The Return of Corporativism in Mexico
By ALEJANDRO ENVILA FISHER
The facts suggest that, using the covid-19 pandemic as a pretext, a perverse political pact is rapidly returning Mexico to the levels of bureaucratic inefficiency that prevailed in the country during the 1970s.
That unwritten pact is between the federal government and some of the bureaucratic labor unions that exist today inside and outside of the Federation of Government Labor Unions (FSTSE).
The terms of the pact are simple: With the coronavirus as a justification, unionized bureaucrats stay home as long as humanely possible (it doesn’t matter if they don’t own a computer or have an internet connection), while the government pays their full salary even if they don’t work.
And when election time comes around, they won’t forget who gave them two, or maybe three, years of unearned salary, and will vote accordingly.
The unionized bureaucrats have been out of work for two years, or in the best of cases, working part-time while receiving their entire salaries, courtesy of the taxes of the Mexican people and to the impoverishment of the treasury.
Meanwhile, those who need the services that the government “workers” are not providing continue to waste their time trying to get things done in a system that is broken.
Although Mexico’s discredited epidemiological traffic light was returned to green and everyone should have now returned to normal productive and work activities, the government of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has maintained an ambivalent policy toward his own employees: On the one hand, he makes extreme demands on his middle and upper management personnel to guarantee the provision of the services that corresponds to them, while on the other hand, he offers unjustified relaxation and tolerance with lower-echelon unionized workers.
The former must work every day and ensure the viability of the public services they are responsible for, while the latter can be absent up to 50 percent of the time, even though they receive full salary. Their absence makes it impossible to normalize tasks in government offices and dependencies.
Consequently, both the average citizen who is trying to comply with a legal obligation and the person who is trying to get an appointment for medical treatment are essentially on hold.
The reason for this hurry-up-and-wait red tape is simple: There are not enough staff because the unionized bureaucrats are still not showing up for work because “they are vulnerable,” or “they woke up with the beginning of the flu,” or “they visited a friend’s cousin whose wife just tested positive for covid.”
Any of these tepid excuses is reason enough to get an official government permit to not show up to work.
While the average Mexican is struggling to reboot his or her life and put food on the table, unionized bureaucrats are getting paid to do nothing.
And the federal government is happy to oblige, since it is counting on these lethargic workers to vote for it in the next election.
Inaction leads to more inaction.
Efficiency and social responsibility be damned. Such petty concepts as the quality and timeliness of public services simply do not matter.
In the end, those who pay for this pact of sloth are the Mexican people, every time they apply for a not-forthcoming construction license, or try to sort out an electric bill, or fill out the paperwork for a business permit.
No doubt about it, corporatism is back in Mexican politics and thriving.
And in that sense, the covid-19 pandemic seems to have — as AMLO so famously said at the start of the outbreak — suited his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) adminstration “like a glove.”