Goodbye and Good Riddance

The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview
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Goodbye and Good Riddance


THE SOURCE: "Mexico's Wasted Chance" by Fredo Arias-King, in The National Interest, Winter 2005-6.

REFORM WAS IN THE AIR WHEN Vicente Fox was elected president of Mexico six years ago, ending more than 70 years of one-party rule. Yet as the July 2 election of a new president nears, reforms have been few, "corruption has actually increased, and the quality of government has deteriorated," writes Fredo Arias-King, the founding editor of Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, who worked as a speechwriter for Fox's campaign.

Fox's two immediate predecessors, Carlos Salinas (1988-94) and Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000), from the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), had instituted some economic reforms, but essentially they "only replaced the existing crony socialism with crony capitalism." To do better, the popular Fox and his center-fight National Action Party (PAN) needed to tackle "bureaucratic red tape, monopolies, obstacles to foreign investment, the byzantine tax code, criminal networks in government, a bloated public sector, [and] the lack of property rights."

Instead of breaking completely with the old regime, however, Fox chose to work with elements of the PRI, while slighting his own supporters and his party's coalition partner, the Green Party. Members of the old guard were installed as the national security adviser and the ambassador to Washington, while others ran the Finance Secretariat and Fox's own presidential office. Fox "resurrected some of the most notorious figures of the pre-Zedillo PRI," including two men who had served with the secret police during Mexico's "dirty war" against the country's leftist guerrillas in the early 1970s.

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