The historic defeat of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (the PRI) ended seven decades of corrupt, single party political domination and moved Mexico further towards becoming a real democracy.
While thedefeat of the PRI, was shocking, our guests argue that Mr. Fox’s victory was hardly unexpected: It had been in the making for years and reflected the will of the people to open their country to democracy.
Our guests today note that there was no Nelson Mandela, no single leader to personify and guide the struggle. Nor was there a single democratic movement, but rather a multitude of initiativesfrom individuals and groups across the society and the country, which gradually converged as more and more Mexicans became convinced of the need to end the PRI’s despotic rule.
Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon are Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters for the New York Times. They were the paper’s Mexico City bureau chiefs from 1995 to 2000. Their book, Opening Mexico is the story of a people they cameto know and respect who worked against great odds to bring democracy to their country and toppled what many consider to be the Mexican equivalent of a monarchy.
This complex transformation of a one-party system, the longest ruling in the world, into a pluralistic democracy is a tale that is rich on its implications for the spread of democracy worldwide.
Please join me in welcoming the authors,Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon. Thank you for joining us today.
JULIA PRESTON: The oppressive hold of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) on every aspect of Mexican life had made it the world’s longest ruling political organization. Through the prolonged, slow motion, largely peaceful, democratic revolution, Mexicans were remaking their society, institution by institution.
Wesaw them undertake extraordinary reforms. They transferred control of the elections machinery away from the ruling party, which had abused it to perpetrate countless frauds, and put it in the hands of an independent agency that devised one of the most modern balloting systems in the world. They created an array of new political parties to challenge the monopoly of the PRI, and a legislature withreal clout, replacing a theatrical Congress whose role for seven decades had been to provide ceremonious applause for the President’s latest impulse. They were imposing limits on the power of the presidency, which had been so absolute and unrestrained by any legislative, judicial, or popular oversight as to make the Mexican chief executive a sort of Mesoamerican monarch.
We met people from alllevels of life who were participating in this grand endeavor. Citizen activists were battling vote fraud. Human rights observers were curbing the abuses of the security forces. Grassroots communities were blocking the devastation of forests and beaches by corporations. Journalists were investigating malfeasance. Neighborhood groups were mobilizing to demand prosecution of criminal gangs and corruptviolence. Even the PRI President, Ernesto Zedillo at the time, had opted for a liberalizing role.
While there, we realized how far back we had to look to see the origins of this movement. After 1968, the system never recovered from the blow to its credibility that was seen by a whole generation of Mexicans who were students and young people in 1968. The next phase of the transformation cameafter the earthquake in 1985. The failure of the government to respond to the earthquake brought out a whole unorganized popular movement in Mexico City.
The nature of the PRI system was demobilizing. The nature of the PRI system was to make Mexicans believe that they had no political initiative of their own outside of the system. After the earthquake in 1985, there was an upsurge of what we call...