The Prd Its Origins, Future, And Position In The New Order Of Mexico Essay, Research Paper
Mexico is unique in the realm of third world nations in the remarkable stability it has enjoyed in its government during the twentieth century. Whereas many nations have been embroiled in an oscillating process between military authoritarian rule and civilian semi-democracy Mexico has been marked by stable rule of the government with peaceful acts of succession. What is most unique about Mexico s government is that, while stable for over sixty years, it has not reached the level of a full democracy, instead it is a semi-democracy marked by a style of civilian authoritarian rule. This type of hollow democracy is a government and state ruled by one party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, in English the Institutional Revolutionary Party. The governing party is known more commonly by the acronym, PRI. The PRI has controlled the government and instituted a one-party state for over sixty years and had grown to control almost every aspect of the Mexican national, state, and local governments. Beginning, in the late 1980s and continuing throughout the 1990s, a gradual shift towards complete democratic government has begun in Mexico. New opposition parties have been formed, older opposition parties such as the PAN (Partido Accion Nacional or National Action Party) have gained a greater voice in government, and a single, coherent leftist party has formed from once divergent interest groups, the PRD. The PRD is known as the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica in Spanish, the Democratic Revolution Party in English. The PRD is most important because it represents one of the two parties that may in the future grow to challenge PRI hegemony and serve as an instrument to institute full democracy in Mexico.
From the early 1930s to as late as 1988, the PRI controlled all aspects of politics and opposition parties were severely limited in the scope of their participation of government. The PRI was guaranteed to win the elections, often by astronomically large majorities, in order to guarantee control of state and local governments as well as guarantee majorities in the Congress to rubberstamp the President s legislative agenda (Bruhn 40). A triangular entity was created to govern the country, the Presidency always controlled by the PRI that would direct and control policy, the PRI itself which would serve as an organization to provide a link between the state and the various classes of Mexican society the government would regulate, and the networks of patron-client relationships that would serve as the means of policy implementation collectively known as state corporatism (Bruhn 42). Through this system of government the state-party entity that was the PRI was able to incorporate diverse interests and classes – peasants, landowners, industrialists, and elitists – into a singular entity that would cooperate to guarantee stability and effective government for the Mexican people who had during the early twentieth century suffered through political instability and regional conflicts at the behest of local controlling warlords.
In order to understand the process by which the PRD was to emerge and the political issues its positions would ascribe to it is first necessary to analyze and comprehend the political and social climate that brought about active opposition to the PRI dominance of Mexico. For over thirty years, from 1940 into the 70s, the Mexican government under the direction of the President and the PRI was able to bring about consistent, outstanding economic growth, often a rate of 5% or more a year for GDP growth (Bruhn 57). The living standards of Mexican industrial laborers, urban managers, and some peasants grew at steady rates and Mexicans enjoyed a new era of prosperity and well being. Beginning in 1982, the economy suffered near collapse as the currency was devalued and the Mexican economy shrunk under strain from spiraling inflation and default on public debt. The old system of continuing government intervention in the economy, public ownership of industrial sectors, protectionist trade tactics such as high tariffs and encouragement of reliance on nationally produced products only, and strict control of labor unions while guaranteeing generous wage and benefit increases was discredited with this near economic collapse (Bruhn 56). As a result of this, large shares of the Mexican electorate blamed the PRI for the economic suffering and lost faith in continued support of its policies. Disenchanted voters numbers grew ever larger and the time was ripe for the emergence of opposition parties to take up their call and challenge the PRI s political hegemony, as the PRD would come to do.
Another important component of the social and political climate that led to the movement towards increased democracy in Mexico at the expense of PRI dominance is the increasing alienation of sectors of the Mexican populace that had been spawned from the rapid industrialization and economic miracle of the PRI. New classes of urban poor and middle class workers, as well as landed peasants in Mexico s rural areas, were not part of any popular organizations affiliated with the PRI hegemony and thus did not have any representatives in the government apparatus (Bruhn 60). These classes of people thus sought to form their own civic organizations to help each other and represent their interests. It is these groups that would serve as fertile ground to be cultivated by older and new opposition parties that would soon try to challenge the continued PRI domination of the government.
