s history just weeks away, it’s understandable that much of the focus is on choosing the next president. The comparison of the contrasting policy plans proposed by the two main candidates is extremely relevant, but the political discourse overlooks the crucial fact that the government is hollow and rickety and that the next president, whoever he is, will have little or no tools to maneuver, react. , and implement.

In a democracy that functions or aspires to function, institutions are the vectors of power. They provide the levers and switches that enable policy implementation and ensure the sustainability of national projects and strategies. Without these elements, personal power, no matter how strong, is insufficient and inadequate to replace the lasting effects that only institutions can produce. Therefore, one of the crucial responsibilities of any democratic government is to inherit a relatively coherent and effective rules-based order and institutions that enable the next elected leaders to pursue their political goals. Leaving irresponsibility aside, the evil – and cruelty – lies in a government too anemic to function and solve problems. The cliché that “it is easier to destroy than to build” is accurate, and the ongoing institutional devastation will be terribly difficult to reverse.

The process was not a miscalculation or mistake, as is often described. Institutional collapse was a deliberate political project aimed at personalizing power; thus, maintaining the rhetoric of a “populist” or “incompetent” government is not enough to understand the motivation behind the destruction. Needless to say, the process was gift-wrapped. Heralded by the doublespeak of “republican austerity,” the attempt to undo the ancient lesson that government institutions are essential barriers and obstacles because they depersonalize government functions. Institutions are safeguards for personal power, but for a political movement dedicated to personalizing everything, institutions are kryptonite because, by definition, their function is to erase last names from political actions.

In October, Mexico’s first president will be sworn in without a functioning government. There will be no ministry to implement education reform, no human rights commission to protect citizens, no police to persecute and investigate crimes, fewer airports and Worst quality highways to support economic activity, no professional bureaucracy within the Ministry of Economy to implement economic policy. policy, or no public trust to respond to emergencies or natural disasters. What we still wrongly call “government” has been reduced to three main tasks: propaganda, the persecution of political opponents and cronyism; all other functions are subordinate to these purposes.

Often, vaudeville, such as political persecution or the use of the military for an unprecedented number of formerly civilian tasks, are used as smokescreens to give the impression of government presence. The militarization of the country is an essential component of the country’s institutional collapse, although it is misleadingly presented as a new, more effective expansion of the state; but this is a mirage, a false choreography of government presence that will never fill or replace the void created by the elimination of civil institutions. The new government will not inherit a series of crises (i.e. security, health, budgetary) but rather a broader collapse.

Every government needs tools to plan, execute policy, and respond to emergencies, and professional bureaucracies are mechanisms for both short-term reactions and long-term strategies that a Potemkin government can neither plan nor answer. In a modern democracy, institutions depersonalize politics to block whims and whims; they insert a dose of pause and reflection into human impulses. Anyone who wants to understand Mexican politics should be wary of billboards outside government buildings.

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