Security and the limits of institutions – El Sol de México

It could be said that the previous installment it was particularly institutionalist. That’s right. The construction of institutions –especially police, at the state and municipal levels– is a central element for the pacification of the country. However, and without prejudice to what was sustained a fortnight ago, it is necessary to make some nuances regarding the limits of the construction of the State (state building).

The solution to insecurity and violence in various regions of the country may seem like a platitude: let’s bring more institutions –more State– to those areas where it is necessary. However, the solution is no longer obvious in social systems as complex as those of Michoacán or Guerrero, for example. Any action aimed at “leading” or “strengthening” the State must take into account at least two limitations in the Mexico of the 21st century: a) no institutional design of the central government will be able to shape the ways of doing politics at the local level -in reality , the institutions would have to be the result of the interaction between both–; and b) the construction of institutions is not enough to build great collective will, especially in communities whose social fabric has deteriorated for years – Afghanistan, for example, is one of the cases of state building most dramatic and costly in recent history.

For this reason, any sustained effort aimed at building institutions will require considering the sociopolitical environment of the community and its elements, namely: local leaders and key actors; relations and tensions between the actors; narratives that give meaning to a community; as well as public values ​​and private interests. Put succinctly, the central government has to be a facilitator of local governance, and not assume itself as a crusader.

But you don’t have to be naive either. Finding, and working with, local leaders and key actors to pacify a country can have two important challenges: a) the dynamism –if not instability– of the system of alliances and leadership in a community; and b) the possibility of making political deals with illicit groups –in the case of Mexico with criminal organizations–, since they have become an inseparable element of the political, social and economic panorama of a locality.

Various case studies around the world suggest that transitions from a context of armed violence to one of peace are defined by a pattern: the existence of political agreements in which the distribution of power and resources between key actors is explicitly negotiated –for historical example, we recommend the wonderful article by Francis Fukuyama The Last English Civil Warin the magazine Daedalus. Thus, the available evidence allows us to conclude that armed violence stabilizes when the distribution of benefits, opportunities, and resources (such as political positions and business prospects) is consistent with the way power is distributed in a community.

To conclude, the construction of institutions will be a very necessary but not sufficient condition to pacify the country. It is necessary for a security policy in Mexico to incorporate these nuances and translate them into public policy actions. Otherwise, overconfidence in state building could be an inapplicable ideal in reality. It’s that simple; so complex.


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