Political Stability and Democracy in Mexico: The "Perfect Dictatorship"?

By Dan A. Cothran | Go to book overview

but to a large extent the world economy imposed harsh conditions on Mexico, and perhaps no president could have done much better than did Echeverrfa and López Portillo during this time.

At a minimum, Echeverría's lurch to the left allowed the regime to hold onto its left wing for another decade or so. Without this adaptation, it is possible that the defections that occurred in 1988 would have occurred in the early 1970s. In fact, some of the defectors, such as Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, had served under Echeverría. Therefore, although Echeverría's term was certainly replete with conflict, it may have contributed in a significant way to the continuation of the regime. In any case, the fact that López Portillo found it so easy to reestablish good relations with Echeverría's main critic, big business, suggests that Echeverria had done no lasting damage to that base of the regime's support and had strengthened its ties to other groups.

Thus the Echeverría and López Portillo years demonstrate the ability and willingness of the Mexican regime to adapt, at least to some extent, to the dominant pressures that have built up in society. 74 It is true that the adaptation is within a narrow band (although not much narrower than the range of policy in many two-party systems). It is also true that the regime is, ultimately, much more responsive to the concerns of business than of the popular classes. That is not, however, a result of the political power of business as much as a result of its economic power in a capitalist system that depends so much on the willingness of business to invest and produce. Moreover, the porous nature of the economic system in small, developing nations means that their governments must be very careful about frightening business and the wealthy, lest they send their capital out of the country or otherwise refuse to invest in economic growth. Despite these limitations, the Mexican regime has shown a significant willigness to adapt its policies periodically to the demands of the popular classes. This helps the regime to retain, at least to some extent, the loyalty of these groups as well as that of their spokespeople, the leftist intellectuals.

The crisis of 1988 shows what can happen when the regime consistently alienates these groups for many years. The political elite can split apart, threatening the stability of the regime itself. The next chapter examines this very important variable of elite unity.


NOTES
1.
Poor economic performance also contributed to their demise. Moreover, some regimes that may have appeared to be highly institutionalized were, in fact, quite personalistic. Notable examples include the Communist regimes of Stalin, Ceausescu, and Castro.
2.
Chalmers Johnson, Revolutionary Change, 2d ed. ( Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1982); Gabriel Almond, Scott Flanagan, and Robert Mundt. Crisis, Choice, and Change: Historical Studies of Political Development ( Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1973); and Juan J. Linz and Alfred Stepan, eds., The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes: Latin America ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978).

-126-

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Political Stability and Democracy in Mexico: The "Perfect Dictatorship"?
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Mexican Political Stability 1
  • Notes 13
  • 2 - The Institutionalization of the Mexican State 17
  • Notes 49
  • 3 - Economic Growth and Political Support 57
  • Notes 85
  • 4 - Adaptability and the Crises of 1968-1978 89
  • Notes 126
  • 5 - Elite Unity and Political Stability 131
  • Notes 173
  • 6 - Carlos Salinas and the Revolutionary Regime 177
  • Notes 205
  • 7 - Prospects for Stability and Democracy in Mexico 209
  • Notes 233
  • Selected Bibliography 237
  • Index 245
  • About the Author *
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