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Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part I)

By Étienne von Bertrab, on 2 February 2015

They want a different future, Yucatán. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

They want a different future, Yucatán. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

Mexico is going through turbulent times and its future looks, if not pitch black, then highly uncertain and complex. This is a personal attempt to make sense of recent developments and to share some reflections on causes, implications, and sources of hope.

The recent wave of high-level corruption scandals and particularly the forced disappearance of the 43 rural students from Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, have been, for a majority of Mexicans, the straw that broke the camel’s back. Studies over the last few years had already shown a steady decline in levels of trust in State institutions; however, trust has reached an all time low and there are calls to ignore and boycott the mid-term elections this summer. Although most attention is placed on the machinery of corruption and impunity of PRI (the infamous political party that ruled Mexico for 70 years and came back to power in 2012), people are losing trust in all political parties.

Mexico has the worst political class in decades” concluded a recent panel on democracy and elections held at IBERO University. Internationally, only a year ago mainstream media made reference to ‘the time of Mexico’ and Time magazine portrayed president Peña Nieto as saviour. The Economist, which had praised his constitutional reforms – particularly the juicy energy reform that allows the privatisation of oil – has now referred to him as “a president who doesn’t get that he doesn’t get it”. For The New Yorker, the President himself is the clearest example of corruption in the country.

Protest street art, Guadalajara. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

Protest street art, Guadalajara. Image: Étienne von Bertrab

But corruption and impunity have been there for a while and the distance between the political class and ordinary people has been widely perceived and commented upon. Why are so many Mexicans in the streets over and over again, shouting ‘enough is enough’ and getting engaged in the public sphere in ways never seen before? Behind the Ayotzinapa case are around 100,000 deaths and more than 23,000 disappearances since 2006 (according to official figures), plus 150,000 displaced people according to Freedom House. Unsurprisingly, those affected the most are the poor and the marginalised amongst Mexican society.

More than two decades of neoliberal restructuring and particularly the culture of capitalist cronyism built by those in power, have benefitted only a few while too many women and men continue to live in poverty. Not to mention indigenous groups who for centuries have been victims of oppression and dispossession (for most, little has changed since colonial times). Across the country over 7 million young people can’t find opportunities to study or work and thus are unable to imagine a future in their own country. Apart from the negative effects on human development the country is losing its ‘demographic bonus’.

‘Where those above destroy, below we flourish’. Image: Creative Commons

‘Where those above destroy, below we flourish’

There is simply too much suffering in so many families and communities, and too few provisions to deal with the repercussions of eight years of crude violence on top of the generalised sense of injustice. The situation of human rights in Mexico, according to Amnesty International, is now the worst in the American continent.

In the latest developments, while the federal government declared the official investigation on the 43 disappeared students ‘closed’ last week, a new journalistic investigation revealed that most of the government’s ‘evidence’ was obtained through torture. The federal government will surely defend its version (referred to as the ‘historical truth’ by the attorney general) with full force, and repression to protestors is likely to escalate. These practices should also not come as a surprise: according to Human Rights Watch, there have been over 9,000 complaints of abuse by the army since 2006.

For an audio account of the investigation that proved that the authorities at the national level were involved in the disappearances, you can listen to Steve Fisher, one of the authors of the original article in Proceso magazine, here. Channel 4 News has also produced an informative video entitled ‘Are Mexico’s disappeared students victims of drug war?’ – available on its website.

 

Part II, on hope, solidarity and opportunities for research that can make a difference will be published on the DPU blog next week.

Étienne von Bertrab is a Teaching Fellow at the DPU and a guest lecturer in universities in Mexico. He also works as a consultant in the UK and in Mexico, where he has been a social activist for ten years. Twitter: @etiennista

25 Responses to “Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part I)”

  • 1
    dpu_ucl wrote on 2 February 2015:

    What is going on in Mexican politics? @etiennista gives insights in our latest blog ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside?’ http://t.co/8S33l4oPBd

  • 2
    mattwh1 wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @etiennista Informative post – http://t.co/5wLEtZkEli ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside?’ – difficult times ahead in Mex politics & society??

