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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Mexico’s Presidential Favorite Sticks Close to Party’s Old Guard

InSight Crime, 6/28/12

The organization [Southern Pulse] identifies two factions within Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that have played the greatest role in pushing his candidacy. It says that the most important is the Atlacomulco Group, a powerful structure based in Mexico State which propelled him to the governorship in 2005. The other faction is led by former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who is said to be a political godfather to Peña Nieto.

Peña Nieto has tried to distance himself from the old, corrupt days of the PRI, stating repeatedly that he would not make deals with criminals. His political opponents have used the party’s past to attack him, with President Felipe Calderon warning that a PRI government might make pacts with traffickers; “There are many in the PRI who think the deals of the past would work now.”

The fact that Peña Nieto’s candidacy is sponsored to such a large extent by these old factions, including Salinas, who held the presidency from 1988-1994, undermines his efforts to distinguish himself from the party’s past. As Southern Pulse puts it; “The involvement of these forces is also evidence that [Peña Nieto] is not the strong political leader that has been crafted for the public eye.”

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Populism in Mexico: A Tale of Damage [In Spanish]

Letras Libres, April 2012

Can one speak of a Mexican populism? If so, who would be its Mexican exponents? Is there a danger of neo-populism? César Cansino reviews Mexican history in order to find the answers. First, he explains that populism has implied high costs for the country as it has either inhibited or postponed development, democracy, and social justice in Mexico. According to Cansino, it would seem as if populism has appeared and disappeared in Mexico in a pendulum effect, impulsed by inefficiency and opacity of previous administrations.

Cansino identifies three characteristics in the political experience of populism: 1) placing the people above the power of existing institutions, thanks to an artificial symbiosis created between the people and the populist leader, 2) the absence of institutional mediation, given that the figure of the populist leader becomes assimilated to people, 3) a personification of politics into the populist leader, leading the people to believe that they can only be heard through the leader. The recurrent presence of populism in Mexico, Cansino believes, have to do with the poor modernization of the country’s political system. Continue reading “Populism in Mexico: A Tale of Damage [In Spanish]”

10 key aspects to remember the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio [In Spanish]

Sinembargo, 3/23/2012

On this day, 18 years ago, there occurred in Mexico a national tragedy: the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio Murrieta, who had been chosen as the PRI presidential candidate by then incumbent President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. On March 23, 1994 Colosio arrived to Lomas Taurinas, a neighborhood in the city of Tijuana, for a public political appearance. He greeted the crowd and after walking through for a few miles, he was hit by two bullets: one into the head and one through his abdomen. Colosio was immediately transfered to the hospital, but died a couple of hours later.

The tragedy and the events it unfolded can be summed into 10 key aspects: 1) how and why Colosio was chosen by President Salinas; 2) the rise in arms of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN); 3) the difficulties in Colosio’s incipient political campaign; 4) the assassin’s crime strategy; 5) Mario Aburto Martínez, who declared himself guilty of the crime; 6) the appointment of Ernesto Zedillo as the new presidential candidate of the PRI; 7) the dismissal of Miguel Montes as public prosecutor of the case, and Olga Islas as his replacement; 8) the victory of PRI in the presidential election of 1994; 9) the decision of Raúl González Pérez (fourth and last public prosecutor of the case) to declare Aburto Martínez as the perpetrator of Colosio’s assassination; and 10) the fact that this case is filed in the Archivo General de la Nación and cannot be disclosed by anyone until the year 2035, when Aburto Martínez would have completed his 45-year prison sentence.

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