Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

State capacity and legitimacy

How much does the ability (capacity) of the state contribute to legitimacy of a regime or a government?

Mexicans aren't counting on the government to rescue them. They're saving themselves
In the moments after the earthquake, they didn’t cower, they mobilized.
Seeking donations on a street corner
By the tens of thousands, volunteers streamed toward the Mexico City neighborhoods most damaged by Tuesday’s violent temblor. Some carried shovels, others hauled donations of food and water. Many simply offered up two good hands.

They weren’t public authorities or professionals. They were ordinary Mexicans who knew from experience that during a crisis such as an earthquake, it’s better to do things yourself than to rely on the government for help…

Many Mexicans remember the 1985 earthquake not only for its destruction but also for the government’s lackluster response…

“The government pretty much disappeared for the first 24 hours,” said Alejandro Hope, a political and security analyst…

With scores trapped beneath the rubble and many more in need of other assistance, “the army was just blocking the streets, not helping particularly,” he said. It was days before then-President Miguel de la Madrid visited a rescue site, he said…

If ordinary Mexicans learned a lesson from the disaster, so too did Mexico’s politicians. Anger about the government’s response — it refused to accept international aid for several days, and it suppressed estimates of the number of dead — helped turn opinion against De la Madrid’s Institutional Revolutionary Party [PRI].

The response of current President Enrique Peña Nieto, who deployed more than 3,000 soldiers to help and visited a rescue site the first day of the earthquake, shows that politicians learned “that the only thing you cannot do during a disaster is hide,” Hope said.

Despite quick government action, volunteers showed up, in many areas forming human chains to deliver aid supplies or move rubble, or warn pedestrians against getting near dangerous sites…

“We’re normally so divided,” said Jose Funcia, 32, who was waiting in line with a shovel. Those divisions are across economic and cultural lines, he said. “But when it's an emergency, we come together.”

The signs of generosity appeared in more subtle ways too: Restaurants advertised free lunches, while neighbors set up power strips in their windows to allow responders to charge their phones. On Facebook, messages spread inviting the newly homeless to sleep in guest rooms and on couches. Even those directly affected purchased supplies to donate to others in need…

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