Key Institutions

Traditionally, Mexico has had a state corporatist structure – central, authoritarian rule that allows input from interest groups outside the government.  Through the camarilla system, leaders of important groups, including business elites, workers, and peasants, actually served in high government offices. Today political and economic liberalization appears to be leading toward a more open structure, but corporatism is still characteristic of policymaking.  Is the modern Mexican government authoritarian or democratic?

Facts About Political Parties of Mexico
The Partido Revolucionario Institucional The National Action Party The Democratic Revolutionary Party
In power from 1920 – 2000 Founded in 1939, making it one of the oldest opposition parties Generally thought of as PRI’s opposition on the left.
Corporatist structure Strongest in the north Orbrador, popular Mexico City mayor barely lost the presidential election in 2006
Patron Client System (support coming from rural areas) Generally considered PRI’s opposition to the right Since 2009 the party has lost a significant number of seats in the lower house.
Until 1988, there was no question the PRI candidate would be elected president Represents business interests 2012 supports a woman for president
President Felipe Calderon won in 2006

Questions to consider:

  • In recent decades, how has Mexico struggled for democracy?
  • In what ways was the PRI undemocratic?
  • Why were Calles and Cardenas so important?
  • The elections of 2000, 2006 and 2009 were important for what reasons?
Years Era Remembered For
1325-1521 Aztec High Civilization, bureaucratic empire, human sacrifice
1521-1821 New Spain Colonist exploitation, Catholicism
1821-1823 Empire Conservative Independence
1830s-1850s Santa Anna Erratic leadership, lost Texas and U.S. war
1850s-1860s Ju`arez Equality, federalism, anti-clericalism
1877-1911 Porfiriato Dictatorship, economic growth
1910-1920 Revolution Complex, multisided upheaval
1924-1934 Calles Found six-year term and PNR
1934-1940 Cardenas Cardenas makes PRI socialistic and corporatistic; nationalizes oil.
1940-1964 Conservative PRI Favors business and foreign investment crackdown on leftists
1964-1982 Destabilizing PRI Oil, overspending, and inflation spur unrest; massacre of students
1982-2000 Desperate PRI Technocrats calm economy, promote NAFTA, clean up elections, assassinations
2000- PAN  

Rejection of PRI; accomplishes little

 Review Questions


How long did the PRI dominate politics in Mexico?

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71 years

What steps has Mexico taken toward democracy?

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Democratic Constitution, some land reform, and gradual opening of political system to opposition.

Following the Mexican Revolution, the government passed the Constitution of ______.

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Mexico’s president serves a _______ year term.

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In _________________ President Salinas signed the North American Free Trade Agreement.

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