The legacy of La Quina

The Economist, 11/13/2013

justice - gavel and bookThe arrest in January 1989 of Joaquín Hernández Galicia, the veteran head of the oil-workers’ union, was played up for maximum dramatic effect because it was meant to be opening salvo of a tireless crusade for economic modernisation in Mexico. It pitted a new, weakly supported president, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, against one of the symbols of the corrupt old Mexico that he was trying to reform.

Almost 25 years later, Mr Hernández, known as La Quina, has died aged 91 after being freed from jail in 1997 under an amnesty. It must have been a great comfort to him in his old age that Mr Salinas, in exile at the time of his release, still rarely returns to Mexico. It is perhaps fitting that Mr Hernández has died just as the government is embarking on a reform of the oil industry whose monopoly—which he milked for his own benefit for several decades until his arrest—he fought tooth and nail to protect. It has given him a grave in which to turn in.

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