The End of the Democratic State

Only in Mexico now. The rest of the countries should think about it.

The article has been originally written in October 2019 and updated in November, 2021.

Predicting the future is easy in fact. I can do that sometimes. The thing is, so can you. Aren’t you able to predict the future of alcoholic or drug addict with high probability? You just have to look long enough at the events going on around the object of observation (person, enterprise, or a country), and you see at least the direction the object is moving.

In Mexico, the state government has lost its monopoly on violence - the powerful drug cartels started a war in 2006, and now they have apparently hundreds (if not thousands) of their own well-armed fighters and successfully fight not only with other cartels, but also with the Mexican police and even the army. For example, in October 2019, the cartel fighters forcibly removed the son of the drug lord El Chapo from the hands of legal authorities, which was the fact that actually had caught my attention.

Worst of all, so many civilians are suffering in this war: about 90,000 have disappeared since 2006. In 2021 alone more than 25,000 people have been killed. This is a real war and one of the main reasons why Mexicans are fleeing the country. The authorities can't do anything or don’t want to - I assume that most high-level government employees are paid by drug lords or become racketeers themselves. Yes, this is a corruption that cannot be beaten even in more developed countries than Mexico. So it is what it is.

In 2020-2021, the war between the government and the drug mafia has intensified.
In the state of Guanajuato the cartels wage open war against the security forces of the state government. Jalisco cartel is hunting down and killing police officers at their homes (!!) on their days off in front of their families. Many police officers are abandoning their homes and leaving, the state authorities and the president of Mexico can do nothing. The state of Guanajuato has the highest number of police killed among Mexican states since at least 2018 - between 2018 and May 12, 2021, a total of 262 police officers have been killed.

Local authorities persuade residents not to leave their homes without a dire necessity, and "… Mexico's federal and state forces have acted, in the best of cases, as passive bystanders, and in the worst of cases as active conflict participants, taking sides by collaborating with one or the other criminal band," said Falko Ernst, a senior security analyst for the International Crisis Group responsible for conducting research on the country’s lethal conflict.

To defend themselves against an undeclared internal war, Mexicans also arm themselves and create local self-defense groups. Thus the number of warring parties increases. Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s “hugs not bullets” security policy against organized crime is failing.

"There used to be a strong response from the authorities in the past regarding these crimes. They captured the responsible very fast. But as of today, there has not been a reaction from the authorities”, said David Saucedo, another Mexico-based security analyst.

Now about the future of Mexico which is quite clear in the light of the above. It is a civil war of all against all and a collapse of the country.

Mexico is a fairly large (about 126 million people) and formally democratic state. However, the Mexican problem can no longer be solved by democratic methods. Authoritarian methods and leaders are needed (like Augusto Pinochet in Chile or Park Chung-hee in South Korea), but this is very unpopular nowadays. Other democracies (the US, in particular) will not approve that and help. That is why I called the article «The end of the democratic state. Only in Mexico now” - it is one-way road for Mexicans.

I think that Mexico will be the first big democratic country in the world to fall apart because of internal problems. Unfortunately, I can't say when that will happen. Countries die much longer than people.

October 22, 2019

Recently in the Mexican city of Culiacan (state Sinaloa) the police detained the son of a drug lord named El Chapo. After a long street shootout with drug cartel fighters the police was forced to let the guy go. Country's officials explained that by the need to protect the citizens of the city and the fact that gangsters had the military-grade machine guns and armored vehicles. I think the second argument was actually the main one. Anyway, the state has admitted its helplessness.
Thus, the United Mexican States have lost (at least in the province of Sinaloa) one of the most important monopolies of the state - the monopoly on violence.

The number of murders including drug-war related ones constantly increases in Mexico recent years. For example, over 31 thousand (!!) people were killed in the country during 2017 and this happened in a peacetime.
Actually, this is not a peacetime at all. Mexican state obviously cannot provide its citizens with the most important attribute of living - the safety. And without the monopoly on violence any state cannot exist. Joining those two prerequisites together, we should expect big perturbations in Mexico in the near future (people have already been fleeing from the local war) and/or the United Mexican States will fall apart.

