Six months after Ayotzinapa, the haze of protest fever has cleared, and the long, difficult road to change has come into focus. The pragmatic questions Mexico must ask itself in order to arrive there are ugly. But--short of a revolution--this strategic approach is the only way for Mexico to generate change from below, giving voice at last to the many victims of its ongoing violence.
The recent capture of two of Mexico's most wanted drug lords has been once again hailed as a major coup in the government's nearly decade-long drug war. However, many security experts as well as ordinary Mexicans remain highly skeptical regarding whether these arrests will have any meaningful effect on the state of criminality and violence in the country.
Before the advent of democracy in 2000, order was imposed by the iron hand of a corrupt, authoritarian state. When its grip was loosened, any semblance of law and order disappeared. Unless and until this is recognized, reforms in this area will lack credibility for Mexicans and foreign investors alike, and thus are unlikely to be effective. Unfortunately, Peña Nieto, whose party ruled Mexico in the bad old days, is unlikely to be the president who breaks the mold.
The government is now afraid to use public force to prevent demonstrators from blockading roads and streets, stealing buses and trucks, ransacking supermarkets and torching government buildings. President Peña Nieto has claimed that his patience has limits, but so far the Ayotzinapa movement appears to have forced him into a corner.