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Low intensity democracy and citizenship – El Sol de México

Argentine political scientist Guillermo O’Donnell developed the concept of low-intensity democracy. It materializes when “a State is not capable of asserting its legality”. He adds that citizens have their own political rights to participate in elections, but at the same time, experience abuses of power and marginalization in access to justice and social rights. “Individuals cease to be full citizens to be only subjects subjected to authoritarian relationships and far from the rules established by the legal system” (Democracy, agency and state. Theory with comparative intent2010).

In Latin America, Latinobarómetro reports that in 2020 the drop in the credibility of democracy that had been registered during the last decade stopped. “Between 2010 and 2018 it decreased from 63% to 48%, and in 2020 it increased to 49%.” In the case of Mexico, before the victory of President López Obrador, 38 percent trusted that political regime, two years after his victory it increased by five percent (43%). When asked if an authoritarian government is preferred, which is the polar opposite of democracy, Mexico is the second place that sympathizes with that form of government (22%).

The concept of low-intensity citizenship characterized by abuses of power and the Latinobarómetro data have an important relationship; and if we also add the current discussion of the role of the National Guard and the responsibilities of SEDENA in many projects of this administration. Let’s see, to the question of how much would Mexicans support a military government? 45 percent yes. The work of the so-called uniformed people should not be stigmatized, since it is wrong to think that all its elements do not do their job well, however the question remains whether the strengthening of this institution does not further violate and weaken low-intensity citizenship.

A few weeks ago, the Institute of Studies for the Democratic Transition and the UNAM paid tribute to citizen José Woldenberg for his 70th birthday, and the book was presented right there Joseph Wolbenberg. 45 testimonies of a long democratic trajectory. In the text by Héctor Aguilar Camín he recalls that the first IFE President Councilor in 1996 was awarded the Guillermo O’Donnell award, creator of the concept cited on several occasions; and he explains that one of the most serious problems of our democracies is “the weakness of our civic culture, the immaturity of our citizens”.

In the same text, the work of the Colmex researcher, Fernando Escalante, is cited in imaginary citizens, which are those who vote, but do not demand accountability. Currently in Mexico we have “free elections, competitive political parties, real voters and an impartial arbitrator who organizes the process and counts the votes”, however “the ghost of imaginary citizens is still there”, and has become more and more present , for example, given the lack of demonstrations against the intention to strengthen the military presence in the country, which shows us that in our democracy, today more than ever, low-intensity citizenship is strengthened.

Political and academic communicator of the FCPyS UNAM. Master in Political Journalism @gersonmecalco

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