Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico

Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico

Andrew Selee
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/j.ctt7v376
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  • Book Info
    Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico
    Book Description:

    In the last two decades of the twentieth century, many countries in Latin America freed themselves from the burden of their authoritarian pasts and developed democratic political systems. At the same time, they began a process of shifting many governmental responsibilities from the national to the state and local levels. Much has been written about how decentralization has fostered democratization, but informal power relationships inherited from the past have complicated the ways in which citizens voice their concerns and have undermined the accountability of elected officials. In this book, Andrew Selee seeks to illuminate the complex linkages between informal and formal power by comparing how they worked in three Mexican cities. The process of decentralization is shown to have been intermediated by existing spheres of political influence, which in turn helped determine how much the institution of multiparty democracy in the country could succeed in bringing democracy “closer to home.”

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05539-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 INTRODUCTION: THE PARADOXES OF LOCAL EMPOWERMENT
    (pp. 1-24)

    In the 1980s and 1990s, decentralization reforms swept across Latin America and the developing world, as almost every country implemented measures to strengthen the authority and autonomy of local governments. Mexico was no exception. At least in formal terms, Mexico had been one of the most centralized countries in Latin America. From the 1930s to the early 1980s, a single party dominated almost all aspects of political life, including holding most elected positions. Between 80 and 90 percent of all public resources in the early 1980s were spent through national government agencies despite the nominal existence of a federal system....

  6. PART 1 STATE FORMATION AND POLITICAL CHANGE
    • 2 CENTRALIZATION AND INFORMAL POWER
      (pp. 27-46)

      By 1980, Mexico was—formally, at least—one of the most centralized large countries in Latin America. The federal government controlled roughly 80 to 90 percent of public expenditures.¹ In contrast, municipalities accounted for only 1 to 2 percent of public spending, and these local governments had few formal functions, powers, or resources. Then, beginning in the early 1980s and lasting for two decades, Mexico underwent a dramatic process of decentralization.

      However, municipalities did not suddenly emerge out of nowhere.² Local spaces have always been an essential element of Mexico’s political system. Therefore, before we seek to understand the effects...

    • 3 DECENTRALIZATION AND DEMOCRATIZATION
      (pp. 47-70)

      In the 1980s and 1990s, the Mexican state underwent a gradual decentralization at the same time the single-party-dominant state was giving way to greater political plurality. A massive economic crisis that lasted from approximately 1982 until 1997 helped bring about these changes by undermining the legitimacy of the postrevolutionary political order and unraveling the bases of many of the political pacts that had sustained it. The crisis also strengthened citizen demands for greater democratic space and emboldened opposition parties to challenge the regime. These changes, in turn, drove institutional innovation as the regime sought to hold onto power, and civic...

  7. PART 2 A TALE OF THREE CITIES
    • 4 CHILPANCINGO: THE CONTINUATION OF CORPORATISM?
      (pp. 73-97)

      In late January 2005, three weeks before statewide elections in Guerrero, three young men in suits had set up a stand in the central plaza of Chilpancingo, the state capital, to promote the campaign of Héctor Astudillo, the PRI’s candidate for governor. A giant television screen broadcast the image of the candidate speaking about progress and development for Guerrero. Astudillo was Chilpancingo’s favorite son, and he had done everything a native of the capital could do to prepare himself for the governorship: he had served as a city council member and then mayor before going on to be chair of...

    • 5 TIJUANA: LIBERAL DEMOCRACY?
      (pp. 98-129)

      Shortly before midnight on August 1, 2004, Jorge Hank Rhon, millionaire casino owner, accused smuggler, and (at least for some) suspected assassin, came out on stage in front of his supporters to declare victory in the mayoral race in Tijuana, Baja California.¹ His claim was supported by the official electoral results, which gave him a slim lead of one percentage point over his opponent from the ruling National Action Party (PAN). Hank’s followers went wild. After fifteen years in the opposition, the PRI was finally returning to power in Tijuana, Mexico’s largest and most modern city on the northern border....

    • 6 CIUDAD NEZAHUALCÓYOTL: SOCIAL MOVEMENT DEMOCRACY?
      (pp. 130-160)

      In August 2004, Belem Guerrero won the Olympic silver medal in women’s cycling, the second medal for Mexico in the 2004 Olympics. The inhabitants of Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, known usually by the city’s nickname, “Neza,” were ecstatic. “That’s where she lives,” one man said as he pointed in the direction of the neighborhood where Belem had grown up. “She always cycles by this way in the morning,” said another man as he indicated one of the city’s main boulevards.

      Belem’s victory was highly symbolic for Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl. A large city on the outskirts of Mexico’s capital, Neza has always struggled to...

  8. PART 3 CONCLUSIONS
    • 7 PATHWAYS OF DEMOCRATIC CHANGE
      (pp. 163-178)

      The Mexican political system that took root during the twentieth century, following the Mexican Revolution, was built on dual pillars, of both centralized formal power in the state and a diffuse network of informal power built on patronage politics. National political leaders guaranteed the stability of the government by co-opting power centers outside the state that threatened its existence and by creating a set of clear channels for resolving conflicts among competing regional and local leaders. Based on a single hegemonic party, Mexico’s political system became one of the most durable in Latin America, largely because it achieved a set...

  9. Index
    (pp. 179-191)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 192-192)