Mexican “sombrero political party”

Classical political science would hardly elaborate a classification that includes what I call a “sombrero political party”, that is, a kind of party that departs from the conventional left-right canons, or from the so-called nationalist or regionalist cleavages, which would imply that the aforementioned definition caters more to investigative journalism than to a serious and rigorous political science typology.

If we refer to the origin of political parties, what we will not find is that they were formed from economic, labor, regional or religious interest groups. And while that universe of the party membership has expanded with new political identities, we have also witnessed the surreptitious incursion of criminal groups in elections with their own candidates or those under their sphere of influence.

In Mexico, these criminal organizations exert a transversal influence on the party system and do so on the margins of party identities, generating a complex system of social and political relations that translate into sui generis forms of power that some authors generically call narco-politics.

The Dictionary of the Spanish Language defines narco-politics as: “Political activity in which institutions are strongly influenced by drug trafficking”. This influence evidently has its own routes of appropriation of the public sphere. Even up to the 1990s there were indications that the so-called “drug lords” were at the service of political power. And an unwritten rule was that they should not put their hands in politics or against politicians.

In this century, the interests of politicians on the fringes of the old PRI tutelage were increasing, which was diluted by the processes of alternation, increased. In this way, they became real factors of power in the regions of the country where the cartels operated. Thus, drug traffickers became increasingly interested in knowing who the candidates for elected office were and, above all, those who had the best chances.

And this is how the drug traffickers have intervened in the nomination of candidates who are in line with their interests, which has meant that they have had to “clean out” political adversaries in states, mayors’ offices, and districts. They have gone from the “protector” of candidates to the neutralization of certain candidacies, they have promoted candidates related to violence in the campaigns, and, in many cases, in the last federal and local elections, those who do not submit to this illegal guideline have been assassinated.

In the last local elections of 2021, the “sombrero party” triumphed in the Pacific coast states, which led to the resignation of many violated candidates and the placement of more than a hundred party leaders and political operators.

With this type of “parallel campaign”, evidently the result of the election in many regions was predictable: those who had to win, in fact, won. If this campaign works at a low political cost, it is very likely that it will continue to be used and will be extended to the rest of the territory. Let us also remember that of this chain of crimes that occurred in 2021, in most of the cases there are no judicial results as to which group committed them and, therefore, they are archived.

This means that, if in Mexico we have a 95% impunity rate, in the case of local political crimes it is around 100%, which represents a serious setback for our fragile democracy. And in this context, it is not excessive to say that if the country does not manage to curb the situation, we will end up being a “narco-cracy”.

However, President López Obrador insists on affirming that if his electoral reform initiative, already formally presented, is approved, we will live in a “true democracy”. But the absence of public financing for the initiative would not only compress the party system but would also open the doors to money from the current powers. Parties could cease to be “entities of public interest” and become registered organizations, but probably at the service of this particular system. Technically, this process would be the defeat of institutional politics.

I share the opinion that the cost of elections has gone too far and political consensus is necessary to reduce them significantly. Unfortunately, this will not happen because of the scarce incentives that this pretended model of electoral democracy has, and due to the opposition would never vote for it.

As stated by sociologist Jorge Zepeda Patterson, this is an initiative that is conceived from personal interest, rather than from a vision of institutional construction. López Obrador, in this matter, is interested in leaving a record that he put forward a proposal that was rejected by the opposition.

The fact is that his narrative is marked by the symbols of the good fatherland and the permanent dispute with his real or fictitious enemies. That is why, when he is confronted with the day-to-day problems of drug trafficking, massacres, femicides, violent deaths of young people, etc., which are out of his script, he turns them around to end up putting the focus on those enemies he has built in his transforming narrative: neoliberalism in its most abstract expression and the money owners in its most pedagogical manifestation. Abstraction as a rhetorical resource.

And so, AMLO will seek to go all the way. He has on his side the clientele susceptible to his messages of sovereignty, the patriotic and nationalist preaching of the 4T (Fourth Transformation). The rest can wait because organized crime “is also people” and “they are human beings”.

Therefore, the “sombrero political party”, the party of organized crime, with its regional expressions acquires greater significance as it is in the midst of the nationalist preaching that will eventually continue in its efforts to capture the institutions of the Mexican State. For such reason, the elections are more important than ever.

In short, the “sombrero political party” or whatever name is given to it, with greater or lesser political science value, expresses the Mexican reality. A reality that is becoming every day more and more worrisome that is weakening Mexican democracy.

Translated from Spanish by Janaína Ruviaro da Silva

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