Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Opinion: A big picture view of Mexico’s present and future in uncertain times

I am proud that Mexico will have its first female president. I am even more proud of the fact that she comes from the Mexican Jewish minority, a community that numbers a mere 58,876 citizens.

My Mexico is a country of racial diversity, where members of any minority should be able to aspire to the highest offices in the land, and I am glad that our future president reflects that.

Agustín Barrios Gómez
Agustín Barrios Gómez, former Mexican Congressman. (Courtesy)

However, as a firm believer in both economic and political freedoms afforded by liberal democracy, as well as a staunch advocate for strong and independent institutions, I am worried by her party’s legislative agenda.

As of 1997, Mexico built what became the most sophisticated electoral system in the world, which gave the country free (if not always fair) elections, for nearly thirty years. I think we run the risk of losing those very real democratic gains.

I also think that we run the risk of squandering the immense opportunities afforded by the nearshoring phenomenon. Simply put, if Mexico were to liberalize its energy industry and quickly shore up at least some of its serious public security issues, the country could join the ranks of the developed world within a decade.

With a much stronger economy and some political will, the rule of law would be within reach and Mexico could finally fulfill the dreams of so many of its people in ways that it hasn’t been able to until now. As an added benefit, this would also mean that Mexico would no longer export its people, meaning that one of the main drivers of the dangerous radicalization of the U.S. electorate would be gone. It is no stretch to say that a prosperous Mexico would improve the chances of a prosperous and more peaceful world.

But it looks like this is not to be; at least not in the short term. Instead, Mexico joins in the worldwide zeitgeist, entering a period of — you guessed it — increased uncertainty.

What used to be shared values of equality of opportunity in the context of economic and political freedom are no longer in vogue for majority voting blocs around the world and Mexico is no exception.

In what is proving to be an uncanny repeat of the 1930s, xenophobic authoritarianism is on the march pretty much everywhere, even in those countries where freedom and democracy were formerly a given. Whether you believe in the theory of 80-year historical cycles and the overproduction of elites, or in the powers of the planets to mold our fate, this is a world that has stopped making sense. Particularly for people who, like me, came of age during what was supposed to be “the end of history.” Our optimism regarding markets, democracy and enlightened self-interest, the pillars of Pax Americana which were to lead us into a new Golden Age, is over.

For those of us who care about Mexico’s future, this leads to a number of recommendations. The first is to love Mexico for what it is, and not for what we want it to be. As the son of a Mexican diplomat who grew up in several countries (including Switzerland), I have heard versions of Mexico’s obituary for as long as I can remember. And, yet, the country remains one of the most attractive places in the world to invest and to live in, hosting (by far) the largest community of U.S. expatriates in the world.

While it is true that we could well be seeing the end of an independent judiciary, the basic ingredients that make living in Mexico attractive, its destinations, culture, people — and its food — look to endure. In fact, if the latest international rankings are to be believed, there is even an argument to be made that they will improve.

Second, it’s important not to have expectations based on our biases. Mexico is guaranteed to break your heart, but it will also make you fall in love with it. Sometimes these two things will happen on the same day. Just like everywhere else, this country has important challenges, but the world doesn’t need more Mexico catastrophizing. Observations and constructive criticisms are welcome, but no one benefits by propagating the old “Mexico is doomed” trope.

That goes double for expatriate Mexicans who, despite owing their family and fortune to Mexico, speak ill of their country from their perch in the Woodlands, or Miami. Harmful words are never a good look.

As the world enters a period of increased volatility, perspective is more important than ever. Europeans peer over Poland’s eastern border (which is also the border of NATO and the European Union) and see war being waged by an expansionist Russia. In Asia, China is also engaged in a frenzy of saber-rattling hostility.

Here in North America, we have many challenges, including a dangerous concentration of political power and organized crime in Mexico, as well as alarming political polarization in the United States. Add to that, the “polycrisis,” which is a bizarre metastasis of existential threats that include, but are not limited to, nuclear war, bioweapons, accelerated global warming and artificial intelligence.

In this context, the results of Mexico’s election, for good, or ill, are a footnote. I do not believe that the basic ingredients of what makes Mexico one of the top international destinations will change. And for those of us who want to contribute, we can always do so  as individuals, through being positive and productive members of our communities. 

In sum, it behooves us to appreciate everything that Mexico offers, even if circumstances are forcing us to also be mindful of a world that is more dangerous and less predictable than it should be.

Agustín Barrios Gómez is the founder of International Capital Partners, a former Mexican Congressman, and a member of the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI).

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mexico News Daily, its owner or its employees.

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