Something that always struck me about Mexico is the high percentage of educated and thoughtful people who have such cynical views about “the law”. I know, of course, that Mexican history (and daily events) show that laws are made by people who don’t follow them – at least not when their own interests are at stake. But the level of cynicism here is beyond anything I’ve seen most elsewhere.
For better and worse, Mexicans assume that this is how things work. Which is not to say that they don’t wish to improve the system or desire a better world for their kids. The problem is that too many doubt whether anything else is even possible.
“Vale diablo conocido que diablo por conocer” (“Better a devil you know than one you don’t”) has been a powerful truism in Mexican politics for decades. It’s what has kept the PRI in power.
Can reform change anything?
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 that this ploy is how the PRI – and every other political party – clings to power. They know that politicos are in bed with organized crime. And if it wasn’t for international media attention, the case of the “Missing 43” would just blow over like so many other horrific miscarriages of justice.
For Mexico, signatory to 44 free trade pacts – more than any other nation on earth – still struggles with the notion of rule by law. Despite their rhetoric, most Mexican officials, labor leaders, lawyers and executives lack either the imagination or the will to grasp the full implications of a truly fair legal system. Unfortunately, the “pueblo” doesn’t fair much better.
For this reason, Peña Nieto and his young “reformist” technocrats are either (i) a modern face on a familiar and very distrusted PRI machine, indebted to their patrons; or (ii) open to reform but without the means to make any real change.
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 Mexican society, laws themselves are merely points of reference from which to bargain.