Monday, October 25, 2010

Modern day "obedezco pero no cumplo"

The phrase "I obey but I do not comply" surfaces in virtually every undergraduate class on colonial Latin America as a means of describing the attitude of colonial officials toward the Spanish crown across the Atlantic who, while loyal to their king, found it sometimes impractical to carry out royal mandates in the colonies. Mexico today suffers from a modern day version of the trope in the sense that this is a nation obsessed with the law at a moment of complete and utter lawlessness. If one attempts to follow the law, or to even use the law to pursue justice in some matter, one will inevitably find oneself bogged down in what most opine is still one of the most inefficient and complicated bureaucracies in Latin America (and that's saying something). Take the Law of Transparency, for example. This law exists to make public institutions accountable, for their spending, for their activities, for their practices, yet using the law in most cases allows the institution in question to appear to comply with the law, by virtue of having followed the procedure dictated by the law, without typically providing any substantive data to the public in the end. Mexicans themselves appear to be suffering from an extreme case of "obedezco pero no cumplo" these days as well, as virtually any citizen will publicly decry the climate of lawlessness that exists in much of the country (with perhaps half of it under the control of the narcos, according to a recent study) but then turn around and contribute to the the general atmosphere of lawlessness by flaunting their disregard for the most quotidian of laws. One could perhaps argue that running red lights or lying about one's taxable income have become the gateway drugs for more serious infractions, like money laundering and the wanton killing of one's fellow citizens.