As the social, political, and economic climate of Mexico during the late 1980s set the foundation for the formation of the PRD, the actual conditions and events that brought about its official organization were steeped in the ideological conflicts between differing wings of the PRI. Also a large factor was the ongoing debate about alternative beliefs of the leftist opposition groups. With the election of President Lopez Portillo in 1982 and his successor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, a new class of PRI politicians gained power. This new class of politicians was a group of technocrats, persons more in tune with the systematic analysis and approach to solving social and economic problems than a system of consensus building. They advocated a move away from the older PRI beliefs of strong economic interventionist policies, economic nationalism, and aversion to integration in global markets (Bruhn 43). Instead they believed in economic integration with the rest of the world, a shift to more complete, free market-oriented capitalism, as well as less social program spending and provision of services (Bruhn 43). The faction of the PRI that would eventually split off and combine with leftist opposition groups to form the precursor organization to the PRD are known as the cardenistas, named for President Lazaro Cardenas who was a reformer, socially concerned president during the 1930s. They advocated maintaining the system of state intervention in the economy, a responsibility to provide services and relief for poor peasants, and land reform to help peasants improve their impoverished economic stations (Bruhn 25).
As with the shift of the PRI towards a more capitalistic economy and technocratic outlook, in short a more rightist position, the cardenistas finally were forced out of the PRI when the rightist faction would not negotiate a settlement to their differences. The leftist faction led by the son of President Cardenas, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, officially left the PRI in 1987 and started negotiations with like-minded opposition groups of the left, parties such as the Mexican Communist Party. Traditionally, these leftist parties had favored peasant rights, challenges to elitist control of land and resources, continued though perhaps limited state intervention in the economy, and most of all a reform program to bring about full democracy in Mexico (Bruhn 104). With the combination of these two groups the PRD was born.
The PRD, as it was seen in the 1988 presidential elections when it had its greatest showing, was a party left of the PRI in ideology and beliefs. Following election reforms in 1977 that allowed opposition parties a greater share of congressional seats and government offices, opposition parties such as the PAN and the PRD could stand a real chance of gaining some voice in government. The PRD touched a cord with disaffected voters. The PRD, or the Democratic National Front as it was called in 1988, stood for a program of continued state intervention in the economy, government protection of Mexican markets, as well as a program of complete democratization of the government and state (Bruhn 129). While these goals and programs were vague in description, the general ideas appealed to a wide spectrum of voters who supported Cardenas in his candidacy for the Presidency in 1988 (Bruhn, 130). The PRD would become the stalwart of the leftist opposition that served as a viable alternative to the PRI. More accurately, the PRD is now the main party of left of center voters who no longer ascribe to PRI loyalty and continued dominance.
Following the 1988 presidential election the coalition set up by Cardenas fell apart, for reasons of ideological differences, reattachment of some voters to the PRI once the economy improved somewhat, as well as measures taken by the PRI to disrupt consolidation of the PRD as a party. Consolidation is the solidification of a coalition of varying groups and interests into a single, cohesive unit that is a political party with a sound electoral base (Bruhn 13). The PRI successfully interfered with the consolidation of the outlying coalition that was the PRD by shifting its ideological position to attract more voters who had abandoned the PRI and offering payoffs to disenfranchised people as well. Even the use of intimidation and electoral fraud was practiced on a more limited basis to maintain PRI strength at the expense of the PRD (Bruhn 20). It is the use of resources available to a ruling party like the PRD, or the Communist Party in Russia, that allow opposition parties to be stifled and the hegemonic rule of the party to continue. Such was indeed the case with the PRD and its attempt to become known as a viable opposition party or alternative to the ruling party.
