Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Political culture of mistrust

How does this kind of mistrust affect legitimacy?

In Mexico, water fight underscores distrust of government
The church bells rang out, a normal occurrence in a community where the sound usually beckoned residents to weddings, funerals or religious services. But the clanging on this morning was different: frenetic, insistent, relentless.

The sound signaled an alarm — and a call to arms.

More than 1,000 armored anti-riot police had begun to move into the outlying Mexico City colonia. Residents, meanwhile, prepared to meet them, armed with rocky projectiles they had created by swinging large hammers into the pavement, sidewalks and planters.

More than 100 people were injured, some seriously, in skirmishes that day in late May in the isolated highland community. Most of the badly hurt were police, beaten by angry residents in fighting caught on television cameras.

Santa Fe neighborhood
The protesters said the government was seeking to steal a rare commodity: fresh volcanic spring water that has fed much of the town since before the Spaniards came. They insist that politicians want to move water to Santa Fe, a nearby wealthy community…

The conflict underscores the chronic distrust many Mexicans have of their government…

Government officials said police were actually sent to safeguard a project that would provide water to thousands of people on the edges of San Bartolo Ameyalco, as well as those who live there. Authorities also say the pipeline would take water from a river and not from the treasured spring…

The violent confrontation has left both sides with black eyes…

Political analyst Jose Antonio Crespo said Mexicans are tired of government inefficiency and an atmosphere of impunity. He said it's a reason that some Mexicans have taken the law into their hands, as in Michoacan, where vigilantes rose up against the Knights Templar drug cartel in the last year.

It may be untrue that the government wants to take water from San Bartolo Ameyalco's natural spring to Santa Fe, Crespo said. But in Mexico, there's history enough to suggest that it could be the case.

"Things like that happen a lot in Mexico," he said. "The rich are the ones who can impose their way."…

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