George Carlin once said, “Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.” In many ways, Mexico is a nation of disappointed idealists.
In a place of both deep spirituality and deep distrust, most Mexicans cringe when they hear politicians rally behind “reform”. They understand this word as a ploy used by the PRI – and every other political party – to cling to power. They know that Mexican politicians – both at the local and national levels – are in bed with gangsters. And if it wasn’t for widespread international media coverage, the case of the “Missing 43” – 43 students massacred by gangsters in cahoots with corrupt police and soldiers – would just blow over like so many other miscarriages of justice.
Mexico is signatory to 44 free trade pacts – more than any other nation on earth, yet it still struggles with the notion of rule by law. Most Mexican officials, labor leaders, lawyers and executives lack either the imagination, the vocabulary or the will to grasp the full implications of a truly fair legal system. Sadly, the “pueblo” doesn’t fair much better.
For this reason, Peña Nieto and his young “reformist” technocrats are either: (i) the modern face of a familiar and highly distrusted PRI machine; or (ii) a new generation open to reform but without the means to make any real change. Or maybe a mix of both.
Either way, the system stays the same, exploited by the privileged and widely-supported by the masses. By now, it’s as much about culture as politics. Since power (rather than law) dominates, laws themselves are merely points of reference from which to bargain.