The Struggle for Democracy in Mexico

On the surface, one might think progress in democracy has been made in Mexico due to the peaceful turnover of power this past election to the Industrial Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the period of time from 2000-2012 where the PRI was not in power. However, the effects of drug cartels and the PRI’s return to power hinder Mexico’s struggle to maintain a democracy without corruption and unrest among it’s people.

From a minimalist definition, Shedler argues that Mexico can not be considered a democracy because of the corruption in the electoral arena caused by “criminal enterprises”, or the drug cartels. Drug cartels take an interest in “shaping the dynamics of electoral competition” by funding or support candidates, attempting to drive out candidates from elections, and intimidating voters through violence and crime (Shedler). The increasing deaths due to organized crime have sky rocked from 1,304 in 2005 to 16,603 in 2011, and the constant threat of violence, kidnapping, human trafficking, and crime directed towards civilians calls for government action to protect their citizens and fight organized crime. However, with the election of Enrique Peña Nieto and the PRI, Mexicans have grown extremely unhappy with the lack of intervention and focus on human rights and security. It also brings about concerns regarding the persistence of democracy. The PRI ruled Mexico for over 70 years in an authoritative style, while being accused of electoral fraud and vote buying this past election (The Economist).

The political regime has come under question with two recent massacres preformed by the Mexican military and local police from Tlatlaya (Huffington Post). Both incidents were covered up by federal and local officials and both confirm suspicions that the “drug war” was a “cover for political repression” (Huffington Post). President Peña’s failure “to make security a priority” and use of “the police and the courts as enforcing political control” vividly illustrate the corruption Mexico faces and the lack of enforcement on security issues which are critical for a functioning democracy.

Clearly, the violence and corruption caused by drug cartels and the PRI’s return to power make the preservation of democracy in Mexico seem very unlikely.


3 thoughts on “The Struggle for Democracy in Mexico

  1. If Mexico cannot be considered a democracy, what can it be considered? Keeping what you said about drug cartels shaping electoral competition in mind, I suspect that Levitsky and Way would agree with Shedler’s assessment that Mexico does not have a democratic regime, but rather a competitive authoritarian regime. Levitsky and Way do include Mexico in their group of post-Cold War regimes in which “electoral manipulation, unfair media access, abuse of state resources, and varying degrees of harassment and violence skewed the playing field…” (3). Mexico may still have a competitive authoritarian regime because democratic institutions are the primary means of gaining power, but the playing field is skewed by violence, patronage, and corruption. Although the PRI was not the incumbent in the most recent election, the party controlled powerful television stations and state governments. I still see many of Levitsky and Way’s arguments playing out in the modern Mexican state.

  2. Comment: Emelie has asked me to take a look at her class’ blog.
    The paper gives a good demonstration that Mexico cannot be considered a democracy. It’s a lawless country, instead. It points out, for example, that the number of death by organized crime jumped from 1,304 in 2005 to 16,603 in 2011. That is horrible.

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