Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

The government we deserve/The unexpected virtue of ignorance

By Lorena Ojeda

At the most recent Oscars, the Academy recognized the talents of numerous Mexicans who worked on the acclaimed film Birdman. During his acceptance speech for the Best Director award, Alejandro González Iñárritu made two statements meant to resonate with Mexicans living on both sides of the Mexico-United States border.

Alejandro González Iñarritu
Director Alejandro González Iñarritu (Mario Pena via Wikimedia Commons)

In regard to those Mexicans living and working in the U.S. and the ongoing debates about immigration reform, the director said that “the ones that live in this country (the U.S.)… I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who came before and build this incredible immigrant nation” (this sentiment stands in stark contrast to Sean Penn’s controversial joke later that evening about González Iñárritu’s migratory status). Concerning the current political situation in Mexico, González Iñárritu declared: “I pray that we can find and build the government we deserve.”

González Iñárritu’s comment about the government Mexicans “deserve” was made as Mexico readies itself for crucial midterm elections: every seat in the lower house of the federal legislature will be voted on, and two-thirds of Mexico’s citizens will cast votes for a new governor, municipal president, or state legislator. At the same time, public opinion has become increasingly sensitive to corruption scandals, the continued uncertainty regarding the fate of the 43 student teachers that were disappeared in September 2014, and ongoing drug trafficking-related violence.

Nieto and Rivera in Cuba
President Enrique Peña Nieto and First Lady Angélica Rivera in Cuba, 2014 (PresidenciaMX via Wikimedia Commons)

Numerous political leaders immediately asked González Iñárritu to clarify his remarks. But their meaning is abundantly clear: Mexico does not currently have the government, or the political parties, or the politicians that it deserves. Rather than tackling corruption directly by making profound changes to the current system of government, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government has attempted to ameliorate public scrutiny by instituting superficial changes to existing anti-corruption statutes and launching a publicity campaign designed to burnish the federal government’s image.

Televisa, the country’s dominant media conglomerate, has been instrumental during this campaign, most notably during the president’s state visit to the United Kingdom, which was presented by the company’s news broadcasts as something out of a fairy tale.

Peña Nieto has deep ties to the media giant: his wife, Angélica Rivera – who has been accused of purchasing a multi-million dollar mansion at a discounted rate from Grupo Higa, a construction consortium that has been awarded numerous government contracts – is a former Televisa actress; and the recently named federal attorney general, Arely Gómez González, is the sister of Leopoldo Gómez, a current Televisa executive.

Cuauhtémoc Blanco
Mexico’s “Chicago Fire” soccer player, Cuauhtémoc Blanco (center), at Chicago’s Cinco de Mayo parade

Meanwhile, the electoral campaign has become a theater of the absurd. There seems to be a new corruption scandal every day. The country’s major political parties are embroiled in internal struggles. And a number of unlikely individuals – including veteran actress Carmen Salinas, former national soccer team player Cuauhtémoc Blanco, and popular clown “Lagrimita” – have entered local races as candidates. While all citizens in a democracy can vie to represent their communities, given the current chaotic context, the candidacies of these at times controversial figures makes one wonder if this is what Mexicans truly deserve.

The cherry on top of this tragic sundae is MVS Noticias’ dismissal of journalist Carmen Aristegui and her team, for seemingly no other reason than doing their job. Aristegui and her team investigated and broke the story of First Lady Angélica Rivera’s mansion. With Aristegui’s dismissal, one of Mexico’s most intelligent and critical journalists has been silenced.

It would seem then that Mexico is now experiencing the unexpected virtue of ignorance. Given this and Mexicans’ passive attitude, their resigned attitudes, and the short-lived memories of political scandals, perhaps it is time we ask if Mexico already has the government it deserves.