NEW RESOURCE: In the Lurch between Government and Chaos: Unconsolidated Democracy in Mexico

mexican flagThe Wilson Center’s Latin American Program and Mexico Institute in coordination with the Migration Policy Institute are pleased to announce the release of a new report as part of the work of the Regional Migration Study Group:

In the Lurch between Government and Chaos: Unconsolidated Democracy in Mexico, authored by Luis Rubio.

Democratic transitions in Mexico and parts of Central America over the past two decades have tested the limits of the countries’ governing institutions.  During Mexico’s continuing transition away from one-party rule — which began even before the 2000 elections — the country has failed to overhaul the governing structures of the old regime, leaving behind weak institutions ill-equipped to handle modern challenges. Weak institutions offer a natural breeding ground for organized crime and corruption, which have become more entrenched. Organized crime has taken over key activities, noninstitutional actors such as drug cartels have become major players in society, migrants have moved in unprecedented numbers, and corruption at various levels of government and law enforcement has flourished.

In the latest report on insecurity in Mexico and Central America, In the Lurch between Government and Chaos: Unconsolidated Democracy in Mexico, Luis Rubio of the Center of Research for Development (CIDAC) sketches how powerful nongovernmental entities have filled the vacuum left by weak institutions. Among them: military and paramilitary groups, warlords, and criminal gangs.

By the time the government decided to confront transnational criminal organizations, they had become too significant in size, structure, and financial resources for government institutions to match.

The author makes the case that to move forward, reforms must be ambitious. Mexico’s challenge is to build modern, competent democratic institutions that are capable of engaging in good governance. Only then will they be able to expand economic opportunity and restore economic growth.

This report is the latest research from the Regional Migration Study Group, a partnership between MPI and the Latin American Program/Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The Study Group, co-chaired by former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez, and former Guatemalan Vice President Eduardo Stein, is a high-level initiative that in 2013 will propose new collaborative approaches to migration, competitiveness, and human-capital development for the United States, Central America, and Mexico.

Today’s report marks the fourth in a series of Study Group reports focusing on insecurity in the region. Earlier research focused on the perennial problem of lawlessness along the borders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; the rise of Mexican criminal organizations and Central American gangs over recent decades and their effect on migrants moving northward; and the economic costs of crime and insecurity. To read the earlier reports, visit

We invite you to visit the website now and in the months to come, as we publish more works in the lead-up to our final report in spring 2013.


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