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(Inglés) El futuro estado fallido al lado (de EEUU)

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(Inglés) El futuro estado fallido al lado (de EEUU)

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The Failing State Next Door
David Frum • 04/06/2024

President Joe Biden’s next big foreign-policy crisis was waiting for him at his desk this morning: a southern neighbor heading fast toward authoritarianism and instability.

Over the past six years, Mexico’s autocratic president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has sought to subvert the multiparty competitive democracy that his country achieved in the 1990s. He has weakened the independent election agency that guaranteed free and fair elections. He has broken the laws and disregarded the customs that limited the president’s power to use the state to favor his preferred candidates. He has undermined the independence of the judiciary.

Mexican democracy gained a brief respite in 2021, when López Obrador lost his supermajority in Congress, removing his ability to rewrite the constitution at will. That respite temporarily reprieved the independence of the Mexican central bank and other government agencies not yet subordinated to direct presidential control. The electoral victory that López Obrador delivered to his chosen successor yesterday—59 percent of the presidential vote (as of this writing), apparently a large majority of the state governorships, almost certainly a restored supermajority in Congress—concentrates more power in López Obrador’s Morena party than any other Mexican government has wielded since the days of one-party rule.

The new Congress will take office on September 1; the new president will not do so until October 1. This means that, for a month, absolute power over the Mexican constitution will be in López Obrador’s hands.

López Obrador’s successor in the presidency is Claudia Sheinbaum, formerly the mayor of Mexico City. Sheinbaum will be the first woman to head the Mexican state, the first person of Jewish origin, the first from the academic left. These “firsts” will generate much excitement internationally. They should not obscure, however, her most important qualification: her career-long subservience to López Obrador.

Of the three candidates within the ruling party who vied for López Obrador’s favor, Sheinbaum was the one with the smallest and weakest following among Morena’s rank and file. Sheinbaum got the nod not because López Obrador wanted a pathbreaker, but because he wanted someone he could control after his mandatory departure from office at the end of a six-year term. López Obrador has built mechanisms to maintain his grip on Mexican politics, including a referendum at the presidency’s three-year mark, which provides a means of recalling López Obrador’s successor if she disappoints him and his following.

I interviewed Sheinbaum in Mexico City in January 2023. I found her highly intelligent but lacking in the people-pleasing ways of a professional politician. Most strikingly, she repeated every dogma of López Obrador ideology without a millimeter of distancing: The independent election commission was bad; the elections that López Obrador had lost earlier in his career were stolen from him; the act of replacing impersonal social-service agencies with personal handouts of cash from the presidential administration to the poor amounted to a social revolution equal to the other great transformations of the Mexican past, including the Mexican Revolution of 1913.

López Obrador repeatedly described the 2024 election not as a choice among candidates, but as a referendum on his record. He used every instrument of the state to win that referendum. The most important of those instruments was the selective deployment of violence.

The six years of the López Obrador presidency have been the most violent of Mexico’s modern history. We cannot know the exact number of those killed, because López Obrador destroyed the independence of the national statistical agency. Crime numbers are now often tampered with for political purposes. But a credible estimate suggests that more than 30,000 homicides have occurred in each year of López Obrador’s rule: nearly 200,000 altogether. (The United States, with nearly three times Mexico’s population, registers fewer than 20,000 homicides a year, and the number is dropping.) Only a tiny fraction of Mexican homicides are effectively pursued by the legal system. Tens of thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Most of Mexico’s killings are not the result of personal disputes or casual street violence. Mexico is under attack from what has aptly been called a “criminal insurgency.” U.S. officials have long privately warned that the Mexican state is losing control of its national territory, something that Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly stated in 2023.

When Mexico’s security forces clash with a criminal syndicate, they can still win—but typically at terrible cost. In January 2023, Mexican security forces engaged a group of gunmen in Sinaloa. The forces had the advantage of surprise and helicopter gunships. They still suffered heavy losses in the shootout: 10 dead soldiers, 19 cartel members killed, and dozens of people wounded, to capture one most-wanted man. But in aggregate, the syndicates outgun the government.

What this means for Mexican democracy is very stark: Politicians and journalists, in particular, live or die according to whether the criminal syndicates believe they are protected by the state. I described last year the case of a prominent Mexican television personality who narrowly escaped death when his car was riddled with bullets after the president denounced him at his daily media briefing. In this most recent election cycle, more than 30 candidates for office were murdered. An opposition candidate for mayor in the state of Guerrero was gunned down in front of cameras. Hundreds more candidates have faced threats or, in some cases, have been kidnapped, on both the ruling and opposing sides.

On the eve of the election, a Mexican political analyst explained the violence to the Los Angeles Times: “Organized crime needs some kind of understanding with the authorities. That may be a kind of negotiation that can be friendly, or skirts legality, or involves bribes and collusion—or it can be violent, with threats, extortion or direct aggression.” The criminal cartels want to eliminate politicians they regard as enemies, but they also want to maintain a working relationship with the national government.

López Obrador’s own relationship with the cartels is murky. In January, ProPublica reported on an internal investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration suggesting that criminal cartels had likely directed $2 million in donations to López Obrador’s first campaign for president, in 2006. López Obrador indignantly denied the story and demanded an apology from the Biden administration for the DEA’s assessment. The tougher line pursued by the Biden-era DEA is one reason López Obrador has so openly preferred Donald Trump as Mexico’s American partner; he even traveled to Washington, D.C., to praise Trump to Mexican American voters during the 2020 election—and then delayed congratulating President-elect Biden for several weeks after the election.

There’s no denying that López Obrador has close personal relationships with important traffickers. Also in 2020, he visited a dusty mountain town in Sinaloa to pay respects to the mother of the drug lord known as El Chapo. When, that same year, the U.S. arrested a Mexican general (and former defense minister) on drug-trafficking charges, López Obrador publicly suggested—and privately threatened—to withhold antidrug cooperation unless the man was let go. Having then secured his release, López Obrador decorated the general at a public ceremony.

López Obrador came to power in 2018 with a huge mandate that he won in a free and fair election. Sheinbaum comes to power via an election that was free but not so fair. Because she lacks López Obrador’s charisma and popular appeal, her survival will depend on whether she can tilt the rules even more radically in favor of the ruling party.

In her campaign speeches, Sheinbaum committed herself to a highly contradictory program to please all political factions. She vowed more welfare spending, but also more fiscal discipline. She promised to respect the independence of the central bank while remaining faithful to the López Obrador vision of consolidated power. She expressed desire for warm relations with the United States while also rejecting crackdowns on organized crime in favor of addressing “the causes” of crime. If that program runs into trouble and she gets her supermajority, Sheinbaum will have the means to suppress opposition and dissent.

A Mexico that is losing its democracy will also continue to lose authority to the criminal syndicates. For Americans, the big question is: How much authority can the Mexican state lose before it fails altogether?

The fundamental paradox of Mexican society is this: The presidency is too strong; the state is too weak. López Obrador aggrandized the presidency still more and thus weakened the state even more. Now this powerful presidency will be occupied by a protégée beholden to a predecessor who aspires to control everything from behind the scenes. The impending power struggle between them can only work to the advantage of the forces of criminality and chaos that threaten to consume America’s southern neighbor.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/th ... r-BB1nygsO
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