Elections Highlight Uneven Progress in Mexico

6/2/16 Wall Street Journal 

Mexico cityMEXICO CITY—A dozen governorships are up for grabs Sunday in states as disparate as Chihuahua in the northern desert and Veracruz on the Gulf Coast. But most have something in common: a heavy public debt that has raised questions about economic mismanagement and corruption.

Poverty and income inequality have also climbed in most states holding elections, according to government data. State services such as police remain understaffed and underpaid, and crime in many parts has grown, according to government-accountability nonprofits.

Such problems reflect the uneven progress Mexico has made since the election of former President Vicente Fox in 2000 ended seven decades of one-party rule.

For centuries, from Aztec emperors to Spanish viceroys, power was highly concentrated in Mexico. While that is much less the case now at the federal level, governors have been called Mexico’s modern viceroys, especially in rural states that are governed like fiefs.

“Once the power of the Mexican president started to wane in the late 1990s…the state governors filled the vacuum, accumulating a political power with very few checks and balances and managing increasingly bigger budgets,” said David Pérez Esparza, a researcher at University College London.

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