One of the flags with which the PRI ruled, from its conformation until it lost the presidency in the year 2000, was paternalism; that is, the idea of an almighty President. Only the President could solve problems or only through connections linked to certain officials. These PRI governments were not responsible for institutionalizing the country; that is, to generate the adequate channels within the institutions, so that the population could access social programs or file complaints or denunciations without the need for “intermediaries”, which were actually part of a network of corruption.
The administrations of Vicente Fox , Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto advanced, not at the desired speed, in the institutionalization of the country. In those 18 years, the idea that the President could do everything or not do it began to change, not without resistance. It was invested in the creation of decentralized agencies with management autonomy that democratize decision making within the government. Likewise, advances in transparency and access to information have placed limits on the discretion with which some programs, especially social development programs, operated. And this came hand in hand with the agencies responsible for evaluating government policies.
The resistance has been there, inside and outside the government, however, we were moving in the right direction. Although the National Anti-Corruption System, which is key in the democratization of institutions and in ending the idea of character-centered paternalism, has not been able to materialize, there was progress – above all – in changing the mentality of the population. The lopezobradorista government is bringing back the idea of an almighty character who can solve everything, without the help of the institutions, without even the advice of his cabinet. The cult of personality is very dangerous, not only threatens the democratic advances that we have had in Mexico, but it also returns to the population the idea that only with “levers” can you access or request programs from the government.
It is not understood – for example – the need for a President to put on the public agenda issues such as the auction of goods insured to organized crime. A President should ensure the development of the country, to generate better living conditions for vulnerable populations, better education, I know, but not to presume this kind of “achievements.” This is cheap policy.
It cannot be counted as a government’s achievement to sell the insured house to Zhenli Ye Gon . This sale is a matter of government institutions, not even the work of a secretariat, but of secondary agencies, such as the Service of Administration and Disposal of Assets. The only thing that the President is generating is to maintain, in the collective imagination, the idea that only he can make the government act, instead of advancing in the institutionalization of decision making in the public administration. This is to continue undermining democracy and institutions.
Ricardo Solano Olivera, MSc.
Column originally published at https://laopinion.de/2019/07/30/un-presidente-todopoderoso/.