As I’ve said before, I am not much into politics. For me it is too much talk, not enough action. But since there are elections all over the globe this year it is hard to avoid political talk.
Last Sunday the Mexicans selected their new president and a new congress. For weeks rumors were going around that, even though he was #1 in the polls, Peña Nieto would not win the elections. People supposedly were just afraid to tell the surveyors who they really would vote for. I don’t know whether that was only a rumor or just the hope he wouldn’t win. Whatever it was, it was wrong: Peña Nieto did win the elections according to the first counts.
Last century, his PRI party ran Mexico for 71 years and became known for coercion and corruption. In the foreign press you will read that “PRI governments were also known for keeping a lid on organized crime, whose battles with government and each other under Calderon [current PAN president] have taken more than 50,000 lives and traumatized the country.” But I have not seen an article yet that elaborates on how they kept that lid on.
From what I hear and read, the PRI party used to make deals with the drugs cartels to divide their territory. This stopped the killing somewhat, but it did not get rid of the cartels. Instead it made them stronger. During those 71 years, the police force to become corrupt. Two presidents that seem to have been most influential on creating the corruption and the manipulation during this period are Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (1964-1970) and, his successor, Luis Echeverría Alvarez (1970-1976). Both have manipulated and massacred resulting in the death of hundreds of mainly students and innocent bystanders.
In 2000 PAN finally got to deliver the president. When Calderon took over from his PAN colleague Fox in 2006, one of the first things he did was to start the war on drugs. The rich cartels obviously did not like this much and the violence and killings began. This not only cost thousands of lives (on both sides) it also drained the cartels from their ‘hard-earned’ money. Calderon fired a lot of corrupt police men as well, with the effect that the fired ´officers´ became killers for the cartels that paid them all along anyway. The Calderon government was not able to realize a stable economic growth, partly because the congress and senate, dominated by PRI, were blocking the PAN initiatives. Unemployment went up, making it more and more attractive for young Mexicans to go into the drugs trade.
Of course Peña Nieto could not have won without the support of about 40% of the Mexicans. His voters remember the (relative) safety and the fact that they were able to work and buy food. But the approximately 60% of the Mexicans who did not vote PRI, fear that corruption, manipulation and dividing territory is just around the corner.
And they may have a point, Peña Nieto did make a deal with Mexico television giant Televisa, to only portray him as the Rescuer of Mexico and to ignore the other candidates. Also, according to the Washington-based Mexico Institute, there is some local corruption within the PRI with organized crime. The question of course is what Peña Nieto is going to do about it, if anything at all. He did state that he will not make deals with the drugs cartels, but a lot of people cannot be convinced by this statement alone.
The only thing that all Mexicans seem to agree on is that the violence has to stop. It therefore was a big topic during the election debates, and you would have expected a lot of proposals on how to change things. Instead all parties offered different ways to continue the war on drugs and of course all promised peace in the end. Experts expect the war to continue and express the hope that Peña Nieto will take a more sophisticated approach using high-tech means instead of shooting at everyone who moves.
Only time will tell, but I do hope that PRI will do the right thing and make Mexico the fantastic country most people want it to be. And if the new president does tend to go back to the old ways, I hope and trust that the Mexicans will organize themselves to prevent that from happening. After all, society has changed since 2000 and the Mexican people do know what the right thing is!