Analysis: Hold the front page, it’s more good news
FOR once, Mexico is in the news for something good: an election. What a contrast to the usual coverage by international news agencies, which seldom involves anything other than evil drug lords, terrifying shoot-outs, and grisly pictures of decapitated bodies.
With the ever-present PRI, which governed Mexico for seven decades, now due to return to power, one might be tempted to conclude that little has changed in Mexico. That assessment would be wrong.
Drug-related violence, for one thing, is not as widespread as the news might lead one to believe. True, 50,000 people have died in president Felipe Calderón’s six-year war against drug traffickers. And, true, Mexico’s murder rate, 18 per 100,000 people, is frighteningly high. But Brazil’s is 26 per 100,000, South Africa’s is 32, and Venezuela’s is a whopping 67. And the bulk of homicides in Mexico occur in only four states along the United States border.
In the old Mexico, all institutions were controlled or co-opted by the PRI. Today, Mexico has an independent supreme court, elections institute and central bank. Regulators, anti-monopoly officials and statistical agencies enjoy a good deal of autonomy. The press is freer than ever, even if TV giant Televisa continues to give PRI candidates preferential treatment. And civil society is up and running: student movement YoSoy132, organised through social media, turned out to be the biggest and most influential surprise of this election campaign.
The economy also has changed, and mostly for the better. The 2008-9 global financial crisis hit Mexico hard, but the economy has been growing steadily since. Mexican exports have reached $1 billion a day, with manufactured goods accounting for more than 80 per cent of the total. Last, but not least, demography is helping. Mexican households are projected to average 1.7 children in 2013-14, a sharp decrease from previous years.
A growing, less violent, more egalitarian, and more democratic Mexico should be great news. If only the world’s news media would report on it.
• Andrés Velasco was Chile’s finance minister from 2006-2010
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