MEXICO CITY — "Little civil wars" are proliferating in Mexico. Yet the simmering cauldron fomenting these conflicts could also prove transformative. It would depend on how the dynamics are managed and, more importantly, if anyone will be able and willing to take charge of this process of change.
These low-grade conflicts are being fought on many fronts. Some were introduced by the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto. Others were inherited from the previous government. All have consequences for Mexico's peace and stability.
These so-called "little wars" reveal a weakness in government and the country's increasing propensity for disorder. The most absurd one is President Peña's personal initiative to legalize same-sex marriage. I have nothing against couples arranging their lives as they see fit. But clearly the president's proposal weakened him and his party, and above all, was absolutely unnecessary. It has prompted the Church to start a crusade against gay marriage. That’s not a positive step when we consider that the issue was previously dealt with the Mexican way — like much else, it was permitted in Mexico City!
Why change the status quo when it works? As the 19th century diplomat Talleyrand might have said — this was worse than a crime, it was a mistake. An enormous one.
The corrosive effect of corruption has spread across Mexico. State governors, lacking any decency, interpret electoral victories as a license to plunder and, if possible, start to progress make a bid for the presidency. This conflict will not let up until all parties agree what constitutes corruption and who must go to jail and at what cost.
The country has no shortage of inquisitors today who devote themselves to their own corrupt shenanigans or to witch-hunting, without the slightest regard for upholding justice or due process. Denouncing, attacking, naming and shaming are the order of the day, and it’s not about corruption but sending people into the fire.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, founder of the Morena party — Photo: Cristopher Rogel Blanquet/El Universal/ZUMA
Another little war divides the Left: The Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and offshoot Morena, headed by PRD's former firebrand leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, are engaged in an arcane conflict few understand. Anything goes, it seems, if you need to annihilate your rival and the prize is power. Never mind the effects of such fights on territories governed — so to speak — by the Left.
Ask the residents of the trendy Condesa district in the capital, where bickering between "trendy" parties has allowed criminal gangs to move into what was once a safe neighborhood. Members of Morena says it represents the future but, in reality, it remains tied to the past because that’s all it has. The socialist "product" it offers is even older and more primitive than the federal government's proposals. Still, as the game is about grabbing power by hook or by crook, what would they care about policies?
The government is also provoking anger over tax reforms that have slowed down the economy. It's what they used to call a Pyrrhic victory. Taxes are necessary but not at the cost of prosperity.
These conflicts may appear small but, whether they are out in the open or simmering just under the surface, they are fueling discord inside Mexico. In contrast with other countries like Spain, Mexico cannot exist without an active arbiter working to encourage dialogue and social harmony. Here, without this, violent conflict could erupt at any moment.
In his recent book "China's crony capitalism," author Minxin Pei argues that corruption is inherent to the Chinese system and would eventually break apart the country. The difference here is that, in spite of its many defects, problems are publicly aired in Mexico. One or two might even be resolved. Perhaps we can hope that our goal of transitioning to a peaceful developed country will reach fruition within a decade. If we find someone to lead the process.
Translated by Alidad Vassigh