Whoever wins, the Mexican people always lose
Excitement is growing in Mexico again as the July 1 election date approaches for this country to choose a new president. One good rule that the U.S. could learn from is that the Mexican presidents and other major office holders like Governors cannot run for consecutive terms. So the excitement is really that President Felipe Calderon will soon be gone, and hopefully the next one will be better. But by now the Mexican people don’t get too excited because they have come to realize that whichever party wins and whoever gets elected as president, the loser will still be the Mexican people.
In a country rich in natural resources, oil, arable land, a reasonably good public education system, a border with the country with largest marketplace in the world (U.S.A.) and a willing and hard-working population, it is incredible that the place is still so backwards, the people so poor, and the likelihood for positive changes is so distant that an estimated 20% of Mexico’s ~120 million population is lliving and working undocumented in the U.S. to escape this grinding poverty of their own country. The cause of all of this misery is the Mexican political system.
A Tumultuous Political History (apologies but this brief history lesson is important to explain the present situation)-
In 1810 Mexico declared its independence from Spain, after suffering 300 years of Spanish rule during which time gold and other treasures were looted and the indigenous population was reduced by war and diseases carried over from Europe to less than half the numbers of pre-Spanish colonization.
In 1848 Mexico was forced to sign the Treaty of Guadalupe effectively allowing the U.S. to annex 50% of its territory and ending the Mexican-American War.
In 1861, not to be left out of the fun and games, France invaded Mexico and installed its own emperor, Maximilian. Though backed by Napoleon III (not the same guy as Napoleon Bonapart) he lasted until 1867 when he was defeated by Benito Juarez, ending a very brief period of imperial rule. It is interesting to note that many Mexicans still consider Maximilian a benevolent emperor. However, he is also known for paying of one of the first major bribes (mordidas) in Mexico’s history, just before his execution. His death marked the end of foreign power domination of Mexican.
Between 1867 and 1910, Mexico was dominated by a small wealthy class that controlled most of the land and money. The poverty of most of the population gave rise to such famous guerilla figures as Emiliano Zapata, a leader in the Mexican Revolution that lasted from 1910-1929. This was basically a battle between the rich and poor, the peasants and the landowners, a system that had been put in place over 400 years ago during Spanish rule.
Okay, so at this point Mexico has gotten rid of the Spanish, the Americans, the French, and all the wealthy landlords and in 1929 as the Revolution ends. However one single party emerges from the revolution – the PRI- to take over all political control of Mexico. It is not just a coincidence that the initials (PRI) stand for Institutional Revolutionary Party. The party also adopts the same colors as the Mexican flag pictured above. Their idea was to make the Mexican people believe that this party represented the result of their glorious revolution and the patriotic principles of their revolution. In other words, if this Party was the product of the revolution, then there could not be by definition another revolution.
In this somewhat convoluted way, this PRI Party was extremely successful. It controlled Mexico’s presidency with an iron hand ruling Mexico from 1929-2000. For most of those years until near the very end, the PRI also controlled the Mexican Congress and the governorships of every State. Favoritism, bribery, cronyism, and corruption flourished. Unfortunately, the economy did not. The PRI in cooperation with the country’s big unions, maintained a power structure where the unions delivered the votes and the PRI passed laws favoring the large unions and their members, effectively discouraging investment in private industry that could potentially become unionized.
The game began to change in a small way in 1986 with the election of Ernesto Ruffo, the first opposition party (PAN – the National Action Party) candidate to ever win an election of mayor in all of Mexico. Ernesto became the mayor of Ensenada. Seagate at this point became a participant in the political landscape of Mexico because Ernesto had been at that time a small partner in the Seagate fish processing plant, from 1983-85. Seagate helped support Ernesto’s bid for mayor, contributing to his campaign, helping supply radios for the polling booth observers to help reduce the theft of votes, and after his election, supplying equipment to the City of Ensenada including a fleet of garbage trucks during one of the various union-organized strikes that were organized by shut down garbage collection, the jails, schools, and anything else that the union controlled in Ensenada as punishment electing Ernesto Ruffo as mayor.
Ernesto went further in his political career, eventually becoming governor of Baja California, the first opposition party governor to be elected, where he served from 1988-94. The current billboard photo of Ruffo above is for his latest campaign to become a Senator. His is actually a good guy, one of the few.
The PAN eventually in the year 2000 was able win the Presidency with the election of Vicente Fox to a 6-year term, followed by the present Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who has presided over the latest chapter in the Mexican drug wars.
Until the election of Ruffo, Mexico was not a democracy. It had one-party rule masquerading as a democracy. Unlike the U.S. political system, where there are primary elections, the political bosses in each party still pick their candidate who can run for President or Governor. During the 12 years of PAN control of the Mexican Presidency, not much has changed. More than half the population is subsisting on less than $200/month. The unions are still favored, inflation has become institutionalized into the economy since the Federal Government controls oil and gasoline production, all electrical production, and even the cost of staples like tortillas. Most of the assembly plants (maquiladoras) have since moved to Asia, there is very little new investment in Mexico, and tourism has all but evaporated due to the ongoing drug wars.
The three main candidates for Mexican President – A) leftist Lopez Obrador offering a national pension plan and who also happens to be the fellow who shut down parts of Mexico City 6 years ago when he was last defeated in his run for presidency; B) the PRI’s Pena Nieto who is currently leading in the polls thanks to a PRI campaign which depicts that party that strangled Mexico for 70 straight years as the newcomer/outsider that can bring Mexico out of its slump; and C) for the first time ever a big-party woman candidate for president, PAN’s Josefina Vasquez who is currently far behind in the polls.
The Mexican political structure has a stranglehold on the development of their economy and their nation. This is a complex issue that will continue to be updated in future blog posts, certainly once again after the July 1st election day.
Today’s page was as painful to write as it was for you to read. However, it is important to understand the political climate of Mexico because this is also a part of Seagate’s world. The underwater picture of the week is of interesting formations on a coral reef.
Underwater Sound button [audio:http://www.seagateworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/underwater.mp3|titles=underwater|loop=yes]