The website of the US Embassy in Mexico reports that Alejandro Gertz Manero is a lawyer and businessman who has spent his career between public life and the academe. He has been Secretary General of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, Secretary of Public Safety for Mexico City, and the first Secretary of Public Safety for the nation (appointed by President Vicente Fox in 2000). He has been a professor at several universities and is President of the University of the Americas in Mexico City. He is the author of various biographies and social or historical essays and writes opinion columns for several national dailies.1 There is a moral portrait here which the reader should bear in mind, and it is that of the notable-the Latin American term for those who have managed to blend substantive academic output with important public service, garnering sustained societal attention and considerable respect in the process.2 To be a notable is not a formal designation. There is no selection committee, no award ceremony, nothing that can be put in a CV. Notables materialize only in conversations with power, being called upon by governments or spontaneously constituting themselves as groups to speak to power.3 Individuals cannot elevate themselves to the category of notables; the label must be applied by others. But individuals can use presentational strategies that align with this culturally respected figure. The US Embassy’s brief biographical sketch of Gertz Manero is one such presentation; his own entry in Wikipedia is another.4 And his opinion columns are yet another. In March 2006, Gertz Manero published the following essay in El Universal:
Victims and Victimizers A great part of those of us who live in this country are harassed by a system that continually subjects us to its requirements, permits, licenses, authorizations, taxes on everything and for everything, together with a diabolical structure of verifications, certificates, identifications, identity cards and innumerable controls that have converted our existence into a merciless human servitude without defence. In this universe of sieges, blockades and levies, woe to the “contributor” who fails to pay the water, electricity, Value Added Tax, Income Tax, road
taxes, certifications, deductions, Social Security or the ISSSTE,5 road tolls or airport “taxes,” and all the tolls that we can imagine; while he is besieged by the premonition that very soon he will have to pay for the rarefied air that he breathes, for the ground that he walks on, before he is assaulted, or for the panorama that he sees, through the contamination, the propaganda and the graffiti. In exchange for this ferocious net of levies and controls, the “public sector” practices irresponsibility as a system, and that is why the services of security and justice are truly deplorable, to say the least . . . while at any window in a public office the lunatics in charge are loafing around in front of the immense “lines” of citizens, or they torture the “contributor” with tricks, requirements and obstacles, so as to convert every procedure into a bazaar for corruption and bribes . . . [T]his multiplication of abuses, accompanied by an extraordinary waste of public resources, has been the daily reality of the country ever since the “Revolution” converted itself into “institutions”, and that is how they have got us criminally into debt . . . At the other extreme of this social spectrum, and as a result of this inequity and of the failure of “globalization” and the “neoliberalism” of the 80s, a new Mexico has been emerging, one that is energetic, unstoppable and augmented. A Mexico that is illegal, itinerant, pirate and informal, which now has many more workers than the captive formal sector employees, which launders its immense fortunes through mammoth construction projects, encouraging contraband, robbery, piracy and consumer fraud, while it enslaves its dependents, without the authorities daring to touch those “privileged” who have found in political clientelism and public corruption the perfect society for making progress, while they devour the country and annihilate the “contributors”, who have to pay taxes for themselves and for those who do not “contribute” anything. In that sector of privileged lawbreakers one also finds drug trafficking and organized crime, which represent another terrain of enormous wealth, of limitless corruption and immense social destruction, which settles its territor ial quarrels and its relationships with official corruption through gunshots and on the street, transforming the country into a real battlefield, where each morning “law enforcement officials” and other competitors are found riddled with bullets. This is how the country has been divided into two great universes, that of the victims and that of the victimizers, the first group being those who follow the law and remain within “the rule of law,” receiving in exchange mistreatment, arrogance, insecurity and the gradual destruction of its wealth at the hands of the other growing and unstoppable social sector, which is that of illegality, drug trafficking and generalized crime, which nothing and no one can stop. As one more result of this social schizophrenia, the elections for mayors and deputies were held in the State of Mexico, where the “victim” sector
expressed itself through 5.5 million abstainers who did not vote or who filled their ballot slips with insults, while there were only 3.5 million “firm” votes, coming mainly from illegality and corruption, or from the never ending expectation of a change which never arrives . . . Whoever believes that this is the way to design the political and social future of this country, has no idea what awaits us and of what will come when the exhaustion of our oil reserves and its fantasy prices, and the savings of our migrants, are drastically reduced and the “captive” sector is left in starvation, crushed by illegality, street businesses and organized crime.