The Course of Mexican History

By Michael C. Meyer; William L. Sherman et al. | Go to book overview

32
Madero and the Failure
of Democracy

In late May 1911, on his way to Veracruz and ultimate exile, Porfirio Díaz reputedly told Victoriano Huerta, the commander of his military escort, “Madero has unleashed a tiger. Now let’s see if he can control it.” The remark, both prophetic and reflective of Díaz’s keen perception of his fellow countrymen, augured ominous consequences. For the next decade Mexico would be torn apart, and the catharsis would be slow in coming. There would be little time to repair the devastation of war or to refashion the contours of society. Politics would undermine altruism.


DISAPPOINTING REFORMS

Bursting with optimistic idealism, Madero approached his presidential challenge with all the fresh enthusiasm of the novice. Mexico was embarking upon a democratic era, and democracy, Madero contended, would be equal to the task. But Madero the president, unlike Madero the revolutionary, found himself quickly besieged with demands from all sides. Only when established in the presidential office did he begin to realize fully that the Revolution had profoundly different meanings to different groups of Mexicans. The spurious alliance began to break up irretrievably. Of the disparate elements he had previously counted in his ranks, those of nineteenth-century liberal persuasion, interested in political reform and the growth of democracy, supported him with unabashed devotion. But both the aristocratic elite he displaced and the social revolutionaries he embraced were increasingly displeased with the modest steps he undertook. The press began to assail him mercilessly, but, in the best democratic tradition, he gave it full rein and stoically accepted the barbed criticism and cruel satires.

It was only natural that Madero should be more responsive to the prodding of his former supporters. Although he could defy anyone to

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