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Mexico’s political stability in comparison with the stability of Latin American countries.

Mexico’s political stability in comparison with the stability of Latin American countries.

How would you compare Mexico’s political stability with the stability of other Latin American countries? What is it that has helped Mexico be as stable as it has through its modern history?

How does Mexico’s presidency illustrate both the strengths and the weaknesses of presidential systems of government as described earlier in the text? Is Mexico a “typical” presidential system? Does the Mexican president have any unusual presidential powers?

What do you view as the key economic challenges facing Mexico today? What economic crises has it managed to survive and work through in recent years? How has it made the progress that it has made? What does its future seem to hold?

Mexico, slowly and gradually growing looking at the worst economic crisis in ages, is in the middle of a tricky governmental move. America’s neighbor to the south is struggling to break free of its authoritarian past to become a true democracy, complete with public accountability, clean and fair elections, and the rule of law. The path of political change, never expected to be smooth, became more unpredictable when, less than a month after President Ernesto Zedillo took office on December 1, 1994, a peso devaluation drove the economy into a sharp crisis.

These days governmental turbulence is one of the major risks to Mexico’s financial steadiness and financial healing. Likewise, a weak economy and volatile financial markets reduce the chances of a successful transition to democracy. A poor economic performance weakens Zedillo. And a weak government will be unlikely to be able to implement the changes necessary to produce genuine democracy and, especially, the rule of law. In addition, continued economic crisis might breed a political reaction that could jeopardize Mexico’s fragile financial stability and the economic reforms under way to assure recovery.

Encouraging Signs

In early 1996 the financial photo brightened—a encouraged alleviation following the bleak overall performance of 1995, when production contracted by approximately 7 percentage. After a surge in volatility last fall, the financial markets stabilized. The peso appreciated slightly, domestic interest rates and the open unemployment rate fell, and Mexico gained renewed access to private international capital markets. Most economic forecasts for 1996 chart a recovery, but not a brisk one. The official prediction is for output to grow 3 percent in 1996. Most predictions, though, are for 2 percent growth, practically stagnant in per capita terms.

About the governmental entrance, the government indicates its motivation to move forward with change. President Zedillo has repeatedly stated, and taken initial steps on, his commitment to decentralizing power, fostering the separation between government and the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), completing ongoing electoral reforms, and strengthening the traditionally weak powers of Congress and the courts. Perhaps most important, Zedillo has indicated his intention to distance himself from the official party and, most significantly, to break with the practice, followed by all past presidents—of hand-picking his successor. Zedillo’s appointment of Antonio Lozano, a member of the opposition National Action Party (PAN), as attorney general is another sign of his apparent intent to govern Mexico by the rule of law. The arrest last year of Raul Salinas, brother of former president Carlos Salinas, in connection with the 1994 assassination of PRI Secretary-General Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu was a powerful signal that the government was willing to break the unwritten rule of granting legal immunity to a former president and his family.

Political functions, civic organizations, and even the armed Zapatista rebels in Chiapas appear, judged by their measures, to prefer a calm changeover. Most local elections since early in 1995 have been free of violence or post-election rows, and their results, even when the PRI has been the loser, have been respected. The political crisis in Chiapas precipitated by a violent peasant uprising early in 1994 is being handled through peaceful negotiations. And the political parties and the government are in the process of negotiating the new terms that will rule the electoral processes, the relationship between the government and its party, and the allocation of power among the executive, the legislative, and the judicial powers and the federal and state and local governments.

But despite these dazzling areas, governmental change continues to be prone and economic stableness delicate.

A major danger to Mexico’s democratic cross over may be the so-known as old safeguard from the PRI, people who stand to lose in case the political process gets to be more wide open and competitive and in case corruption is no longer accepted. Members of the old guard, some now governors or leaders of blocs within the PRI, are well organized, have followers, and have access to financial resources.

They could make unmanageable issues throughout the get together and apply significant impact on its measures and courses. In exchange for their support, they could force even a well-intentioned Zedillo to look the other way while elections in some states continue to be fraudulent and while local governments continue their corrupt practices. The PRI governor of Tabasco, for example, though accused of spending outrageously far beyond Mexico’s legal campaign limit, has successfully resisted pressure from the federal government to resign. The incident may be the first of more to come. In that case, Mexico’s political picture would be mixed, with democratic practices being fully implemented in some areas, geographic and functional, and the old pattern of patronage and authoritarianism remaining in others. But what pattern will dominate cannot be answered yet.

Ironically, if Zedillo carries out his assurance to give condition and native governing bodies more power and economic solutions, letting them raise far more profits nearby, he could also increase the resources and autonomy of the community managers and caciques. Any moves toward decentralization must therefore be accompanied by democratization. There is a danger that decentralization will not help political reform if local governments cannot be held accountable.

With the PRI’s trouble in coming over to terminology with governmental change, revelations surrounding the research of two 1994 governmental assassinations along with the financial meltdown have handled off a crisis in the PRI itself. If the party’s current crisis is not solved, the old guard is likely to be more successful in opposing reform.

One element of the PRI turmoil is monetary. Long dependent on contributions from (or raised through) the government, the party is ill-prepared to find alternatives. It now faces the challenge of organizing to raise money. In this process, one particular danger is the temptation, on the part of some militants, to turn to “donations” from unsavory sources, such as narco-traffickers.

The celebration is additionally in the midst of an identity crisis. For many decades, the party, a product of the Mexican Revolution, endorsed a closed, largely state-led economy. The market-oriented reforms, particularly trade liberalization and privatization, introduced in the mid-1980s by President Miguel de la Madrid and his successor Carlos Salinas, were viewed with deep suspicion by most within the party. Although the prestige that Mexico won, particularly under Salinas, had attracted a number of PRI militants, the current economic crisis is raising renewed hostility. PRI candidates in next years legislative elections know they will face an electorate ready to blame the crisis on the PRI government. Understandably, they will be strongly tempted to search for a platform both more congruent with the party’s original ideology and more attractive to voters.

The party’s morale is lower. The assassination of PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio five months before the 1994 election was unnerving in itself, but the arrest of a presumed second gunman in March of last year gave support to the hypothesis that the assassination was the result of a plot. Though the second gunman has not been prosecuted and no one has been formally accused of orchestrating a plot, the public is convinced not only that there was a plot, but that the intellectual authors of the crime came from within the system itself.

General public rumors that previous President Salinas or his foes were behind the plot inevitably produce a tense surroundings inside the get together since no one can be certain whom to rely on or part with. The loss of prestige of former President Salinas following the peso devaluation of December 1994 and, in particular, the arrest of his brother Raul, first in connection with the assassination of Ruis Massieu and later for holding huge bank accounts outside Mexico under a false name, has only made matters worse.

Under these circumstances, the PRI might be ripe for a takeover by disaffected components who assurance to regenerate assurance, resources, and control. Such a takeover could pose severe problems for Zedillo, who would somehow have to govern and carry on the difficult political transition without being able to count on party support. And negotiating to win that support could cost Zedillo dearly.

In any case, discontent within the PRI has important consequences for that consolidation of democracy. The “arm’s length” relationship with the party exercised by Zedillo during his first year in office is likely to backfire later. In the upcoming months, the challenge for Zedillo is to work with his party in a number of crucial areas: in defining a platform that is congruent for both sides, organizing the party for fundraising, and making the party’s internal rules of candidate selection more “bottom-up” and transparent. A reorganized, modernized, and energized PRI is all but essential to a successful transition.