Its shared border with the U.S. could be more of a blessing than a curse if only Mexico would clean up its act.
MEXICO CITY — There is no border as intricate and diverse as the one separating Mexico and the United States, and while the easy thing would be to simplify and rationalize it as just a commercial issue, the reality is infinitely more complex.
The line between the two countries includes legal and illegal crossings, drugs, contraband, persons, ideas, goods, services and disputes. Everything that exists on one side crosses over to the other, and as an old saying from that region goes: "If it fits on the bridge, it can pass."
That diversity and complexity is difficult to understand looking out from central Mexico. The north is marked by a symbiotic relationship, on both sides of the border, wherein everyone lives off another and nobody can explain their lives or success without that other. Indeed, many think of the border region as a "third country," one that's as distant from Mexico City as it is from Washington DC. Really, though, it's a dynamic space where the best and worst of both countries are exchanged.
For decades, the Americans saw the Mexican side of the border as a place of fun and sexual liberation, but also where they could lead simpler, less structured lives than in their country. We in turn have come to see it as an unending opportunity for sales, customers and business development that would never have come about without the trade liberalization of NAFTA.
The trade deal has since been revised — and debilitated — and relations between the two countries certainly took a hit starting in 2016. But generally speaking, ties have grown over the years in depth and scope. And with the trade war between the United States and China, there may even be new opportunities that were almost inconceivable just a few years back.
The big question is whether or not we Mexicans can turn this particular moment into an opportunity, both in the context of Donald Trump (and the coming campaign) and of our structural problems. Unfortunately, these are problems aren't being solved. Nor to they feature in any resolution agenda.
The government recognizes there are limitations to the country's development, but has refused to admit so far that its preconceptions aren't viable and are in fact detrimental to restarting the developmental process. Our leaders recognize that crime persists. Yet their chosen strategy, which does not even include fortifying local police, will not yield the great results they've promised.
The Mexican, whatever his or her origins or ilk, has shown enormous adaptability in daily life. while migrants are making an appearance in our national life, with increasing talents and willingness to develop big projects that can change the country's trade and economy. The bilateral relationship is real, unequivocal and systematic: It can either bring enormous benefits, or intractable disputes, but what it will not stand is radical changes.
Mexicans are deprived of that most elementary of rights — to be safe — whether in a border town or one of the main cities.
The violence in this relationship is the product of a poorly understood interaction. Obviously a large proportion of the arms the cartels and gangs use here come from the United States, but it is equally obvious that Mexico has failed so far, at all levels, to develop crime-fighting strategies that can reassure the country's residents. This abysmal failure has deprived them of that most elementary of rights — to be safe — whether in a border town or one of the main cities.
Uncertainty and insecurity are intrinsic, daily characteristics of the lives of all Mexicans, regardless of their loyalty to or rejection of the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador. While many are positive about him in opinion polls and back him with conviction, the same polls show that a vast majority of Mexicans want improvement, not radical changes.
It is easy from the heights of public office to accuse or forgive presumed lawbreakers, but for the ordinary Mexican every instance of corruption, extortion, murder and blatant deceit is just a continuation of a prolonged history of abuses, impositions and corruption. The president can be immaculate, but his administration has shown it is no different than the ones that came before. Corruption is suffocating the presidential party, MORENA, the way it did the PRI, the conservative PAN and socialist PRD parties. Without a rectified direction, it will have the same results.
The bilateral relationship can be an opportunity or a curse, depending on one's perspective. Anyone who knows the reality of daily life in his or her locality knows that the heart of our problem is not the border, the Americans or our relations. It is our own dogged inability to stabilize the country and create local policemen able to keep Mexicans of all classes and conditions, safe.
López Obrador's agenda is as ambitious as it is blind. What Mexicans want is solutions, but what our leader seeks is excuses. One wonders: How much time and harm, will it take before blindness yields to reality?