By: James Smith
If you’re like us, your high school education skimped a little bit on Mexican history except in those places where it involved the United States using it as a punching bag from which to extract large tracts of land. You’ll be forgiven, then, for having let the historical significance of the recent presidential election there go over your head: one more change of power in a Latin American country.
Actually, though, the victory of Pena Nieto, former governor of Mexico’s largest state, could represent a landmark in Mexican history, not because of anything that Nieto has done or will do but because it marks the return to power of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the party that ruled Mexico for all of seventy-one years before being ousted with the victory of Vicente Fox in 2001. The PRI, a Socialist party that was born out of a need to unite the various battling factions that emerged after the Mexican Revolution, developed a reputation for corruption and cronyism in its years in power, but its tight grip on power and institutional status prevented it from being defeated for seventy-one years.
Now, after a twelve-year winter, the PRI has rebuilt its reputation and ridden the coattails of the charismatic Nieto to retake Mexico’s presidency. Naturally, this being a party that has had a reputation for corruption in the past, the legitimacy of the vote has been called into question -- and Nieto’s victory came with just 38% of the vote, indicative of Mexico’s fractured political landscape. Nonetheless -- or perhaps on account of that fracturing -- Nieto has declared his intention to try to work across party lines to achieve a more perfect Mexico.
If he can manage to do that, then the PRI’s exile from power may well have been worth it. If not -- well, it’s hard to imagine that this will be the beginning of another 71 years of uninterrupted power in Mexico.
[Pic via Wikimedia Commons - World Economic Forum]