Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development


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Chapter four looks at "difficult democracy", at the progress and problems of "democracy with adjectives". It covers freedom of expression, freedom of organisation, the accountability of leaders to citizens, the rule of law, and the changing balance between the weak and the strong. And chapter five charts economic changes since , focusing on the state-market balance, international influences, and the social and political implications, in particular the effects on inequality.

Chapters six and seven turn to external relations. Though traditional "leftist" diplomacy needs to be understood in the context of internal politics, Mexican foreign policy has been dominated by the presence of the United States: increasing involvement with international forums and treaties has gone hand in hand with increasing closeness to its northern neighbour.

Bilateral issues such as drugs, migration, tourism, and trade involve both conflict and cooperation, while closer ties are also more complex, involving a broad range of actors, government and non-government. Levy and Bruhn's entirely uncontroversial conclusion is that "Mexico's most likely path in the near term includes democracy, neoliberal economic development, and internationalization that features strengthened ties with the United States".

The PRI deserves this level of attention for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that since it has held, and continues to hold, more than half of all gubernatorial positions, which, as Langston successfully demonstrates, provides the party with an extensive regional base of supporters, far exceeding that of the other two major parties. It used this strength, and the rising influence of governors, to win back its dominant plurality in the legislative branch in , and as of has taken an early lead in favored presidential candidates for the race.

Democracy in Mexico: Political Reform and the Vote of Mexicans Abroad

Langston demonstrates the dependent relationship between PRI governors and the National Executive Committee CEN of the party, shedding fresh light on how one of Mexico's leading political parties has altered its organizational structure to cope with a democratic electoral setting. An important aspect of the changes experienced and caused by the PRI during the s was the electoral reform, which placed millions of assured federal pesos into the hands of the national party leaders every year in the form of public party financing. Langston presents another argument which I believe is essential to understanding many of the consequences of democratic governance since , including p.

Not only is this process contrary to democratic expectations, but surprisingly the candidates selected for these plurinominal seats by all three major parties are quite different in composition from those who win single-member districts. Langston goes on to examine in great detail the comparative selection processes used under PRI hegemony with those that have emerged during the democratic era. In opposition states, the CEN uses competitive selection methods 58 percent of the time and imposes a candidate in only 42 percent of the cases.

Mexico: The Struggle For Democratic Development (Nations of the Modern World: Latin America)

Langston is describing a party that began a strong comeback in from its distant third-place finish in the presidential race. In contrast, Kathleen Bruhn examines the role of the Party of the Democratic Revolution and the Left in the transition, and its significant decline since , after nearly winning the election. She provides an insightful analysis of the evolution of the PRD, and an equally perceptive yet lesser known perspective on the Left, and how the amalgam of leftist parties during the s and s increasingly moved to the ideological center.

After the public debacle of the election, and facing a serious legitimacy crisis, Salinas badly needed to convince people that the PRI was still a legitimate majority party. By adopting reforms to make elections more credible, the ruling party gradually diminished its own ability to repeat the fraud of One of the serious internal problems the PRD faced, according to Bruhn, was its willingness to openly recruit former members of other parties, particularly those from PRI, many of whom were practitioners of the corrupt practices pursued by p.

His intransigence quickly damaged the party's reputation and reduced its supporters to a small minority of citizens, a pattern Bruhn carefully documents in her essay. She argues that the party's reliance on a charismatic leader explains its rapid decline. Mexican voters, in most polls, place themselves to the right of center. It has the potential to contribute further to the health of Mexican democracy if it can transform itself into a more consistent and institutionalized voice for those left out by market reforms.

However, if its current trajectory holds true, it will remain an inconsistently democratic, frequently dysfunctional, but critically important piece of the Mexican political system. The incumbent party, PAN, and the longest lived opponent of PRI, has followed a significantly different trajectory in its battles for electoral democracy since the s. Steve Wuhs lays the critically important groundwork for its evolution by describing the preeminent features of PRI and its electoral monopoly, features that in numerous respects structured the characteristics of all opposition parties, but especially PAN, given its longevity.

