17 September 2006
Mexico's possible futures
The BBC is reporting that the supporters of defeated presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador have met in Mexico City's main square and proclaimed him President-Elect. The plan is to swear him in as "President" on the 20th November, 11 days before Felipe Calderon is officially sworn in as the country's leader. It should be noted that the 20th November is the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution that started in 1910, left over a million dead - ten percent of the then population - and dragged on for almost a decade.
What's going on is a fairly typical third world power grab. Having an election does not make for having a democracy. To have a democratic system a country must first have a sense of commonweal. This is different from nationalism, but is closely related to it. A commonweal means having a common purpose, or sense of identity. The notion that we are all in it together does not exist in the third world, which is probably why the countries that make up that wretched zone are so third rate.
Mexican loyalties are based on the family and region. Elections are a power grab to see which collection of shady dealers can get their paws on the levers of power, thus to enrich themselves, their families and important supporters. Given attitudes like this, anarchy is the usual outcome of an election, not a democratic acceptance by the losers of the victor's right to govern.
In a Hobbesian world it is better to have Hobbes' Leviathan running things. A strong ruler, who has pretty much total power, who can at least bring stability to the chaotic world that the third worlder sees all around him. Spanish even has a nice word to describe these strongmen: they are called caudillos.
Originally a caudillo was the leader of a war band - rather like the war lords that plague parts of Africa today. Eventually it came to mean a strong leader who usually had a military background. Throughout most of her history, Mexico has been governed by caudillos because the alternative when they are not around is chaos rather than democracy. You see the problems that arise when you don't have a commonweal?
Mexico today faces three possible alternatives:
1. Calderon will be sworn in and the protests will fizzle out. This is the least likely option, given Mexican talent for making a bad situation worse.
2. The opposition will be so fierce that Calderon will be forced to call in the army. They will refuse to obey his orders and the country will revert to its default position of a war of all against all.
3. AMLO's supporters will dog Calderon wherever he goes and make his legislative programme impossible to implement in the Congress. The country will shuffle from one crisis to the next, with just enough army and police support to keep the regime alive.
Needless to say, those of us who actually live in this country are rather curious to see what will happen.