Editorials | October 2009
|Some Mexicans See Light at End of Crises Plagued Tunnel|
Patrick Corcoran - MexiData.info
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October 17, 2009
Much of what is written about Mexico suggests a nation in which the citizens are losing faith. Mexicans don't trust the government, they are apoplectic about the economy, they fear for their safety at all hours, they live on the verge of a deadly pandemic, and for years they have been hightailing their way out of the country by the millions.
|Mexicans show an openness to creative new solutions that belies a nation of grim fatalists.|
The following opening to a recent column from El Universal's Alberto Aziz Nassif is typical:
Every day the bad news hits the citizens of this country who are passing through very difficult moments. The expectations have become more pessimistic each day. It becomes difficult to imagine that the immediate future could be a little better.
Or, if you prefer, read the intro to a recent piece from Aziz Nassif’s colleague César Cansino:
Our country suffers from a very serious economic and insecurity crisis. Nobody doubts that. But still more serious, much more shameful, is that we citizens don't have expectations for exiting the crisis nor for neutralizing crime and violence.
The above examples adhere to an appealing, easy narrative with more than a kernel of truth, but a recent report from the Pew Global Attitudes Project shows a far more complicated tableau. While the nation’s fears about the economy and insecurity, and dissatisfaction with the political class, are very real, Mexicans balance that with a sense of fortitude and even optimism.
Take crime. According to Pew, 98 percent of Mexicans recognize crime as a very or moderately big problem, and of course they are right: it is one. But the sense of hopeless doom that is all but unavoidable for those of us who spend too much time perusing the crime reports is not transplanted onto the nation at large. Despite their worries, Mexicans are largely hopeful about the current administration’s strategy: 66 percent said that progress is being made in the drug war under President Felipe Calderón.
Furthermore, Mexicans show an openness to creative new solutions that belies a nation of grim fatalists. Eighty-three percent of the respondents support the use of the Mexican army to fight drug gangs, while a similar proportion are in favor of some form of US involvement (including an astonishing 30 percent who actually support the deployment of US troops to Mexico).
Mexicans are likewise of two minds about immigration. Forty-eight percent of those polled said that the immigrant diaspora is bad for the nation, only six points more than those who said it is beneficial. So while on the whole more people said immigration favors the US, collectively it is seen as less a pernicious exodus than a mixed bag for Mexico. On an individual level, Mexicans are likewise to immigration: a third of those polled said they would go to the US if they had the opportunity, and 70 percent said their friends and relatives in the US had achieved their goals.
Even the economy, which is presently slogging its way through the deepest recession since the Great Depression, fails to inspire a uniform sense of gloom. Almost 70 percent of the respondents said that the national economy is very or somewhat bad, but 54 percent replied that they were very or somewhat satisfied with their own personal economic situation which was good, and 68 percent expressed contentment with their household income.
Another striking finding lies in Mexicans' view of government. A predictably high percentage called government corruption a major problem, 68 percent, plus another 26 percent said it was a moderate problem—and for good reason. Examples of official wrongdoing, from Operation Clean-up to the sale of tenured positions in public schools, abound.
However, Mexicans are not so blinded by cynicism as to be incapable of recognizing competent leadership. For instance, Mexicans recognize that the government response to the flu outbreak last spring was an admirable performance under difficult circumstances; more than three quarters approved of the government’s handling of the emergency. Beyond the flu, leaders perceived as honest and competent, most prominently Felipe Calderón (whose tenure was endorsed by three quarters of those polled), enjoy an enduring approval rating that transcends ideology and political identification.
What this shows is not a nation of cynical no-hopers, but of guarded optimists. There is, at least in the perception of Mexicans, a silver lining to the primary maladies plaguing Mexico and providing fodder to columnists. For those in government, the report suggests that Mexicans are, in a broad sense, keeping tabs on their work and rewarding those who perform well.
There’s still plenty of reason for pessimism in Mexico, but the Pew report shows that there’s another side of Mexico.
Patrick Corcoran (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer who resides in Torreón, Coahuila. He blogs at Gancho (www.ganchoblog.blogspot.com/).