“No Queda Titere Con Cabeza”

(Literally, “there’s not a puppet left with his head on”,
in other words, “it’s all trashed”)

Mexico’s standing in the world is at rock bottom,
and that of the President in his own country,
whose inhabitants mock him cruelly, is even lower.

In Memoriam: Adolfo Aguilar Zinser (former Mexico’s ambassador to the UN,
fired for saying Fox was too subservient to the US.
He was killed recently in a car crash

While there is a growing concern in several sectors of society over the murderous violence inflicted upon several cities in the border states, and over the political disorder occurring in the country, the president prepares to commemorate the fifth year of his victory in the 2002 elections. We, who voted against the PRI rather than for the PAN, for change in Mexico rather than for Vicente Fox have, for some time, been disappointed in a cabinet of ministers who are parochial, mediocre and even inept (and not necessarily honest). In five years of government, this cabinet has utterly failed the Mexican people in, among other things, culture and agriculture, domestic policies and foreign relations, education and the environment. Under the leadership of a loquacious president (who refers to his wife as “one hell of a girl”) who has spent his term continually, and unnecessarily, biting off more than he can chew, and saying what he thinks (the problem is, he doesn’t think what he’s saying). I repeat, this cabinet has been a disaster. To make matters worse, Fox complains of the criticism that he is not an intellectual, or when having made a gaffe the size of one of own boots, he puts his foot in it again, and says he is judged unfairly for saying Jorge Luis instead of Jose Luis Borges. With a difficult wife, and out-of-control stepsons, it seems that the president can hardly get free of one imbroglio before he traps himself (or is trapped) in another. Lamentably, all this is happening while poverty and unemployment in Mexico are increasing. Corruption continues (not only the white collar kind, but also within political parties and some political families), and there is widespread and growing insecurity with non-prosecution everywhere, thanks to the complicity of policemen, police departments and judges who, together, riddle the apple of justice with worms. It is no consolation for the victims of organized crime that the president characterizes the violence as a “bubble”.

The worst of it all is that this six-year term has passed with no national plan, no deep connection with the people, and it has turned its back on civil society. It is the almost unanimous opinion that, with the little busybody Derbez as Foreign Secretary, the image of Mexico in the world is at rock bottom, and the image of the president in his own country, where the inhabitants mock him cruelly, is even lower.

It has been pathetic to see ourselves, almost from the beginning of the term, entering the presidential succession prematurely, with officials from the government itself and other parties, advancing the political calendar. This is why, both from a national and a foreign observer’s point of view, we have two presidents, one in the waiting room, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and the other, Vicente Fox, a virtual one. The latter, having cooked his own goose with the “desafuero” (a failed attempt to strip Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of his political privileges and prevent him from being a presidential candidate), has accelerated by all means at his disposal the nomination of AMLO. With a president unable to control outrageous behavior in his own cabinet, and in his own house, the campaigns of some reaching for the presidency – some of them belonging to no political party – began during the second year of the government’s term. The unknown is still the Senora Marta Sahagun de Fox, who has spent the term campaigning with her image and picking a political daisy: “Yes. No. Yes. No. I’m a candidate. I’m not a candidate”. The decision she will surely make in the (in) opportune moment when the starting gun goes off. This would be an attempt at re-election through an intermediary, and a grotesque one five years from the centenary of the 1910 Revolution and 200 years after the Independence of Mexico. (A principal goal of the Mexican Revolution, 1910-1919, was to ensure that no president could be re-elected).

The candidates who are front runners to govern the country for the six year term 2006-2012) do not convince many people: Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (who lost in Tabasco against Madrazo), Santiago Creel (who lost the mayoral race for the government of the Federal District against AMLO and who, before becoming a candidate for the PAN, became the “Senor of little household casinos and Televisa spots”) (an ongoing mini-scandal. His last act before resigning as Minister of the Interior was to give out a bunch of gaming licenses to Televisa, presumably expecting favorable treatment in return during his presidential campaign), and Roberto Madrazo, who lives anchored to the PRI dinosaur.

For more than one citizen, and for different reasons, these people bother, depress and even frighten. Scattered acquaintances, who won’t endorse any of the above, suggest names like Enrique Jackson or Manuel Angel Nunez Soto of the PRI, and for the PAN Josefina Vasquez Mota (why not a woman instead of Alberto Cardenas, the inept Minister for the Environment?) For the PRD, an alternative would be Cuauhtemoc Cardenas for the fourth time, since as a mature candidate he could alleviate the current political tension. He has a social agenda based upon his knowledge of the country, and is capable of maintaining a dialogue with businessmen, intellectuals, campesinos and indigenous people, even with the Senoras from Polanco, Chalco and Epitacio Huerta.

Faced with the list of viable candidates, pessimists are threatening to leave the country if such and such a person is elected or, with black humor, they swear they are saving up to buy bullet proof vests since the country will be a battlefield of shock troops and organized crime. Indeed we will have see what part the drug cartels play in the presidential succession, those dark forces which, assuredly, will also have their own candidates. This is serious business. In the District of Distrust (in other words, “Mexico City, Federal District”) and in various states from one border to the other, we witness a daily application of the death penalty by criminals with the abject complicity of the enforcers of national injustice. They protect or release the criminals, or make fools of themselves, as the presidents of the Republic and governors of the state of Chihuahua have done in the face of the terrifying murders of women in Ciudad Juarez.

While those aspiring to the presidency prepare to bombard and pollute Mexicans, visually, morally and audibly, with their political messages by all means available (so fascinated are they by their own rhetoric they will finish up believing it), a war is being waged in the country among the cartels, and the Ministers of Change (“Change” was Fox’s slogan and solemn campaign promise) are immersed in the fourth centenary year of the publication of Don Quijote, gnawing on the last bones of power. Faced with this feast of the birds of prey it only remains to say, “poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to her governments.” Or, in the words of Ruben, “La vida es un vaiven, unos chingan y otros ven” (Life is six of one and half a dozen of the other. Some cheat and others watch”).

No doubt in the coming months, the candidates will promise what they have promised many times before: crusades against corruption in government, judges, police, bureaucrats and customs inspectors; against bankers and white collar thieves; against the mini-corruption that forms part of our culture as surely as the tortilla and the chile, and, not to leave anyone out, against those corrupt people who talk about fighting corruption. The greater problem is that in order to fight corruption we have to fight it first in our own family environment, and within ourselves.

Although it matters little how we celebrate the Fox government five years after its victory, it really does matter how Mexico is going to celebrate the centenaries of 2010. Will it be a populist government, a criminal one made official, or a breast-beating concert of triumph? Let the reader place his bet.