[Home] [Current Tables of Contents]

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]


Volume 63 / Social Sciences

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS: MEXICO


RODERIC A. CAMP, Professor of Government, Claremont-McKenna College

TRENDS IN THE PUBLICATION of work on Mexico continue along lines well established in HLAS 59 and 61. As one might expect, elections and electoral politics dominate the literature, especially among Mexican scholars. Nevertheless, many scholars are branching out to cover subjects which are tied critically to the electoral process without focusing on election behavior per se. Among the many empirical electoral studies, one in particular stands out: Rafael Aranda Vollmer's exploration of municipal elections nationwide, which covers the crucial period in Mexico's democratic transformation from 1988–2000, and includes more than 150 pages of statistical tables (item #bi2005005200#). The most original and insightful new work on voting behavior is that by Alejandro Moreno, who directs survey research for the Reforma newspaper. El votante mexicano uses sophisticated statistical analysis to link voting behavior patterns to a number of critical issues, but especially to democracy (item #bi2005005225#). Although it did not turn out to be the case, many analysts believed expatriate voters in the US would exercise a significant influence on the 2006 presidential outcome. Excellent insights about the potential of these voters, based on an extensive 1996 survey among resident Mexicans, can be found in Leticia Calderón Chelius and Jesús Martínez Saldaña's recent essay (item #bi2005006189#). Finally, an institutional approach, which explores how political parties use the electoral court system in Mexico to further the goal of democratization in the 1990s, can be found in an excellent book by Todd A. Eisenstadt, a member of a younger generation of specialists on Mexico (item #bi2005006190#).

Scholars on both sides of the border have returned to an examination of political parties, a long overdue institutional focus in Mexican politics. The most needed work is a reappraisal of the PRI, which has not received significant attention in many years, especially by American academics. Joy Langston, who has provided some of the best work on the PRI party leadership, reveals interesting insights into party leaders' behavior in 1940, 1952, and 1988, which are instructive in understanding dissension within party ranks, and the manifestations of those fissures, including under the Fox administration (see HLAS 62:847). An equally valuable essay is "A PRI 2002: cambios y continuidades organizativas," which not only explores the party after the Fox victory, but provides the basis for some interesting comparisons between the PRI presidential candidate's support in 2006, with his earlier election as the party's president in 2002 (item #bi2004000216#). There is also a full-fledged examination that joins these other more focused analyses of specific aspects of the PRI. Partido Revolucionario Institucional is less an outstanding collection of analytical essays on the PRI than a wealth of information on all of the central issues that have characterized the party in the last decade, shedding light on the institutional structural changes within the party and the impact of these changes on candidate selection (item #bi2005006178#). Complementary to the excellent work on the PRI is an equally comprehensive collection on the PRD, coordinated by the same editor, Francisco Reveles Vázquez (item #bi2005005211#). This is the most useful work on the PRD since Kathleen Bruhn published an in-depth monograph in 1997 (see HLAS 59:3099). Reveles Vázquez's new work incorporates a wide range of topics which explore internal organizational issues as well as the serious leadership problems characterizing the party. It also provides a straightforward chronological table detailing numerous leadership changes and events from 1996 to 2000.

As democratization has progressed, scholars have increasingly taken notice of both the legislative and judicial branches. Of the two, the legislative branch has received far greater attention from scholars. A number of contributions stand out in this regard. Benito Nacif, who is no newcomer to the subject, having already authored some of the basic work on that branch's influence, is part of a group of scholars at CIDE (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, México) who are producing some of the best scholarship on leading edge topics in Mexican politics. His current contribution focuses on the behavior of PRI members of congress in the 1997–2000 session (item #bi2003003898#). He discovered that despite the PRI's loss of majority control in the lower chamber, the centralized control that has characterized its delegation for decades remained the norm. Luisa Béjar Algazi attacks this topic from another angle, examining in detail the structural barrier of no immediate reelection, which hampers the ability of that institution to strengthen itself internally and to function competently compared to the executive branch (item #bi2004002746#). She argues that the PRI used this legal stricture to limit the growth of pluralism in Mexico. Another, more comprehensive work, which explores no-reelection and numerous other issues, is a collection by Fernando Dworak, another scholar who has begun focusing on this neglected branch (item #bi2005005250#). This collection is valuable in addition to these other essays because it provides numerous comparisons with other countries, including the US, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, and incorporates a large number of historical precedents from the 1920s through the 1960s. Finally, Jodi Finkel has added to the smaller but growing literature on the judicial branch, exploring the behavior of the Supreme Court in addressing the constitutionality of cases involving electoral rules and reforms, as it became an increasingly independent actor (item #bi2005002219#).

Other subjects of importance continue to be neglected by scholars, including the role of religion and the armed forces in Mexican democratization. One subject in which interest has revived, in spite of the fact that its influence has declined, is the Zapatista movement. Thomas Olesen has written a broad account of the regional movement that focuses on its international linkages and global impact (item #bi2005000048#). Equally comprehensive, but concerned with the internal development of the Zapatista movement, including a strong historical bent, is Antonio García de León's new work (item #bi2005005216#). This work is similar in scope to Thomas Benjamin's earlier book (see HLAS 54:1457). Another influence on the democratization process, encouraged by the Zapatista movement, has been that of NGOs. Tonatiuh González and Alejandro Natal analyze the role of such groups on the NAFTA agreement, suggesting their weak influence (item #bi2004002265#).

National security issues, including drugs, corruption, and guerrilla movements, continue to provide the basis for an occasional piece of solid research. The most comprehensive work on some of these issues is a new book by José Luis Velasco, Insurgency, Authoritarianism, and Drug Trafficking in Mexico's "Democratization" (item #bi2005000350#). He examines how such variables as drug trafficking and the EZLN have affected Mexico's democratic development. The only work that explores the interaction between guerrilla groups and the changing role of the armed forces in response to a redefinition of national security is by Jorge Luis Sierra Guzmán, one of the few scholars to study the armed forces (item #bi2005005207#). Finally, and perhaps the most difficult topic to explore anywhere in Latin America, including Mexico, is the extent and role of corruption as a causal variable in understanding democracy's success or failure. Poder, derecho y corrupción is an edited collection that tries to put forth some conceptual arguments and definitions of corruption, as well as analyze various forms of political and nonpolitical corruption (item #bi2005006211#).


Go to the:


Begin a Basic Search | Begin an Expert Search

[ HLAS Online Home Page | Search HLAS Online | Help | FAQ | Comments ]

Library of Congress
Comments: Ask a Librarian (7/11/14)