Carlos Salinas and the Revolutionary Regime
When Carlos Salinas de Gortari became president of Mexico on December 1, 1988, he knew that the regime that had governed Mexico since 1920 was in serious trouble. Even by the official count, which few Mexicans believed, he had won barely 50 percent of the popular vote. For the first time, the opposition gained four seats in the Senate and almost 50 percent of the seats in the Chamber of Deputies, giving the PRI only a small majority of 263 of 500 seats in the chamber. The determined opposition continued to yell fraud and to demonstrate against the election outcome from July until inauguration day. On that day, as the new president began to deliver his speech to the assembled legislators, members of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas's coalition walked out of the Chamber of Deputies in a bold display of protest against the regime.
Robert Pastor reported that on the eve of the inauguration, he suggested to Salinas that he read Arthur Schlesinger's description of Franklin Roosevelt's first one hundred days in office. "With a mischievous grin," notes Pastor, "he said that he had already reread it." 1 Salinas was determined to enter the presidency with a bold program for change that would revive the popularity of the regime. To reestablish that authority, Salinas and other regime leaders resorted to the traditional portfolio of devices. They sought maximum advantage from the support provided by the institutionalized party and the institutionalized presidential succession. They made structural changes in the economy, which they believed would lead once again to sustained economic growth. They also adapted to the political pressures of the day. The fact that the poor had suffered disproportionately from the economic woes of the 1980s necessitated the creation of a vast new social program, Solidarity. This redistributive program to satisfy the left was matched by a movement to the right to satisfy business, largely through proposing a free-trade agreement with the United States and