Transition to Dystopia: 1994–2008
DOI link for Transition to Dystopia: 1994–2008
Transition to Dystopia: 1994–2008 book
In 2008 Mexico’s secur ity failure become im pos sible to hide. By the year’s end, as we mentioned in the Introduction, Mexico was suddenly targeted as a failed state. The coun try’s secur ity failure was a mat ter of state evolution, but the state failure agenda was charac ter istically uninter ested in either that or the further harm that it repres ented for the state. Against this, then, we advance the argument that both drug crime and the war on it in Mexico are polit ically con ditioned. An unobjectionable, even anodyne, argument, it cuts against two common con tentions. One is frequent in Mexico: drug crime is merely a mat ter of law and order. The other is constant for Mexico: there is no al tern ative to the war on drugs. The aim of this chapter is to show that efforts to de-couple secur ity from pol itics are unsustainable. We begin by proposing a new periodization for the last chapter of the coun try’s polit ical his tory. Against both expert expectations and common hopes, the year 2000 did not mark the coun try’s trans ition to demo cracy. Instead, Mexico became a demo cratic coun try with the pres id en tial election of 1994. The inde pend ent federal elect oral authority gave the fol low ing results at the end of Au gust 1994. The Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) candidate, Ernesto Zedillo, won 50.18 percent of the vote. The National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) gained 26.69 percent; the Democratic Revolution Party (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, PRD) 17.08 percent.1 In 1988’s fraudulent election, the abstention rate was 49.7 percent. By contrast, 77 percent of the electorate parti cip ated in 1994. By any stand ards, this was a compelling result, and yet its crystal-clarity would be misted. Before the result was out, it had already become unaccept able. Ana lysis of the time had been strong on precedents for
sus pi cion. Emphasis fell upon the restricted character of polit ical liberalization, the drop-by-drop admin is tering of concessions in an invidious fashion that divided the opposi tion par ties, rather than upon its cumulative institutionalizing effects. The as sump tion that even as it declined the regime would still keep the levers of control blinded ob ser vers to evid ence to the contrary, and to the role of chance. So, while it was true that President Salinas designed polit ical change to maintain the status quo —and leave room for the trans format ive eco nomic lib eralization of the North Amer ican Free Trade Agreement-his method of rule was increasingly crisis-prone and destabilizing for the PRI. A gov ern ment that terminated with 17 of the coun try’s 32 governorships in suspension was a gov ern ment in deep trouble.2 Then came the uprising in Chiapas. A complete surprise, the events of 1 Janu ary 1994 triggered the demo crat ization achieved with the opening of the federal elect oral authority to cit izen control of its governing council. The PRI had lost the means of validating its perpetuation in power. To remain in power, it would have to do what it did-win a fair election. After the result, how ever, the talk was of the “structural inequities” that went into Zedillo’s victory, talk to which Zedillo himself on one occasion con trib uted.3 From then on, the perception would stick that, while it may have been legal, Zedillo’s win was not legitimate-and thus that democrat ization remained top of the coun try’s agenda of unfinished business. Attention was captivated by the survival of the PRI regime, and by the manner in which it would meet its “true” end. An alternation of the political party in power was all-but uni ver sally deemed an essential requirement. Despite the insistence in the specialist liter at ure that un cer tainty of outcome was one of the key features of a trans ition, leading com ment ators were 100 percent certain that the PRI had to lose. The sub sequent story would be one of distortion and disappointment, as of July 2000 when Vicente Fox won the presidency by a margin of 6.42 percent-a margin given him by voters who trans ferred from the left PRD party to sup port a trans ition from the PRI.4 Significant new civil liberties would be gained in the coun try, yet the structural discon tinu ity or rupture with the past denoted by trans ition would not occur after 2000. Many factors con trib uted to this, but the funda mental reason was that 2000 was not the breakthrough year: 1994 was, set the path that has been followed since-demo cracy without transition. If this was missed in the specialist liter at ure, it was because of its schematization and fixation with polit ical par ties at the expense of state perspect ives. If, in turn, the new framework stands out here, it is because the concern is-to use a new term-secur ity his tory. The con tinu ity is overwhelm ing between the two administrations of the supposed post-transition and the secur ity pol icy of the supposed last author it arian (Zedillo) administration. That is, the sequential course of a trans ition has not held. Indeed,
the Mexican ex peri ence runs counter to the logic predicted by trans ition. Not only has the core con dition of civilian control over the milit ary not been met; civilian control has drastically di min ished.5 This has been a continu ous pro cess since 1994. With it, the levels of drug-related viol ence in Mexico have climbed, and eventually skyrocketed. To understand this process is to make sense of the coun try’s secur ity failure.