Editorial: Peña’s Cultural Problem

It is sad to hear president Enrique Peña Nieto saying that corruption stems from “cultural weakness” and is “human problem,” because he implies that there is little than can be done. There is a tone of resignation that weights much more than his praise to the Congress’ anticorruption laws.

It is an outrageous statement coming from a leader involved in an act of corruption such as accepting gifts from government contractors. The scandal of the $7-million White House in Lomas de Chapultepec is a prime example of his brazenness: Not only he accepted the Grupo Higa gift, but the first lady, Angélica Rivera, argued at the time that the mansion was a compensation from Televisa for the actress’ professional career in the channel.

It is worth asking whether the President’s problem in the White House case comes from his
culture or he is a victim of his human condition. What seems clear is that other human values, such as honesty and truth, have been defeated in the Peña Nieto internal battles, and it seems that little can be done in this regard other than a thorough transformation of society.

A lot can be said about the reference to cultural weakness leading to corruption. There are similar societies, like other Latin American countries, in which corruption is a serious problem. The same happens in very different societies such as Afghanistan. But it is a mistake to suggest that there are unavoidable factors that lead to corruption.

There is a quota of personal integrity that Peña Nieto conveniently ignores, implying that all of us are at the mercy of something stronger than ourselves, such as culture or human condition.

Writer León Krauze once reminded the leader that this is false. Krauze mentioned that Mexican immigrants living in the U.S. usually respect the law, pay taxes and do not offer or demand bribes. Immigrants move to another country carrying their bad customs but those do not come close to the level of corruption in their nations of origin.

México has a serious problem of corruption and it remains to be seen if the laws of Congress will do anything about it. What’s undeniable is that Peña Nieto’s credibility only keeps sinking as he evades responsibility with banal comments. The President must set an example of conduct, not giving excuses for failing to do so.