It’s said that Albert Einstein once defined insanity as repeating a given course of action and expecting different results. With the return of a large number of Mexican congressional seats to the former ruling party, the PRI, it would appear that Mexico’s citizens have (by Einstein’s standards) gone insane.
Drug wars, swine flu, earthquakes, and a staggering economy have not made for an easy few months for the citizens of Mexico. While it’s hard to blame anyone for an earthquake or the outbreak of an illness, it’s certainly appropriate to blame the country’s leaders (past and present) for their country’s current state of unrest and to demand action.
In Mexico, corruption is a major national problem. It gums up the works of the political process, from the appointment and election of leaders to the decision-making of the courts and the punishment of criminals. A bribe can get a minor into a bar, convince a police officer to not write a ticket, or shorten a convicted criminal’s prison sentence. The root issue is a long-standing lack of respect for the laws and institutions of the country, and the PRI is largely responsible for this state of affairs.
The latest: in July 5th’s midterm elections, the PRI (the Institutional Revolutionary Party) came away with 233 of 500 seats in the Mexican legislature. They now have a majority in the lower congressional house and 5 governorships. Mexican citizens voted for change, all right.
A quick history lesson: the PRI dominated politics in Mexico from 1924-2000 through 14 presidencies. While in their first 40 years the party did effect positive change through the “Mexican [economic] Miracle,” excessive spending took its toll, resulting in extreme levels of inflation. Even revenues from newly-discovered oil in Veracruz and Tabasco, managed inefficiently as they were by the government-owned dinosaur of a petroleum company PEMEX, were unable to repair the country’s extreme debt levels. By 2000– one potentially fraudulent election, a few hundred companies sold off to cronies, and an economic crash later– the PRI was finished.
Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, both of the PAN (National Action Party), have brought positive change and have handled remarkably well the challenges that Mexico has faced in the last months. While it’s more than appropriate for citizens to express their disapproval to their government in difficult times, one would hope that a return to the PRI would not be the national response.
Corruption is a problem deeply engrained in PRI politics. While they are indeed strong in a way that the PAN may not be, bribery and cronyism are characterizing qualities party-wide. If corruption is the currency on which Mexico’s government operates, drug lords, crooked businessmen, and tax cheats will be protected by the police, and officials will never be elected fairly. That the PRI have instigated true party reform in a mere 9 years is doubtful. Mexico’s citizens should be leery of electing a PRI president or of granting the party greater power– unless their goal is to roll back, not improve upon, the progress made by Presidents Fox and Calderon.
Let’s not expect different results from attempting the same old course of action.