Viva Hidalgo! Viva México!
Today, Mexico celebrates the 205th anniversary of its independence. In the early hours of 16 September 1810, the Mexican Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo encouraged a group of people to free themselves from Spanish colonial rule. Hidalgo, the most important of Mexico`s independence heroes, had the church bells ring and supposedly shouted “Death to bad government!” that night, in the town of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato. In the subsequent months, Hidalgo gathered an army of 90,000 mainly poor farm workers from indigenous or mestizo origin who fought against the ruling elite in the country – Spaniards and “criollos”, descendants from Spaniards born in the colonies.
Hidalgo was captured and executed not even a year after his famous “grito”, i.e. shout. The Mexican War of Independence lasted another ten years, until the country finally achieved its sovereignty in 1821. The question is, if it has also overcome bad government.
Mexico is a great country. It covers nearly 2 million square kilometers, more than five times the area of Germany, of beautiful coastlines, tropical forests, pristine mountain ranges, fertile plains and deserts with a unique biological, cultural and ethnic diversity. It brought corn, tomatoes and cocoa to the world; to name just a few of the goods. Its 120 million people are friendly and hard-working. Its economy ranks 15th on the global scale – thanks to the growing manufacturing industry, the sluggish oil and gas sector, tourism and the remittances of more than 12 million Mexicans living in the United States.
But nearly 200 years after Mexicans could again fully decide for themselves and choose a government they deemed appropriate, the country could be and should be in better shape. In 2014, 55 million Mexicans lived in poverty – that are even two million more than two years earlier. 28 million did not have enough to eat, 22 million suffered from a serious deprivation in basic education, the same number did not have proper access to health care. The ones that are doing better work overtime and spend every peso they can to send their children to private schools and attend private doctors – despite the fact that the government provides both for free. But a lot of people are just not content with the quality of public services.
Insecurity in the country is a definite issue. Impunity is widespread – according to the Financial Times, only 0.5 percent of crimes went punished in 2013. The papers conclusion after the disappearance of 43 students in Iguala last September: “It is remarkable Mexican criminality is not higher still.” And Mexico ranked even worse than in previous years in 2014 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index – it came out as 103rd on a list of 175 countries.
Seven in ten Mexicans say that they are dissatisfied with the way things are going in their country, according to a latest poll by the Pew Research Center: Rising prices, crime, lack of employment opportunities and corrupt political leaders were the top concerns.
The Mexican President, state governors and city mayors honor Hidalgo’s contribution to the country by shouting out his name and the ones of several other independence heroes on the night of 15 September. President Enrique Peña Nieto did that yesterday at 11 pm from the balcony of the Presidential Palace in Mexico City. He has three years left of his six-year term – he, and any other elected official in the country, should use that time to continue the fight Hidalgo started and make bad government truly a feature of the past. The Mexican people deserve it.