Does the Future Hold Two Mexicos?

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So tomorrow is the long-awaited election, a moment this blog has been counting down to since my first post (The Future That Happened & The Future That Didn´t) last November.

(And this comes less than 10 days after one of my other blogs, The Turing Centenary, marked its big day: the 100th birthday of computer pioneer Alan Turing.)

So what can we expect tomorrow and — since this is a blog about the future of Mexico — what can we expect in all the tomorrows after that?

It seems clear that the PRI and their candidate Enrique Peña Nieto will win the presidency, a comeback that seemed distant and unlikely when the party first lost the office 12 years ago after decades of uninterrupted power.

PRI Logo

PRI Logo

Sr. Lopez Obrador — who looks set to come second for the second time in a row in a national election — won´t be happy, but he´s promised not to repeat the mass protests of 2006.

Post-Election Protests in Mexico City, 2006

Post-Election Protests in Mexico City, 2006

The Yo Soy 132 movement won´t be happy either (see How the Future of Mexico Temporarily Paralyzed My Blog About… the Future of Mexico), but if they have the stamina they´ll carry on with their core mission: the democratization of the media in Mexico.

Yo Soy132 Poster

Yo Soy132 Poster

One possible trend that seems to have been developing and that may intensify in the post-election period is the increasing gulf between the Distrito Federal — the federal district in which Mexico City is located — and the rest of the country.

Politically, the DF heavily favours the Party of the Democratic Revolution, the PRD.  This is the home turf of Lopez Obrador and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, both of that party.  The next mayor will almost certainly be Miguel Angel Mancera, the candidate for the PRD and two smaller left-wing parties, who is polling around 70% of the vote.

PRD Logo

PRD Logo

As David Agren noted in an article in the Global Post:

Ebrard cannot run for re-election, but his party and its allies are expected to retain Mexico City in a landslide in the July 1 local elections. That’s the exact opposite of other parts of Mexico, where the once long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leads polls for the presidential contest scheduled for the same day.

There’s almost a bipolar situation, with Mexico City going against the rest of the country,” says Jorge Zepeda, director of the online publication Sin Embargo. He attributes the party’s popularity as much to competent governance, in a city prone to earthquakes and water shortages, as ideology.

The city, as immense and brutal as it is, functions fairly well in operational terms,” he says. The PRD holds a hammerlock on the Mexican capital, known locally as the Distrito Federal, or DF, and home to nearly 9 million residents. (Another 12 million live in suburbs belonging to Mexico state, which surrounds DF like a horseshoe.)

And while the PRD´s success in the capital seems to hinge largely on its competent governance, having the PRD in office has meant that policies there skew to the left: decriminalized abortion, liberalized divorce, and legalized same-sex marriage.

Meanwhile, from a very different part of the media´s political spectrum than the Global Post, the journal Foreign Policy notes another trend that is increasing the divide between Mexico City and the rest of the country: a crime rate that is either decreasing or increasing more slowly than elsewhere in the country, depending which crime you look at.

In an article entitled Mexico’s Bright Light, Foreign Policy author Larry Kaplow reports, among other things, that from 2002 to 2011 the DF´s murder rate rose only 2% while nationwide it went up 47%:

… over the past decade, even as the country around it has descended into drug-fueled bloodshed, Mexico City has transformed itself into an unlikely crime-fighting success story. And what’s more, that achievement has come amid a transition to democracy — a process that has often been accompanied by a rise in lawlessness in many other parts of the world. It was just 12 years ago that Mexico, a historically divided and restive country, ended 71 years of one-party rule sustained by rigged elections and brutal repression. In the years since then, Mexicans have watched rival mafias capitalize on weak domestic institutions as they fight each other and prey on the innocent for access to the booming U.S. drug market. Some 50,000 citizens have lost their lives in the resulting violence.

But Mexico City has managed to escape the carnage. According to the United Nations, the capital’s murder rate in 2009 was 8.4 homicides per 100,000 residents (approaching New York’s 5.6). That contrasts starkly with a national rate of 14.6 nationwide the same year; last year that figure soared to 19.4. From 2002 to 2011, the capital’s murder rate increased by a mere 2 percent; nationwide it was up about 47 percent over the same period, according to government figures. Where 163 cars were stolen daily in Mexico City in 1998, police say, 53 are stolen today. There’s a feeling of comparative safety in the capital. “It’s relative, but it’s real,” says Pablo Piccato, director of Columbia University’s Institute of Latin American Studies, who researches the history of crime in Mexico City. People and businesses now move there from areas dominated by violent gangs. Once-ubiquitous pirate taxis were impounded and you can now hail a cab off the street. People use their iPads on the crowded subways.

Whatever else comes of this election, increasing the differences in political culture between Mexico City and the rest of the country, reducing their commonalities and undermining their solidarity, should be avoided if at all possible.

I have to wonder, though, if the PRI and the PRD can work together to prevent it.

And now — on to the election.

This entry was posted in Andrés Manuel López Obrador, distrito federal, Election 2006, Election 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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