Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mexican Government Faces Yet Another Crisis of Legitimacy



therealnews |  So, John, give us some background about these protests because people are said to be reacting to the price increase of gasoline. So, is that all? Or is there more to this?

JOHN ACKERMAN: No, this is not just about gas or gas prices. This is another step in the collapse of the legitimacy of the ruling government, the ruling regime. We can compare it, I think, to the government of Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela about 25 years ago, the beginning of the '90s. Carlos Andrés Pérez came back for his second presidency, and one of his most important reforms was more privatizing -- they already had more privatizing then was in Mexico but deepening the privatization of oil in Venezuela. This lead to a fiscal crisis of the state and lead to widespread protests and the collapse of what used to be considered the most stable, centralist democracy in Latin America -- Venezuela. And we had a revolution, a peaceful revolution, which lead to a new constitution, lead to a new government. And this is the process we're in the middle of in Mexico.

Now, I'm not trying to say that you know, we're going to have a Chávez coming in, or Maduro, or that Mexico is going to follow the path of Venezuela -- for good or for bad, or however you want to look at it -- but Mexico is going through a collapse of its sitting government and this is being expressed through the question of oil.

When Enrique Peña Nieto came in, in 2012, one of his most important policy programs was to privatize oil. As a result of this oil privatization, he promised that oil prices would come down and that Mexico would grow through increased international investment.

Well, this 20% increase from one day to the next on New Year's Day of 2017 has finally convinced the Mexican people demonstrating this that it was all just a lie from the very beginning. He did privatize oil but it was not for the benefit of Mexicans but for the benefit of his friends and the big oil companies. And so, this is finally sinking in with the Mexican people -- and that's what we're seeing with these protests explicitly against the gas hike, but more generally against authoritarianism and oppression in Mexico.

KIM BROWN: Well, John, then it begs the question, I mean, do you think the situation could endanger the president's position? Because according to polls, his popularity was already was already at a historic low.

JOHN ACKERMAN: Yes. Enrique Peña Nieto is the most despised, I would say, President we've had in Mexico in recent history. Not even, you know, Carlos Slim, or Vicente Fox, or Felipe Calderón, who also got very low on their public opinion ratings, did not get as low as Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico had been until Peña Nieto an exceptional Latin America. The Mexican people, although they saw there were serious problems with neoliberalism, repression, authoritarianism, in the end, they kind of hoped or believed that the President was going to save them, that he was on their side of the people. But with Enrique Peña Nieto this has changed.

Now Peña Nieto has approval ratings down in, you know, 10, 15... 20% is the highest number I've seen in recent polls. And he gave a State of the... you know, a national address on all the television channels yesterday, at night, and he looked pretty tired. You could note it in his face. You could note it in his expression. He himself seems to kind of want to pack his bags. He's still got another two years left, which could be too long for him.

One of the good opportunities is that, you know, we do have elections coming up next year in 2018, a federal presidential election, also for national congress, lots of state governments. And so that could be an opportunity for reviving politics and democracy in Mexico.