While it may have been that the PRI successfully used tools at its disposal to stifle the organization of the PRD as a stable political party it is not just their doing alone that caused the subsequent decline of the fortunes of the PRD after the 1988 election. This decline of fortunes would continue until the 1994 elections. The PRD itself can be blamed for making poor choices in electoral strategy, the presentation of viable policy alternatives, and in choosing when to negotiate a political settlement with the government. Most of all, the precursor to the PRD, the FDN, fell apart because varying opposition groups, from urban-based popular organizations, representing interests of the middle class and urban poor, to leftist parties such as the Mexican Socialist Party, had too divergent interests to form their coalition into a single party (Bruhn 160). As a result of this the PRD was formed of smaller groups, the cardenistas and one or two leftist opposition groups left over from the larger leftist coalition.
In subsequent elections, the PRD did not choose to actively participate in some levels of elections because they felt the PRI would just continue the practices of electoral fraud to guarantee favorable outcomes for PRI candidates. A more serious mistake made by the PRD that has thus far limited their appeal to certain segments of the population was their support of the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas in 1994 (Bruhn 15). This continued support for an armed guerilla group caused many middle class Mexican voters to view the PRD as a party of extreme positions that could threaten stability and tranquility if they were ever to gain power. Thus the appeal of the PRD was merely limited to peasants, the urban poor, and socially responsible elitist groups rather than expanding to more centrist, middle class electoral bases. The PRD, under the continued leadership of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, had broad policy goals bud did not have coherent, particular programs in order to bring those goals and reforms about. Thus their lack of a singular agenda turned off many voters to the PRD and has hampered their efforts to organize as a stable political party.
The future of the PRD appears to be brighter than its past performance in the 1991 and 1994 elections when Cardenas barely received seventeen percent of the vote for President (Bruhn 2). In fact, Cardenas won the election for mayor of Mexico City, the first time an opposition candidate has won the office in a fair, uncontested election, in 1997 (Assigned Reading, p. 530). The continuing march towards democracy, ironically instigated by the PRI, has allowed the PRD to gain an increasing share of the electorate and gain more seats in the Congress. In fact, for the first time, members of the opposition, including the PRD and the PAN, comprise a majority in the lower congressional house, the Chamber of Deputies, and are able to see some of their policy goals implemented. It is an ongoing trend that more and more Mexican voters are willing to consider voting for opposition parties because they no longer believe that they can have their voices heard only through the PRI. Also, the PRI have limited themselves in perpetuating electoral fraud and international observers cited the 1997 elections as the fairest, cleanest election campaigns in Mexico. All these factors can only help the PRD gain a greater share of the electorate and eventually present a challenge to the PRI for dominance of the Mexican government.
Further reforms by the government allowing greater access to media resources, increased coverage of opposition candidates, and the first time use of public relations consultants by the PRD have all increased its presence in the political mindsets of Mexican voters. With the continuing march towards democracy, caused in part by renewed international scrutiny of Mexican politics by newly concerned nations whose economies are now entwined with Mexico s and organization of opposition groups and civic society organizations that favor increased democratization (Bruhn 313), the PRD stands a good chance of surviving into the twenty first century and presenting ever greater competition with the PRI for the hearts and minds of the Mexican people.
The nations of the world are continuing on a path towards greater economic integration and democratization. The Mexican nation is coming to the forefront of this movement. With increased economic integration and political awareness of the Mexican people opposition parties such as the PRD stand a real chance of gaining power and ending the near seventy year hegemonic rule of the PRI. Once one of these opposition parties is able to gain power, more specifically the Presidency, and the PRI peacefully abides by these results, will Mexico have finally have arrived as a free, democratic state. Until then, the opposition parties will continue to gain a greater voice in government and the PRI will most probably continue to lose its stranglehold on power. Democracy will come to Mexico as freedom will eventually come to the rest of the world. For this reason, the Mexican people have good reason to be optimistic about the future of their nation and society.