Politics: Mexico’s City State and Gatopardismo

MEXICO - Report 11 Feb 2016 by Guillermo Valdes and Esteban Manteca

President Enrique Peña signed a decree on January 29 to authorize implementation of the constitutional reform that brings to an end the existence of the Federal District as the seat of federal government and the capital of the Mexican Republic, replacing it with a new entity formally called Ciudad de México or Mexico City. This clears the way for the new capital to call a constituent assembly for the drafting of a constitution for this new federal entity.

The reform entails a slight expansion of the governing powers of local officials but nothing in the way of significant changes that could notably improve the city’s functioning in matters that directly affect its citizens: the coverage and quality of public goods and services such as security, justice, water, transportation and streets, the environment and housing. Nor is there anything that addresses corruption, one of the major ills that permeates every level of government in the capital, especially on the level of the boroughs/mayoralties, where graft and influence peddling commingle in matters of housing speculation and land zoning. The two most transcendental changes are the creation of the mayoralties and their governing councils, and the fact that they will be able to directly access federal funds allotted to specific programs rather than having to channel such requests to the central administration of Mexico City

The actors most interested in the political reform of the Federal District/Mexico City are the political parties and not the citizens. The mayoralties will represent new spaces of political power, with thresholds that will be more accessible to minor parties. The constituent assembly provides an opportunity for parties to leave their imprint on the founding document of the new entity. In that sense, it will be shaped by the prospects of political parties, not those of the citizens.

Ultimately, there is a risk that Mexico City’s political reform process could prove to be an exercise in gatopardismo, the Spanish term referring to Giuseppe Tomasi‘s line in Il Gattopardo about the need for "things to change so everything can stay the same."

Now read on...

Register to sample a report