The state has to provide first and foremost physical safety to its citizens. The US founding fathers correctly put “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” into the US Declaration of Independence just in that order. Liberty and the opportunity to pursue happiness are also important, but secondary to life, i.e. safety. It’s a pity though that the Americans mostly attribute meaning of the Declaration of Independence only to the 18th century timeframe and the relations between emerging United States and British metropolitan country. “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” formula should be applied also to relations between any state and its citizens at any time. The USA were a very sought after place to live in for millions of people and the country really prospered while applying that formula, but it was cut from my subjective point of view in early 1970s.

It is always useful to learn from somebody else’s experience even if this experience is negative. Americans usually do not pay attention to events like recent Mexican shootouts, apparently attributing them to the category “it happened in a banana republic”. The Americans are sure that nothing like Mexican gangster’s victory over the state troops can happen in the US. Not really. John Donne warned: “... send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. “

In Mexico it is simply more clear at the first glance - the good guys versus bad guys, but everything is relative and "bad" guys may come into the power in a country and become "good" ones... Look at the photos of your politicians - are they really "good" or "bad"? But, please, do not pay much attention to the attributes like a machine gun or the Bible in their hands - it doesn't matter. Look just at the faces.

The End of the Democratic State
Photo by URI MERON on Unsplash

No state or human being knows in advance what level of madness and stupidity they can reach. For example, Hitler would never come to the power in Germany in the 1930s without a real support of the German people, who had given to the world also Martin Luther, Goethe, Hegel, Bach…
Just a sufficient quantity of offended and/or stupid people is needed to tear the nation apart. In Mexico now these are the conflicting interests of powerful drug cartels and state bodies (which should be very corrupted by those cartels). In the U.S. now it can be “Trump - our president 2020” and the opposition to this slogan. The question is about how much polarized the society is, not the formal reason for splitting.

And Mexico is not “a banana republic”. The country formally has a democracy, a free market capitalist economy, separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers, Constitution, President, police, army, Senate, Chamber of Deputies, etc. Everything looks just like in the US.

Both countries declare democratic principles and have a similar structure. The United Mexican States is a federal presidential constitutional republic, and the government is representative, democratic and republican based on a presidential system according to the 1917 Constitution. The United States of America is also a federal presidential constitutional republic with a representative democracy.
And both countries are among the “flawed democracies” in the Democracy Index list.

The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a UK company, with the intention to measure and compare the levels of democracy in 167 countries.
Mexico ranks 73rd in the Democracy Index 2019 and is in the “flawed democracy” category. The USA is ranked 25th there and is also considered a country with flawed democracy. Full democracy countries are listed from #1 (Norway) to #22 (Portugal). There are also hybrid regimes in the list (Ukraine #78 or Iraq #118) and authoritarian regimes like Congo, which is called Democratic Republic of the Congo (#166), China (#153) or Russia (#134).

The Democracy Index shows how different democracies can be. All countries (and even Russia and China) seem to be in favor of democracy. Russia, for example, represents itself as the presidential-parliamentary republic in Russian-speaking section of Wikipedia. The full name of China is People’s Republic of China, a unitary one-party socialist republic, so it is a republic too, which means “public affair” in Latin.

Therefore, the success/problems of full democracies from the top 20 list (Norway, Iceland, Sweden) and the success/problems of flawed democracies, hybrid and authoritarian regimes cannot be considered as an achievement or failure of democracy as a form of the state structure. Democracy is just a tool. Any tool is used by people. People are different, and so the democracies are.

The Americans live basically safe lives, so the main requirement is being met. But if they are dissatisfied with the quality of life, incomes, expenses, presidents, relations with each other and with other countries - they need to think in particular why the US is not full democracy country and what the democracy is about then. And every person looking for the answer will come to the same conclusion:
- either democracy does not work by itself (but the development of the first twenty countries in Democracy Index shows it’s not true);
- or democracy in the U.S. is applied incorrectly, which in particular is confirmed by the place of the U.S. at 25th position amongst flawed democracy states in the Democracy Index list.


P.S. Dear Reader! I am very much interested in your opinion on the subject of this article. Please, write a comment or ask a question if you want to clarify something.
Igor Chykalov
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