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Paralyzing disagreements

The most powerful country in the world was shut down due to a division of opinion
U.S. Congress - File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
23/01/2018
08:51
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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Full democratic coexistence demands that institutions – shaped by the corresponding powers – provide counterweights to ensure justice and equality. Otherwise, we run the risk of having public matters in the hands of bureaucracies and common issues pushed into the background of the institutions' priorities.

The Government of the United States was shut down for three days after the U.S. Congress failed to pass the necessary funding for government operations. This fact is attributed mainly to the disagreement between democrats and republicans over the immigrants known as Dreamers. The most powerful country in the world had to stop its operations due to a legislative division of opinion.

A government shutdown isn't that uncommon in the United States: whichever party – republicans or democrats – holds a majority in Congress, they paralyze a deeply indebted government in order to solve whatever ongoing debate they have going on. However, this shows a basic element of democracy: when political forces fail to reach an agreement they delay the everyday life of a country and postpone the benefits for the citizens.

In this recent occasion, the obstacles set by the political parties for public financing have to do with their lack of agreement over Latino immigrants. Donald Trump's fellow party members demand harsher immigration laws without concessions, while the opposition seeks to protect the Dreamers through a legislative reform.

Nevertheless, the cost of this shutdown goes beyond this disagreement, as it directly affects government employees and contractors, with the corresponding economic impact. Moreover, millions of people make use of government services in their everyday lives.

In Mexico, a government shutdown is not a possibility yet the current balance of weights and counterweights between institutions has caused matters of public interest to be pushed into the background. That is, even when there are bill proposals capable of providing greater benefits for the general public, these are lost in the negotiating table without every seeing the daylight. Examples of the above are the deferment of the bill to regulate medicinal cannabis or the law to create a single police command.

Institutional counterweights only work when the benefits reach the society, not when citizens are forgotten during political negotiations. The interest of all has to be the essence of institutions, otherwise, they are failing in their mission to serve.

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