History and Background: Bureaucracy in Mexico Research Paper
Is bureaucracy a system of management or is it a structure to exercise and protect interests? When bureaucracy is related to management of public affairs, then it is achieving what it was intended for, but when it becomes a structure for exercising and protecting interests, then it is called a corrupt bureaucracy. The point is that most bureaucracies in the world are in one way or another corrupt, but the degree of corruption varies from country to another, and from one culture to another.
In this research, bureaucracy in Mexico will be brought under scrutiny, especially with its problems that are related to the domination of the ruling party in a one-party system. Bureaucracy in Mexico is very similar to any other bureaucracy in third world countries. The disaster is that this bureaucracy is trying to create and manage a First World economy. “You can’t just have a First World economy with a Third World political system” says the executive of General Electric in Mexico, a situation that has been existing for the past decade (Smith & Reed, 1995).
Mexico’s bureaucracy dates back to 1824 when the first Constitution was declared. Mexico is one of the most revolutionary countries in the world, and the last revolution it had was in 1910 when the last constitutional reforms were made, carrying the country into twentieth century politics. In 1929, the Institutional Revolutionary Party known as the PRI reached power and ever since, the party had ruled the country after it was able to institutionalize the state. The PRI based its rule on the elite whereby only the members of the party were allowed to get into the sensitive posts in the state (Padgett, 1966). In 1946, the PRI was more established than ever and the army was discharged so that the military cannot change the political power of the single party ruling the country. Of course, Mexico is a parliamentary state, thus supposed to be democratic, but as a one-party state, it is closer to the totalitarian systems where the party has full domination inside the bureaucracy (Padgett, 1966).
Historically, the bureaucracy in Mexico has always suffered from the corruption of the state and the elite which has caused the economy great damage. Corruption in the Mexican bureaucracy includes bribery, influence of power, and the control of elite. This has led to making many mistakes, especially in the management of the economy and the state without expertise and experience. For example, in the early 1970’s the prices of oil went up. The government immediately borrowed at very high interest to finance the oil business, but as it did, the prices collapsed and the country could have bankrupt had the US government not intervened to gather international aid for the country. In 1981 and later in 1985 the country was again about to declare bankruptcy. Early in 1995, the state was suffering more than ever and it almost went bankrupt again had the US not pooled $5 billion to rescue the country which was suffering on all levels (Smith & Reed, 1995).
Consecutive economic disasters, unchecked corruption and the failure of the bureaucracy to accomplish its tasks necessitated change and reform in the mid-1980s. In 1988, the PRI witnessed its first hard test as the leftists formed a coalition with some prominent ex-PRI members who had been excluded from the elite and ousted from the influential positions inside the bureaucracy. The PRI won the elections with a very narrow margin.
The term of President Salinas who won the 1988 elections witnessed the first real attempts to reform the bureaucracy. Under his instructions, public owned corporations and institutions were sold out to the private sector, thus raising $20 billion that could have been sufficient to lay the foundations of a better bureaucracy and to strengthen the economy.
Before Salinas left office six years later, the $20 billion had been consumed by the bureaucracy without any reforms in the state or in the economy. Accusation pointed to the PRI elite which was in control of the bureaucracy and which was also responsible for all the reform projects in the state. However, in a country where accountability is not practiced, the scandal passed unnoticed, at least not until the early 1990s (Smith & Reed, 1995).
For decades, the PRI has gained increasing power inside the system. Being the only party in the system, the PRI was able to extend its hold on the bureaucracy to the extent that only party members could be appointed in any official posts in the whole bureaucracy. This prevented reformation and at the same time, it sustained the status quo in the system.
To make the situation more difficultMexicans are horrified by the increase in bloody violence which the country has been witnessing lately. The reason for all this is that the PRI corrupt members are engaged in drug dealing after the collapse of the drug Cartel in Columbia. These new dealers have set as their objective the $7 billion cash market share which is expected to flow from the US into Mexico from drug business. The far provinces are turning into death areas as the PRI mafias are terminating one another or any possible challengers such as judges who would dare to take PRI drug cases (Smith & Reed, 1995).
