By Carlos Alberto Montaner
It's like the matryoshkas, those curious Russian wooden dolls. One goes inside another. There is no growing progress or prosperity without respect for the law. And there is no respect for the law if there are no moral restraints and punishments against the ones who break the rules, especially those that have to do with economic corruption.
To apply these punishments, it is essential to build an efficient and honest judicial system, one that is independent from the other public powers. Ergo, impunity, to a large extent, explains the material backwardness of Latin America and half of the planet.
Although there are some corrupt and relatively successful societies, like China, for example, what Transparency International's indexes reveal is that the world’s 20 most prosperous countries are, simultaneously, honest democracies in which the best values predominate, which have an independent judicial system capable of punishing criminals, and a respected and functional State of Law.
This reflection applies to Andrés Manuel López Obrador, AMLO for Mexicans. They have just elected him as President of Mexico and he has promised to reduce the violence substantially. More than one hundred thousand homicides have been committed in each of the last two six-year presidential periods. AMLO says he will face the obstacles to development and will fight poverty, corruption and impunity.
But he has not explained how he intends to do it in a nation that has become rotten due to the criminal actions of drug traffickers, in which society tends to be an accomplice of giving and receiving bribes, and because of the inveterate habit of many of its politicians and officials to steal everything they can.
This election year – the last of the six-year presidential term, almost six months away from the arrival of the new president – is often ridiculed with a cynical couplet, “el año de Hidalgo: chingue su madre el que deje algo”, which can be loosely translated as "the year of Hidalgo: anyone who leaves something behind is a bastard."
AMLO can ask the international community for help, but what has happened in neighboring Guatemala is not very promising. In that country, desperate because of the lethal mixture of impunity and corruption, with the help of the UN they created the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, CICIG, but it has not worked properly and has generated many adversaries and innumerable criticisms.
Why has it failed? Among other reasons, because Justice must be imposed by the nationals themselves, so there are no suspicions of strange intrusions. In some way, that principle hovers around the law since the Magna Carta was enacted in 1215 in England and established that the trial by jury should be done by one’s peers. It is never pleasant that a foreigner without real roots, strange to society’s idiosyncrasy, accuses and persecutes nationals who proclaim their innocence.
The Commissioner is a controversial Colombian jurist, former member of his nation’s Supreme Court, called Iván Velásquez, a declared enemy of former President Álvaro Uribe. Many Guatemalans, who like jokes more than most peoples, call him, contemptuously, the "Tal-Iván" (the so-called Iván) [Ed Note: In Spanish, "Tal-Iván" sounds like "Taliban"].
Velásquez was especially rejected by the chapines since former Colombian presidential candidate Gustavo Petro -- because of their ideological affinities -- tried to recruit him as his vice president. From that point on, despite Velásquez's refusal to appear on the Marxist ex-guerrilla ticket, accusations of interference in national affairs and, especially, abuse of power increased.
If a Mexican CICIG is not the solution, then what path should AMLO take to reform the judicial system? Good reforms are made by listening to the experts. The institutions are as good or as bad as the people who lead them. Perhaps the most sensible thing to do would be to meet with the leadership of the schools of law in Mexico’s public and private universities to learn how the quality of the professionals can be significantly improved.
Naturally, it is also a matter of money. Mexicans will have to allocate substantial resources to hire the best professionals. They have to be lured with money and distinctions. In Latin America, unfortunately, the worst lawyers – those who are not accepted in good law firms – go to the Public Prosecutor's Office. That way it is not possible to transform anything. Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.