  • 3
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    Mexico: where does hope reside? http://t.co/PljcL08hqM Thanks to @Stevelfisher and many other brave journalists in #Mexico #UKMX2015

  • 4
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @paulodrinot For discussion of course, but thought could interest IoA colleagues and students: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 5
    UCLAmericas wrote on 2 February 2015:

    Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part I)
    By Etienne Von Bertrab (UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit) http://t.co/PCEIBB6dWy

  • 6
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @moorehl Thought would be interesting for the IGP: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 7
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @raulaco Va la primera parte de una reflexión personal sobre lo que nos acontece: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 8
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @ajcorchado Where does hope reside in Mexico – part I: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 9
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @hodgerob A personal reflection on what goes on in Mexico: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 10
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @Dsatterthwaite In case is of interest of those working in Mexico and Latin America: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 11
    etiennista wrote on 2 February 2015:

    @Desmesurar Desde acá, una lectura sobre el México que nos acontece, sobre todo para los no mexicanos: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 12
    Desmesurar wrote on 2 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: @Desmesurar Desde acá, una lectura sobre el México que nos acontece, sobre todo para los no mexicanos: http://t.co/zBE2RLXg…

  • 13
    bros_chiva wrote on 2 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: @Desmesurar Desde acá, una lectura sobre el México que nos acontece, sobre todo para los no mexicanos: http://t.co/zBE2RLXg…

  • 14
    choroniven wrote on 2 February 2015:

    RT @UCLAmericas: Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part I)
    By Etienne Von Bertrab (UCL Bartlett Development Planning Unit) http://t.co/PCEIB…

  • 15
    clarss wrote on 2 February 2015:

    RT @dpu_ucl: What is going on in Mexican politics? @etiennista gives insights in our latest blog ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside?’ http://t…

  • 16
    allenDPUadriana wrote on 2 February 2015:

    RT @dpu_ucl: What is going on in Mexican politics? @etiennista gives insights in our latest blog ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside?’ http://t…

  • 17
    ivofox wrote on 2 February 2015:

    RT @dpu_ucl: What is going on in Mexican politics? @etiennista gives insights in our latest blog ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside?’ http://t…

  • 18
    Stevelfisher wrote on 3 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: Mexico: where does hope reside? http://t.co/PljcL08hqM Thanks to @Stevelfisher and many other brave journalists in #Mexico …

  • 19
    asladopeanews wrote on 3 February 2015:

    Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part I) – The Bartlett Development Planning Unit http://t.co/ngUYpnw3x3

  • 20
    CarlosPaezGDL wrote on 3 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: @Desmesurar Desde acá, una lectura sobre el México que nos acontece, sobre todo para los no mexicanos: http://t.co/zBE2RLXg…

  • 21
    DanRavenEllison wrote on 3 February 2015:

    Mexico: Where does hope reside? http://t.co/MMipn1i8CT a great blog post by @etiennista at @dpu_ucl @BartlettUCL

  • 22
    Dsatterthwaite wrote on 3 February 2015:

    .@etiennista DPU blogs on urban issues – this one on Mexico http://t.co/eLPlFoB3fB

  • 23
    ajcorchado wrote on 3 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: @ajcorchado Where does hope reside in Mexico – part I: http://t.co/zBE2RLXgFj

  • 24
    marcetorresg wrote on 3 February 2015:

    #humanrights in #Mexico, according to Amnesty International, is now the worst in the American continent. http://t.co/8XAXPYgbvw

  • 25
    emilycwilkinson wrote on 5 February 2015:

    RT @Dsatterthwaite: .@etiennista DPU blogs on urban issues – this one on Mexico http://t.co/eLPlFoB3fB

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