All these parameters united give one result at the end: political change. The political change in Mexico will be radical because this country has always been radical in its changes. Moreover, the Mexicans have nothing to lose. There is a strong tendency to see a new emerging Mexico in the foreseen future, probably by the year 2000 when the next elections are due. Four main factors tend to support this.
The signs of a new Mexico
The first factor is the cutting of the money pipeline through privatization of state-run industries. This has weakened the PRI’s powerful patronage system, making business and labor less dependent on the ruling party. This has given rise to new private businesses which refuse to deal with the corrupt party members.
The second factor is exposing corruption. The Mexicans are demanding more transparency in government, and the press is covering corrupt officials and illegal contributions to the PRI.
The third factor is what is known as ‘The Zedillo Effect.’ The new president is cleaning out his own party, purging corrupt elements and bringing the opposition into key posts.
The last factor is the rising voice of businesses calling for more accountability and political pluralism. This would put the PRI in a critical position with the rising popularity of the opposition (Smith & Reed, 1995).
Obstacles to change
However, political change is not as easy as it sounds, especially in a country where corruption and PRI political thought have been rooted for about seventy years. In addition, the critical situation of the country does not give change much air to breathe in. The main obstacles to change are three.
First, the drug lords whose influence is growing quickly especially after the collapse of the Cali Cartel in Colombia lately. More politicians, prosecutors, and police are getting involved and the system does not seem able to correspond.
The second is the rejection of the local bosses and symbols of the PRI of change. They are exploiting the weakness of the new president to gain more power, using more violence and assassination.
Finally, and this is the most important difficult obstacle of all, the economic crunch has led to an increase in the crime wave which might make the country fall into bloodshed. The Mexican economic growth of 2% is nothing compared to that of other countries in Asia where 10% is the average. The Mexicans are looking at these Asian countries with jealousy, but they know that the system and the party are responsible for this. This time they will not react passively as they have done in the past. This time they are electing new candidates, people who would really save the situation not exploit it (Smith & Reed, 1995).
As far as the PRI is concerned, the change has started with Zedillo’s breaking the rule of thumb familiar among all party members, that is, never to go after the family members of a formal president. Raul Salinas, President Salinas’s brother was arrested for charges of conspiracy to murder PRI Secretary General Massieu last year. This proved that the change was coming, but at the same time raised fear of the violent reactions of the PRI members as a judge and an attorney general involved in this case were killed immediately (Smith & Reed, 1995).
Furthermore, the Americans are pressing from outside on the government to put an end to the corruption in the business. The American businesses have filed several complains against dishonest business conduct in the government. President Zedillo immediately reacted and fixed the situation to keep the Americans on his side.
The issue is the politics of developing countries and this is the perspective through which we should look. The economic factor is the crucial factor in the case of Mexico. How far will the change resulting from economic pressure going to be on the Mexican politics and political system? This is a very sensitive question, mainly because Mexico is a country that is continuously changing.
What we can see now is that the Mexican political system is witnessing a radical change due to the failure of the ruling elite represented in the PRI. The change that is brought about is moving from a single-party system into a multi-party rule, which means that more democracy will be seen in Mexico. But will this change bring about real change in the Mexican social, economic and political structure? This can never be anticipated because corruption and personal power remain the strongest aspects of the Mexican system, and these aspects can never give up to the change so easily. It is important that we view the change in Mexico cautiously and try to see whether the change will bring with it what Mexico really needs, that is, development and modernization.
Every developing country needs to change in order to reach the goals of modernization and development, but to what extent will the change in Mexico be in favor of development and modernization? Again, this question is not easy to answer, especially that many factors play an important role in determining the nature of change.
Economic crises are the major features of the Mexican political face today. These crises have indeed initiated change in the country but it remains in the hands of time and politicians to say their word. Especially politicians because only a sincere effort to save this country can make the chages be in favor of the development of this suffering country.
The serious issues that are to be held in mind are drugs, violence, social unrest, political corruption, collapsing public sector and the bankrupt government. All these factors united together can lead to one end, that is disaster.
Padgett, A. Mexico. New York: McGraw Hill Publications, 1966.
Smith, G. & Reed, Stanley. The brave new world of Mexican Politics.Business Week, August 28, 1995. pp. 19-20.