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Democratizing Mexico’s Politics

Mexican political leaders in growing numbers worked to establish democratic politics during the years 1980 to the present. These efforts resulted in a major presidential contest in 1988, the creation of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the free election of the Mayor of Mexico City, and the defeat of the ruling regime (the Party of the Institutional Revolution—PRI) in 1989 for governorship of Baja California, and in 2000 the presidential victory of the National Political Action (PAN). Voters elected as President Vicente Fox in 2000 and as his successor in 2006, they elected Felipe Calderón, also from PAN. In 2012, the PRI managed a return to the presidential office, but national politics and government had both irrevocably changed and Mexico has become an electoral democracy.

The following interviews are conducted by historian and ORE Latin American History Editor in Chief William H. Beezley (University of Arizona) and political scientist Roderic Ai Camp (Claremont McKenna College). The videos are directed, filmed, and edited by eminent documentarian Daniel Duncan, Pre-Post Productions.

President Felipe Calderón

President Felipe Calderón, in the following interview, stresses his commitment through his administration to the goal of government based on the rule of law that led to, among other things, the so-called War on Drugs and escalating violence.

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas

In the following interview, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas discusses his role in the democratization process, his defeat in the 1988 presidential elections, creation of the PRD, election as Head of the Federal District, and his continuing campaign to establish a democratic system in his nation.

Miguel Basáñez

The democratization of the political system and the achievement of the rule of law in civil society have been Mexico’s preeminent national goals since the 1960s. Understanding popular attitudes toward a more democratic and a more just society became possible with opinion polling developed by Miguel Basáñez, former Mexican ambassador to the United States. He also played a major role in legal reforms changing the judicial system.

Jaime Serra Puche

Eminent economist Jaime Serra Puche has played a major role in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the revised tax law, and the nation's first Anti-Trust Legislation and federal trade commission to enforce it. These economic policies represent efforts to provide a more equitable society and economic transparency essential to the functioning of a democratic society.

Cecilia Soto González

Cecilia Soto González is currently a leading member of Congress, shaping the new definition of the City of Mexico (the former Federal District) to make government more democratic for its residents. She was the first female presidential candidate to receive nearly one million votes. In this interview, she discusses decisions she made beginning as a Physics major in college to work for a more democratic society.

Ernesto Ruffo

Ernesto Ruffo, currently a senator from Baja California del Norte, was elected as a candidate of the National Action Party (PAN) and achieved the first gubernatorial victory for an opposition party against the official party (PRI) since its establishment in 1929. Ruffo’s victory in 1989 jolted the PRI and the established political networks because he came from the country’s north, attended a university in Monterrey, Nuevo León, and began his business career in Ensenada, BCN, before entering politics by winning election as mayor of the city and then governor. His campaign style discussed in this interview earned the label “Ruffismo.” Following the 2000 presidential election victory of PAN candidate Vicente Fox, the first victory of an opposition candidate against the PRI, Ruffo was chosen to head the president’s border commission. Ruffo, until his election as a senator, spent his entire career outside of Mexico City without becoming associated with the educational and economic networks of the capital city—a unique and fascinating achievement. He remains one of the dynamic leaders of the PAN and is committed to the complete democratization of Mexico.

Concise introduction to the context of these events:
Roderic A. Camp, Politics in Mexico: Democratic Consolidation or Decline? (OUP, 2013).
William H. Beezley and Colin M. MacLachlan, Mexico—The Essentials (OUP, 2015).

For in-depth discussion of Mexico's history and political system, see:
William H. Beezley and Michael C. Meyer, The Oxford History of Mexico (OUP, 2010).
Roderic A. Camp, The Oxford Handbook of Mexican Politics (OUP, 2012).

Escape from Slavery

Africans and Afro-Latin Americans forced into slavery at times successfully fled into the countryside and established independent communities (called Quilombos in Brazil, palenques in Colombia and Mexico, and cimarrón communities in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and elsewhere). Some of these settlements, created for the runaways to live free, recreate African cultural traditions insofar as possible, and practice their preferred religions, survive to the present. The following video episode demonstrates the undaunted determination of individuals to escape slavery.

 

For an introduction to the African diasporic experience in Latin America, see:
George Reid Andrews, Afro-Latin America, 1800–2000 (OUP, 2004).

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