Magazine article The Futurist

Three Scenarios for Mexico's Future

Magazine article The Futurist

Three Scenarios for Mexico's Future

Article excerpt


Every day, more than 6,000 babies are born in Mexico. Conservative estimates call for Mexico's population to increase from the current 84 million to 110 million by the year 2000. This increase represents an enormous political challenge as well as a tremendous burden on the nation's already-strained ecology.

Mexico's economic crises have resulted in high rates of inflation, currency devaluation, and a burdensome national debt. In too many cases, the government's actions have made matters worse rather than better.

For instance, the existing price controls on labor, services, and basic goods cannot be maintained indefinitely, because of the havoc they would eventually wreak. A good example of this kind of havoc is the rent control "temporarily" established in Mexico City during World War II and never lifted. This rent control and the subsequent limits on income to landlords has led to the decaying condition of many buildings that once had great cultural as well as economic value, resulting in a sad urban blight in the downtown area.

Next in importance to the grim economic crisis is the growing sense of insecurity due to an increasing wave of crime. In 1988, there were 4,256 homicides in Mexico City. And the nation's explosive population growth, coupled with the historical Mexican apathy concerning environmental preservation, is accelerating ecological destruction.

For the past 20 years, the Mexican government has failed to cope with growing economic and environmental problems. On December 1, 1988, a new government assumed power, and there is now hope of interrupting a cycle of ineffectual administrations.

There is indeed cause for some optimism concerning the problems facing the new Mexican government. For example, real-estate values in Mexico City's residential areas have increased by as much as 100% within the last year. Similarly, securities on the Mexican Stock Exchange have risen significantly. Many people are betting, cautiously, on Mexico's turn-around.

The rhetoric of the new Mexican government is oriented toward the modernization of the country's economic and political structures. In the context of this Mexican "perestroika," one can envision three main scenarios for the remaining years of this century: (1) populism, (2) real progress, or (3) recycling of the crisis.

Scenario One: A Populist


In a broad sense, the Mexican political system resembles that of the Soviet Union more than that of the United States, because a unique political party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), has dominated Mexican politics for more than half a century. However, within the ranks of the PRI, a populist movement -- purportedly representing "the common people" and characterized by leftist learnings -- is dedicating itself to regaining control of the government. This particular group advocates a tighter government grip on the economy.

The populists are currently out of the decision-making inner circle of government. Their position on the economy stands in direct conflict with the tenets of "The Moderns," the political group headed by the new president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

The new government currently has the reins of power firmly in its hands. If there is no improvement in the economy within the next year or so, however, there is a possibility that power may revert to the populist forces. In this scenario, economic reforms would be abandoned and a populist bureaucratic regime would be reestablished.

There are several ways the populists might regain power. The first, and most likely, would result from the government's accomodation of the PRI's internal leftist elements, whereby they would secure important posts in the power structure. A second and less likely possibility would be by means of election: Still fresh in the Mexican voters' minds are allegations of fraud against the present government in the 1988 presidential election. …

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