Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Green, White, and Red Flag - a Partisan Symbol

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Mexico's Green, White, and Red Flag - a Partisan Symbol

Article excerpt

THREE cheers for the red, white, and blue. What American doesn't feel a stirring of patriotism at the mention of the colors of his flag? I was an impressionable third-grader in Deep River, Conn., when our marines raised the Stars and Stripes on Mt. Suribachi to culminate the capture of Iwo Jima in 1945. As I recall, the famous staged photo, in color, was distributed in school. Nothing could have been more symbolic of a hard-fought United States victory than the planting of Old Glory on top of that strategic hill.

Countries' flags and colors have been used to rally people to patriotic causes for centuries. In our nationalistic world, their figurative importance to maintain pride in one's country is evident. Remember how the Palestinians flaunted their until-then-banned flag after the peace accords with Israel were signed this past summer?

Nowhere, however, have the colors of the flag been used for such partisan political purposes as in Mexico. The only political party that can use the colors of the national symbol - green, white, and red - is the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has been in power for 65 years and was assured of six more years by the August elections. It's the law, passed by the PRI-dominated Congress. The two main opposition parties, the National Action Party (PAN) and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), must resort to blue and white, and yellow and black, respectively. Imagine the outcry in the US if Democrats or Republicans tried to usurp a monopoly on the red, white, and blue!

Half of Mexican voters are at best only marginally literate and unduly influenced by symbolism. That makes the antidemocratic aspects of the PRI's color monopoly even more apparent and sinister. In post-election polls, many of Mexico's underclass admitted to having "voted the colors of the flag."

Unfortunately, the ruling PRI used its "symbol monopoly" in every manner possible. Social programs, paid for with taxpayers' money, are publicized as if they were projects completely financed by the ruling party. Solidaridad, a widespread program in which the government and local communities cooperate on mainly infrastructure projects, is a prime example. …

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