D.F. Compass Absent

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mexico city

There’s nothing more pernicious than arrogance and, worse, when combined with the absence of project and vision. Security in Mexico City is perhaps less serious than in many other places in the country, but that doesn’t make it any less razor-edged or much less guarantees that it will not become worse.
In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides tells how Themistocles alienated the allies of Athens by extorting money from them. Anchoring his fleet off a small island, he sent a message saying that he had two powerful deities on his side who would compel them to pay up: Persuasion and Force. The islanders sent back a message saying that they had two equally potent gods on their side: Poverty and Despair. In Mexico City, extortion is advancing at a slow-moving but incessant pace, little by little coming to dominate the economic panorama. To the pay-offs extracted by the PRD governors we must now add those of organized crime. This cannot end well.
Despite all that was censurable about the way the previous federal government managed its security policy, there is one merit that cannot be denied: it achieved keeping the cartels outside of the Federal District (the D.F.), blocking them from extending their tentacles toward the political heart of the country. It is no less than paradoxical that the city government of Marcelo Ebrard, which accomplished nothing for security, benefited from criminality not mounting, despite the unassailable political distance that he maintained from then-President Calderón. Now, with the inexistence of a security strategy in the Federal Government, the D.F. has begun to fall prey to extortion, the inexorable initiation of the growth of the narco-trafficking mafias. Paraphrasing Thucydides, the Force of the past could now end up in Despair…
What’s interesting is not that criminality is growing in the D.F., the way that the charging of dues is being extorted, in that the phenomenon has been hammering at the country for years, but the total lack of response by the City Government. Killings increase, extortion proliferates and theft grows in direct proportion to the degree that the municipal leaders and those of the City Government concern themselves with their next jobs rather than attending to basics. Worse yet, many of those functionaries propitiate extortion as a means of financing their campaigns and their deep pockets; corruption has become the modus operandi.  It’s not by chance that impunity has become the norm. The Government of the D.F. is so confident that it presently devotes itself to formulating a new constitution before the foundations of the city would be able to resist it.
This produces a peculiar scenario: enormous and growing insecurity, lousy public services and, to top it off, an arrogant rhetoric that not only refuses to recognize the fact that insecurity is growing dangerously, but keeps talking about historical statistics. The discourse and its tone reveals a local government focused on what’s important (its political future) and disinterested in what affects the citizenry, above all regarding trivial issues such as security, traffic, potholes in the streets and economic development; if to that one adds endless demonstrations as well as formal and “informal” taxes, it becomes obvious there is no understanding of the cost –and disincentive- that exists to creating jobs in the city. In addition, the problem of extortion, a territorial crime, goes hand in glove with the police, whom it corrupts, and ushers in violence because it entails relentless vying for physical space.
Instead of attending to the crime wave that is approaching, the local government has been eager to change the legal status of the city, a matter that appeared to be essential prior to the beating of the dominant party at the polls, but that is absolutely irrelevant for the average citizen. The constitution of the 32nd state sounds good in the discourse, but is highly dangerous for the country as a whole due to the risk that the moods of the local governor -as the cases of Lopez Obrador and Ebrard showed (2000‒2012)- would create a conflagration with the Federal Government, a much more transcendent and touchy issue than what is accepted in public. Why does a government that is not a good government want independence? Might one interject here that its exceptional attention to (and protection of) taxi drivers and other special-interest groups and their capacity of mobilization reveals its true proclivity? Why not better protect the man in the street from the abuses of the City Government, from the delegates, from the police and the PRD, all sworn to extortion, each by their own modus operandi and means?
Instead of getting lost in cabinet resignations, made-to-order constitutions and the protection of interests that make an attempt against the citizenry, the City Government could analyze two successes that are undeniable. The Uber taxi company and the El Torito breathalyzer program are good examples of where Mexico City does indeed work: Uber has afforded the citizenry a safe means of transport that compensates for, at least in part, the shortcomings of the government and its disinterestedness in matters of security. El Torito is a great example of how a space of legality with incentives and clear rules can be instituted. Uber ties in with the objective behind that of El Torito in exemplary fashion: it allows the city to function, its restaurants and bars to generate employment without placing the citizenry at risk of accidents. Both constitute novel paradigms: instead of “regulating them”, the City Government should foster and promote them, converting them into the model of what must be done. The question is, whose side is the government on: the side of the citizenry or the side of the corporatist interests that harass and threaten it?
At this point in time, a little compass wouldn’t be at all superfluous in the City Government.

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Luis Rubio

Luis Rubio

He is a contributing editor of Reforma and his analyses and opinions often appear in major newspapers and journals in Mexico, the US and Europe (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, National Public Radio).