For 71 years, Mexican politics and government was totally dominated by the paradoxically named Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), which held the presidency and virtually all governorships from 1929 to 2000. Under the PRI system, presidents served one six-year term, and in their last year (usually a time of economic catastrophes) selected their successors. This system worked tolerably well for 30-some years. But as time went on, it produced widespread corruption, periodic currency devaluations and massive out-migration.
The beginning of reforms
President Carlos Salinas (the Machiavellian, elected in 1988, started opening up its political process and was joined by Texans George H. W. Bush and Lloyd Bentsen in pushing successfully for the North American Free Trade Agreement. With support from Bill Clinton, Congress approved NAFTA in 1993. Mexico reformed its electoral process in the 1990s, with key verification from exit poll pioneer Warren Mitofsky. PRI lost its congressional majorities in 1997, and in 2000, Vicente Fox of the center-right PAN party was elected president over the candidates of the PRI and the leftist PRD. In
2006, Fox was succeeded by the PAN’s Felipe Calderon. Fox and Calderon were unable to reform Mexico’s governmentowned oil company Pemex or its dysfunctional uniondominated education system because of united congressional opposition by the PRI and PRD.
PRI returned to power (july 2012)
The new President Enrique Peña Nieto has proved to be an effective leader. One of the approved Reforms was the education, with teacher promotion determined by merit rather than heredity (this is not a misprint). The day after the reform was passed, Elba Esther Gordillo, the powerful head of the teacher union, was arrested for embezzlement. Also passed telecom reform, potentially cutting the participation of Telmex owner, Carlos Slim, one of the richest people in the world. The most difficult was the reform of Pemex, the monopoly created when President Lazaro Cardenas (PRI ) nationalized oil companies in 1938. One-third of government revenues come from Pemex, but production fell 27 percent between 2004 and 2013. Now foreign oil firms will be able to invest and book Mexican resources as reserves, stimulating growth and job creation.
Mexico’s manufacturing sector has been booming and increasingly competitive with respect to China, and the country is graduating record numbers of engineers and scientists.
In many ways, Mexico is now a nation of middle class majority. Mexicans are buying homes (mortgage financing), new shopping malls are built, there is demand for cars.
By many measures, Mexico is now a majority middleclass nation. Mexicans are buying (mortgage-financed) houses in new subdivisions and driving to Walmart and Costco shopping malls in their pickups and SUVs. Peña’s reforms have pushed Mexico sharply forward on a path on which it had already made significant progress. That’s good news for Mexico and for the foreign capitals.