Saturday, March 6, 2010

The End-of-the-Week Scandal

It turns out, Fernando Gómez Mont wasn't the only panista making deals with the PRI behind the president's and the PAN's back: in the last couple of days we have learned that César Nava was involved in the negotiation with Beatriz Paredes last fall, in which he promised to not mount a PAN-PRD challenge to the State of Mexico governorship if, in return, the PRI would support the budget package that was debated last October. Nava says that the PRI broke the agreement; the PRI says he's a liar. Witnesses to the agreement include Peña Nieto's secretary of the interior and Gómez Mont. Here's El Universal's reaction:
If you don't want anyone to find out about something you did, the best recommendation is to not do it. Above all if you are in politics or showbiz...

Everything started when Fernando Gómez Mont renounced his PAN membership because he hadn't been able to live up to his word of honor before the PRI. It was then known that the promise from the interior secretary had been to block the PAN-PRD electoral alliances, which would have endangered PRI strongholds in Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Durango, Sinaloa, and above all, in 2011, Mexico State. The PRI, in return, would endorse the increase in taxes, which the old party denies until this date. César Nava, we confirmed yesterday, signed the pact.

If the declarations of the national president of the PAN turn out to be a lie, what else could be? That Gómez Mont didn't inform the president of the agreement? If that's the case, let's all start to worry because neither the party of the president nor his right-hand man informed him of something so important as an agreement with the largest political opposition. Or worse, the president knew and instructed his operators to sign the agreement.
Assuming it's true, I don't think the second possibility is so bad, or at least it wouldn't have been if they'd just come out and admitted it from the beginning. A bit of unseemly back-room dealing in and of itself is a lot more forgivable than a) outright and repeated lying after the fact, or b) such a fractured, haphazard practice of politics at the seat of power.

The editorial later continues:
After this episode, it will be very difficult for the federal government in the coming years to recover the confidence of their interlocutors. If it has a lier as its connection with the rest of the political forces, then they won't see it as capable of establishing commitments.

Soon the political reform, a labor reform, and a fiscal reform, among others, will be debated in Congress. How will the governors, legislators, and opposition leaders find someone trustworthy who speaks for the government? It's difficult to imagine that the presidential envoys, the liars, will serve as resolvers of the big pending issues on the national agenda.

Everything indicates that Calderón will be obligated to bring in borrowed credibility from outside his close circle, which is to say, actors who aren't notorious for dishonesty. Otherwise his political agenda will from now on be shipwrecked. What's in play is the word of the presidency, which is different from that of Felipe Calderón. The first is institutional, the second is of the person. The inhabitant of Los Pinos must assure the survival of that word if he wants to leave a presidency outfitted with dignity. He owes it to himself but above all to the future of the country.
I think the consequences of not making enormous changes may be overstated (after all, lies in politics obey a pretty predictable logic, such that agreements are still sustainable), but I do agree that Calderón's reliance on a small group of loyalists has long been a big problem. Especially since his presidency hit rough waters, Calderón should have expanded his circle of friends.

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