Mexico at the crossroads of 2018

Mexico is facing a deep legitimacy crisis. Presidential elections will be held next year in a context where the urgency of facing necessary changes must be an absolute priority. Español Português

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Gema Kloppe Santamaría Francesc Badia i Dalmases Alejandro Vélez
22 February 2017

A woman holds a Mexican flag demonstrating against U.S President Donald Trump in Mexico City on February 12, 2017. NurPhoto SIPA USA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Presidential elections will be held in Mexico in 2018, in a scenario of great complexity, uncertainty and instability. Donald Trump's unforeseen victory has triggered all the alarms. His blatant aggressiveness against Mexico, in relation to both NAFTA and migration, is endangering a bilateral, asymmetrical interdependence relationship between the two economies: its disruption could result in a potentially unbearable increase in tension, both internally and in bilateral relations.

DemocraciaAbierta, together with Mexican partners Gema Santamaría and Alejandro Vélez, is launching the series Mexico at the crossroads to reflect, on our way to the 2018 elections, on the different aspects characterizing the current sexenio (the 6-year presidential term). The fact that President Peña Nieto's approval ratings have fallen to 12% following the recent oil-hike crisis, and the unending citizens’ mobilizations and protests, shows how open the political evolution of the country is.

Contrasts and contradictions

Mexico is a country of deep contrasts and contradictions – which comes to explain why it is said to be a country where magical realism is in fact customary. Just a few recent examples to illustrate this point: Peña Nieto’s government fiercely defended its educational reform, including repressing demonstrators and civil society, while a journalistic research team came up with the discovery that the president who said that he wanted to evaluate all the teachers in the country had plagiarized his own undergraduate thesis. Another surreal event happened when dozens of marches were called throughout the country to protest against the presidential initiative to legalize equal marriage and adoption by homosexual couples, and to recognize gender identity, while the whole country was mourning - crying and singing - the death of Juan Gabriel, a popular musician and composer who, when asked if he was gay, answered "you shouldn’t ask what you can see for yourself". Also, on September, 15, Independence Day in Mexico, there coexisted in the streets of the capital city a large demonstration demanding the resignation of the president who had invited hated Donald Trump, and groups of people who had been taken to the Zócalo, in the traditional clientelist fashion, to cheer the president and his family standing on the presidential balcony. Finally, Mexico presents itself at international forums as a leading country in the promotion of human and migrants’ rights, while silence, neglect and lack of justice mark the country’s recent history of extrajudicial killings, forced displacements, disappearances, and abandoned and forgotten migrants – both in transit and returnees. Faced with the upsurge of violence in different states of the republic and the undeniable failure of a decade of "war" against drugs, Peña Nieto’s government has taken the option of rewarding inertia and lack of response rather than developing a strategic and integral vision of the security crisis facing the country.

Critical voices

As regards these contradictions and the need to decipher this reality in such a pressing context as next year’s electoral process, DemocraciaAbierta presents this series of articles analyzing Mexico’s many social and political challenges. We believe that given the deep legitimacy crisis Mexico’s democracy and political elite are experiencing, emerging critical voices must interpret this historical moment and suggest lines of action towards the future. Our Mexico at the crossroads series offers a space for both academia and civil society to reflect on issues such as the disappearance of people, forced displacement, the militarization of public security, relations with the United States, the migration crisis, lack of transparency and erosion of public trust, lynching and vigilante justice, taking care of the victims, and reparation for crimes and human rights violations, among others.

Mexico, like the Roman god Janus, has two faces: one looks to a future of greater transparency and citizen participation; the other looks to an antidemocratic and repressive past. We would like to invite DemocraciaAbierta readers to watch this space where we will seek to understand the country and its many contradictions, and to propose some ways out of the crossroads it currently finds itself at.

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