Under the Volcano: Human Rights, Official Torture, and the Future of Mexican Democracy

By Urquidi, Mariclaire Acosta | The Humanist, November-December 1994 | Go to article overview

Under the Volcano: Human Rights, Official Torture, and the Future of Mexican Democracy


Urquidi, Mariclaire Acosta, The Humanist


This article is adapted from the address delivered by Acosta at the State University College of Buffalo, New York, this past summer.

When describing the human-rights situation in Mexico, one must compete with an enormous disinformation campaign from a Mexican government bent on publicizing its "achievements" in the human-rights field. Although the previous administration-that of Carlos Salinas-was the first in Mexico's history to publicly acknowledge that human-rights abuses were a serious problem, this acknowledgment was no meritorious accomplishment. Instead of being the consequence of an enlightened social policy, it was, rather, the result of internal pressure on the one hand and negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the other. And even as the government worked to give the impression that human-rights abuses were, at long last, effectively being dealt with, the actual situation grew considerably worse. That it was all purely a cosmetic policy became transparent on january 1 of this year when the Zapatista Liberation Army of Chiapas emerged on the scene.

The problem of human-rights abuse is deeply rooted in Mexico's political history. It is a systemic and structural problem dating back many decades. In 1910, in one of the first social revolutions of the twentieth century, the central issue for Mexico was democracy--the holding of free and fair elections. To this issue, other important demands were added as successive layers of the population mobilized and joined the revolutionary effort. Emiliano Zapata, for example, leader of the Indian peasants, made his famous call for "land and liberty." Then there was the workers' movement demanding basic labor rights. Over the years, efforts toward democracy expanded into a broader cry for a series of rudimentary social, economic, and political liberties--many of which were the same as those of the independence movement a hundred years back.

Today, the various enlightened political groups of Mexico persist in the same effort. And though the much-sought-for rights actually appear in the Mexican constitution and have superficially been part of governmental policy from time to time, the large majority of the Mexican people continue to live in a condition of extreme injustice. Over half the population subsists below the poverty line, and, after 65 years of domination by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexico still hasn't had one truly free, independent election. The demands of the Mexican revolution therefore continue to go unmet.

At the end of the 1920s, after two decades of civil war, the present political system dominated by the PRI was put into place. It was the result of a very broad coalition of various political groupings, social organizations, and revolutionary armies which had sprouted up throughout the country. Their leaders finally realized they were not going to get anywhere by military means alone, so they set up a political system that enabled the ruling elite to settle its affairs without bloodshed. This system provided Mexico with a stability unknown in the rest of Latin America. It also provided a certain betterment of the people's situation: a massive land-reform effort was launched; Mexico's natural resources were nationalized; free education became universal; and a middle class emerged.

With subsequent urbanization, Mexico grew into an increasingly complex society. With large numbers of people securing higher education, demands for a more democratic way of life became stronger (and have remained strong for a good 25 years). Opposition parties began to spring up. The press became more independent. And other marks of a pluralist and democratic society began to evidence themselves. Unfortunately, the political system did not respond favor, ably to these new forces; it became increasingly rigid, oppressive, and authoritarian. In 1968, there was a vast student movement in Mexico, not dissimilar to other such movements in various parts of the world at that time--but in Mexico the students were demanding very basic civil and political rights. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Under the Volcano: Human Rights, Official Torture, and the Future of Mexican Democracy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.