Why Mexico is Sick

Mexico’s problems run deeper and are more widespread than swine flu. Over the past ten years, political and economic actors intent on preserving the status quo have blocked further democratic change and economic reform, condemning Mexico to move sideways, even as other emerging markets surge ahead.

Mexico City – As I reflect on my troubled country, the lyrics of a Bruce Springsteen song come to mind: “We are far, far away from home. Our home is far, far away from us.” That’s how it feels to live in Mexico nowadays: far from democratic normalcy; far from a health system that inspires confidence; far from a government that builds trust; far from home and close to everything that imperils it.

My homeland has become a place where too many people are victims, succumbing to a virus, or gunned down by a drug-trafficker; assaulted by a robber, shot by an ill-trained policeman, or kidnapped by a member of a criminal gang. The flu epidemic, which probably began in the southern state of Veracruz, is yet another sign that all is not well in Mexico.

The country seems to be caught in a permanent, uneasy tug-of-war between the past and the future, between change and the actors who seek to place obstacles in its path. For example, when initial reports surfaced about the first swine flu cases, it took three weeks for the information to reach federal health authorities, because state governments were reluctant to report cases quickly due to political and electoral considerations.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.


Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.