One of the most unique features of PAN is its development of an internal, democratic party structure and institutionalized processes for selecting its candidates for office, including the presidency. At the same time, it pursued a recruitment strategy entirely different from the PRD's, limiting militant membership severely in an attempt to maintain a strong, ideologically cohesive party. A serious consequence of this strategy, according to Wuhs, is that the party did not collaborate with civic organizations, believing such linkages were inappropriate.

Most interestingly, however, he uses the congressional elections as a case study for understanding the performance of PAN and how the electorate viewed the party then and potentially into the future, as we approach the presidential election. Confounding as these findings are, they are likely a function of the drug war, whereby factors that normally would have supported incumbents were trumped by violence associated with the drug war.

The role of the three leading parties in Mexico's democratic evolution is essential in understanding how those patterns occurred in the s and s.

The Democratic Transformation of Mexican Politics

It is equally important to examine critical institutions that have provided the legal reforms that promoted electoral competition and reinforced Mexico's movement toward a consolidated democratic model. Two of those institutions are the judicial system and the legislative branch of government. Todd Eisenstadt, one of the few scholars who has examined the rule of law and judicial institutions in Mexico, and Jennifer Yelle offer fascinating insights into these neglected topics, with a special focus on judicial electoral institutions, which have exercised a critical role in the transition and in legitimizing Mexico's democratic model since In providing a comprehensive historical setting for understanding the weakness of judicial institutions, Eisenstadt and Yelle document the repeated use of negotiated settlements of election disputes rather than relying on established judicial institutions to review and rule on such conflicts.

More than a thousand postelectoral conflicts occurred between and , although they have diminished markedly in the twenty-first century. On the other hand, they identify important changes in the court's independence, beginning with the reforms introduce by President Zedillo. They also reveal that an examination of compliance to court decisions clearly appears to depend on the relevant actors.

Finally, Eisenstadt and Yelle cite numerous recent public opinion surveys that reflect the level of citizen p. Citizen views and scholarly analysis suggest that to date the Supreme Court has a mixed record of success. Whereas the judicial branch has always been viewed by scholars as the weakest of the three branches, the legislative branch has played a fundamental role in the democratic transition, as important as the dismantling of the dominant party's seven-decade monopoly and the decentralization of presidential power.

Benito Nacif, one of the first scholars to recognize and analyze the importance of the legislative branch, offers the central argument that the democratic transition produced a divided Congress, resulting in the autonomy of this body from the executive branch. Compared to other major Latin American countries, the Mexican presidency, constitutionally speaking, was relatively weak. It gained power through other features of the Mexican model, most notably the PRI's hegemonic control. One of the most significant changes Nacif identifies in both houses of the Congress is the increased role that the incumbent party in the executive branch has played in initiating new legislation, rather than just passing legislation introduced by the executive branch, a long-standing pattern.

Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development

The dispersion of power that the process of democratization ensured put an end to the dominant presidency. The contribution of the executive-initiated bills to the total volume of legislation has diminished substantially. At the same time, the parliamentary groups of the political parties represented in the Congress have come to the fore.

In fact, with divided government opposition parties have become the main source of legislative change. Mexico's democratic transition and its attempt to consolidate its electoral competition into a functioning democracy have led to changes in four important groups: the armed forces, big business, organized labor, and the national political elite. He provides a lengthy analysis of the evolution of this relationship prior to the s, identifying a number of important features that explain the stability of the relationship in Mexico as well as those characteristics that have contributed to armed forces autonomy from civilian intervention.


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He also correctly suggests the importance of the new Transparency Law in in forcing the two cabinet agencies representing the armed forces to release information previously closed to outside examination, ranging from desertion rates to active duty military on assignment in civilian public security positions at the local, state, and national levels. One of those patterns continued from the past is the lack of civilian oversight of internal budget expenditures versus their control of overall federal funds assigned to the armed forces.

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He expresses concern that the depth of this assignment, and therefore its increasing impact on national security policymaking and receipt of increased financial resources, appears to have politicized some leading officers as well as securing their immunity from human rights prosecution. Unquestionably, the most influential nongovernmental actor in Mexico has been the business community, especially those businessmen who control the majority of the country's leading firms.

Strom Thacker, who has studied both small and large business communities, explores the interactions between capitalists, economic competition, and democracy. The lack of economic competition in Mexico is a central issue raised by members of Congress, who view increased competition as essential to achieving greater economic growth and cheaper products and services. Thacker also raises numerous relevant questions about the role of business in the democratic transition; he argues that, like so many other organizations that underwent change in the s and s, this was the case for business as well.

