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Mexico: Democracy Interrupted

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In 2000, Mexico's long invincible Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost the presidential election to Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). The ensuing changeover-after 71 years of PRI dominance-was hailed as the beginning of a new era of hope for Mexico. Yet the promises of the PAN victory were not consolidated. In this vivid account of Mexico's recent history, a journalist with extensive reporting experience investigates the nation's young democracy, its shortcomings and achievements, and why the PRI is favored to retake the presidency in 2012.

    Jo Tuckman reports on the murky, terrifying world of Mexico's drug wars, the counterproductive government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. She describes the reluctance and inability of politicians to seriously tackle rampant corruption, environmental degradation, pervasive poverty, and acute inequality. To make matters worse, the influence of non-elected interest groups has grown and public trust in almost all institutions-including the Catholic church-is fading. The pressure valve once presented by emigration is also closing. Even so, there are positive signs: the critical media cannot be easily controlled, and small but determined citizen groups notch up significant, if partial, victories for accountability. While Mexico faces complex challenges that can often seem insurmountable, Tuckman concludes, the unflagging vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16032-1
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  6. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    There were no shots fired as Mexican democracy dawned in the year 2000, after seven decades of political hegemony exercised by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). There were no carnations in gun barrels, no failed coups, no tortuously negotiated flights into exile and no UN resolutions. Millions did not take to the streets. Instead there was one brief television message shortly before midnight on 2 July and some horn-honking in the streets.

    Looking straight into the camera, President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León sat in front of a portrait of Benito Juárez, the nation’s most revered hero, and announced that...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Narco Trouble
    (pp. 18-51)

    Dawn was just breaking when the first contingent of gunmen gathered at the entrance to the sleepy northern mountain town of Creel, the gateway to the spectacular Copper Canyon tourist railway. At first, the collection of figures with assault rifles slung across their backs did not do much to get noticed. They were not hiding either. They seemed to be just hanging out, watching their breath condense in the early morning air.

    In the front passenger seat of a sports utility vehicle (SUV) was a round-faced man with straight eyebrows, who appeared to be in charge. At one point he...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Political Wastelands
    (pp. 52-83)

    The fire started in a government warehouse and spread quickly to the next-door day-care centre, converted from a factory. The flames were initially trapped between the corrugated iron roof and a false ceiling, but soon dark smoke started billowing into the areas where the toddlers and babies were settling down for their siesta. The flaming toxic material itself began falling down soon after that.

    The centre’s workers desperately ferried children out, but they did not have time to rescue them all. The choking atmosphere, decreased visibility, an emergency exit that would not open and a narrow front door did not...

  10. CHAPTER 3 The Misrule of Law
    (pp. 84-116)

    In his 1997 book,The Imperial Presidency, historian Enrique Krauze describes the PRI regime at its height as a kind of political solar system. The president – the sun – provided the guiding force for almost everybody, from the governors to the intellectuals, the unions to the Church, and the media to the opposition political parties. They moved around the system with differing degrees of subordination to the centre, he writes, but their movements were always controlled to some degree.

    Krauze’s original analogy can be usefully extended into the era of political plurality. The waning of the sun’s gravitational pull...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Lapsed Catholics
    (pp. 117-142)

    From the millions of pilgrims who visit the Virgin of Guadalupe every year, to the number of footballers who cross themselves before starting a match, the Catholic Church’s dominance of Mexican religiosity can seem as solid as the stone churches that dot the urban and rural landscape. A closer look reveals cracks and structural weaknesses, which the hierarchy appears to have neither the will nor the means to repair.

    Nearly five centuries after the Spanish conquest of the region, on paper the proportion of Mexican Catholics remains overwhelming. In the 2010 census they accounted for around 83 per cent of...

  12. CHAPTER 5 A Bungled War
    (pp. 143-178)

    Felipe Calderón will go down in history as the drug-wars president. As the end of his term approached, he claimed that his determination to go after the cartels was halting Mexico’s otherwise inevitable slide towards becoming a narco state. Some of his harshest critics accused him of propelling the country towards just such a fate. Others predicted that the government offensive’s failure to bring the violence under control was creating the kind of conditions that might lead to a full-on authoritarian solution.

    The situation did not look anything like as portentous when the offensive began with a series of piecemeal...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Not Good Enough
    (pp. 179-213)

    One of the world’s fifteen largest economies, Mexico’s muscle is obvious in everything from its sheer physical size to the frenzy of activity at its international airports. Most major cities are ringed by a sophisticated network of highways, flyovers and tunnels, and are dotted with modern multi-screen cinema complexes. The bank buildings are shiny, credit cards are used widely, and a temporary breakdown in BlackBerry services in 2011 was important news. Multinational car manufacturers churn out vehicles, locally owned factories produce global beer brands, and few places in the world have anything like as many different international trade agreements.


  14. CHAPTER 7 Environmental Time Bombs
    (pp. 214-242)

    Just as the rainy season was getting going in the early summer of 2007, President Felipe Calderón knelt down to plant a pine in one of central Mexico’s most important forests. ‘To plant a tree is to plant a better country’, he said. The president had brought along his youngest son for the photo opportunity, in order to underline the point about the future. He had put on a poncho to emphasize his solidarity with the locals.

    Calderón’s main objective was to back up his claim to be the greenest president the country had ever seen. Mexico, he said in...

  15. CHAPTER 8 Left Behind?
    (pp. 243-277)

    Having done the lion’s share of the work of pushing the PRI monolith to the precipice, the Mexican left had to watch Vicente Fox of the rightwing PAN collect the prize for nudging it over the edge in 2000. The PRD swallowed that bitter pill and came within a whisker of taking power in 2006 with the candidacy of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, only to fritter away its new strength in an orgy of self-sabotage.

    The momentum that built up behind the PRI and its candidate Enrique Peña Nieto in the run-up to the 2012 election campaign was primarily a...

  16. CHAPTER 9 Unfinished Story
    (pp. 278-286)

    Emerging from an underground chamber and stretching 104 metres into the sky, Mexico’s monument celebrating 200 years of independence was supposed to spark reflection on the country’s roots and aspirations. But things did not quite work out that way.

    The first and most obvious issue was that the anniversary, on 15 September 2010, came and went with nothing to contemplate. There was still nothing for passers-by to see a year later, when the head of construction took a group of reporters into the site to see the foundations. ‘It’s much more than a hole in the ground’, he all but...

  17. Sources
    (pp. 287-300)
  18. Index
    (pp. 301-312)