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

By Dan A. Cothran | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

From 1920 to the early 1990s, Mexico experienced a degree of political stability that was unique in Latin America. This book has argued that the stability was largely a result of the institutionalization of the regime, its effectiveness in achieving economic growth, its adaptability to demands from society, the high degree of elite unity, its willingness to use coercion, and its location next to the United States which provided support for its regime and economic relief in the form of investment and emigration. These conditions created what has been called "the perfect dictatorship." However, the conditions within which these factors operate have changed dramatically in recent years, and each factor that previously contributed to stability may now contribute to instability. If the political system is to remain stable, the regime must be adaptable enough to respond to the widespread demand for liberal democracy, which includes conceding governorships, state legislatures, the congress, and eventually even the presidency itself to opposition parties if they win these offices in fair elections. In that case, Mexico would in effect have a new regime within a continuing, stable political system. At the end of the twentieth century, democracy may be the only route to continued political stability in Mexico.

Like Lyndon Johnson, who did not want to be "the first American president to lose a war" (he apparently forgot the War of 1812), or Winston Churchill, who "did not become the king's first minister to preside over the dissolution of the British Empire," no Mexican president wanted to be the one to preside over the disappearance of the revolutionary regime that had held power for seven decades. It is not surprising that the president and the regime resisted a change of this magnitude. However, Carlos Salinas had the opportunity to play a historical role. He could either be like Porfirio Díaz, the recalcitrant conservative who refused to adapt to demands for more democratic participation and who thereby provoked the Mexican Revolution, or he could be a creative, "transformational" leader like Rómulo Betancourt, who went beyond "normal" behavior in an effort to lead his society to a new level of development. 44


NOTES
1
James March and Johan Olsen, Rediscovering Institutions: The Organizational Bases of Politics ( New York: Free Press, 1989), p. 168.
2
Peter H. Smith, "The Political Impact of Free Trade on Mexico", Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 34 ( 1), 1992, especially pp. 14-20.
3
John Bailey, "Populism and Regime Liberalization: Mexico in Comparative Perspective" (Paper Presented at Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, April 18-20, 1991), pp. 2, 15.
4
Stephen D. Morris, "Political Reformism in Mexico: Salinas at the Brink", Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 34 ( 1), 1992, p. 41; Robert A. Pastor , "Post-Revolutionary Mexico: The Salinas Opening", Journal of Interarnerican Studies and World Affairs 32 ( 3), 1990, pp. 12-22.

-233-

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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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