In addition to contributing to the political transformation, some of the changes it underwent were a product of electoral democracy.


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As is true of other actors p. One of the most dramatic changes is the private sector's willingness to invest in party politics, supporting parties and candidates of their choice and increasingly becoming successful candidates themselves, especially from the PAN, followed by significant numbers from the PRI.

He also supports the view that the business community is in an advantageous position to lobby Congress given their resources and the weak staff structure among nonrepeating officeholders. In all capitalist economies, governments mediate between labor and the private sector. Mexico is no exception, but until the vast majority of organized labor was inextricably tied to the government and to PRI. In the current session of the Chamber of Deputies —12 organized labor accounts for only one out of every fourteen members.

They use several detailed case studies to demonstrate that in many respects the leadership after used approaches developed by their nondemocratic predecessors in interacting with organized labor. As I argue in my own chapter, national politicians themselves were subject to democratic changes, and naturally were responsible for those changes. When the composition of national leadership is broken down into three periods, the pre-democratic era from to , the democratic transition period from to p.

Three broad conclusions out of many deserve mention: First, even while Mexico remained a semi-authoritarian political model a number of these changes and trends were well under way. Second, many patterns of political behavior among politicians are determined by informal rather than institutional or structural influences and therefore are much more impervious to change and more difficult to ascertain. Third, informal characteristics can have a significant impact on institutional patterns of behavior or internal processes, but both institutional and informal characteristics produced a decisive impact on the democratic transition and Mexican leadership.

The Struggle to Democratize Education in Mexico | NACLA

One of the major findings I highlight in my chapter is the rise of women political figures, which also corresponds with the democratic transition and the post period. Not only has women's presence in national politics increased, but equally important, other than gender alone, they introduced diversity within the national political leadership, regardless of party, which ranges from their educational backgrounds to their far different career experience in Mexican politics, including careers in the state legislature and in Congress.

A complementary pattern, also corresponding to democratic change, is the rise in importance of governors, as Langston demonstrates in her chapter. But these new governors, especially since , are a product of an entirely different career emphasis, reflecting the changes that democracy has wrought in its candidates.

Within a short period, more than half of all recent governors count having been a mayor in their backgrounds, and two out of five served in their state legislature, suggesting just how important grassroots politics have become since the democratic transition. Perhaps the most unique conclusion that can be reached about national politicians is that the changes in their composition from to , introduced by peaceful change democratic electoral change , have been as broad and deep, involving different characteristics, as those introduced by violent change from to for those in national positions from to Much of the democratic literature incorporates an independent media in their conceptualization of a functioning democracy.

Sallie Hughes explores the professionalization and role of the media in bringing about the democratic transition, as well as its contributions to consolidating the democratic model. In her detailed exploration of the evolution of the media in the pre-democratic period, incorporating numerous interviews with journalists, she determines that most journalists identify themselves with the civic opening in the s.

Since the media, she p.


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Politicians believed that media exercised too much power in influencing the public's view of specific candidates. After the elections, Hughes reports, members of Congress hoped to reform legislation regarding political advertising. Broadcast ownership concentration also means that assertiveness in reporting about public affairs will respond to a company's corporate interests rather than those of the public. Hughes addresses a recent phenomenon having a serious impact on media freedom: the insidious influence of drug cartels on the investigative capacity of television and print media to write about their ties to corrupt politicians and the police and military; in particular she notes the deaths of forty-six journalists in — All aspects of media's contribution to democratic development, ranging from how issues are framed to the diversity of ideas presented, affect Mexico's ability to consolidate its democratic process and the way citizens participate.

Hughes presents overwhelming evidence that the media has not yet fulfilled its democratic potential. As the media began to exercise increased civic responsibilities in the s, citizens joined and formed nongovernmental organizations to influence the direction of Mexican politics. Shannan Mattiace explores the importance of social movements, including contributions from Indigenous communities, based on her research of five of the most influential movements since After examining each of these movements Mattiace reaches several significant, broad conclusions.

Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development
Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development
Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development
Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development
Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development
Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development
Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development Mexico: The Struggle for Democratic Development

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