Is Democracy Consolidated in Mexico?

On September 26th, 2014, a group of 43 male students went missing in the town of Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico, as they were traveling to a protest. Almost exactly a year later, the students remain missing and the only clue about their fate is the clear involvement of both the local police and the crime syndicate labeled “Guerreros Unidos”. This incident reignited the furor of both local and international media that question the state of Mexico’s democracy (Martínez Ahrens), along with experts that confirm democracy, expressed in the freedom of the press and the civilians, is in critical condition (Freedom House).

There are allegedly two causes for this state of democracy. The first is the institutionalized system of government that is about a decade shy of becoming a century old. It was developed and fortified over a 71-year period in which the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) held an autocratic control of the “democratic” elections of the nation. The second is the widespread presence of organized crime in the Federal state, especially the rural areas (like Iguala), which terrorizes the civilians, intimidates or controls the local governments, and runs the economy of many poor towns.

According to many experts (Shedler, O’Neil et al.) and observing the cases of the countries in the region who also suffer from organized crime, the answer to the situation could rely on plucking out said criminal organizations. According to them, the Constitutional model of organization of Mexico, which strongly reflects the legislative power of the United States (generally agreed among the best of world institutions), would be enough to launch a strong democracy, as long as the fear and effects of organized crime did not exist anymore. I disagree with this opinion. During the second half of the 20th century, PRI utilized its remarkable (in paper) creation to retain national power: the poorly established control of powers disabled the opposition and international entities from protesting the corrupted results of many elections. At the same time, they encouraged nationalist development in the country, which failed subsequently due to their corruption and international market crisis. Mexico would greatly benefit from removing the influence of crime organizations, but democracy would not be consolidated easier just like it isn’t now, and wasn’t in the past. It would require a whole reformation of the State to give democracy a safe development in this nation.


Freedom House:

Martinez Ahrens, Jan. 04 Oct. 2014. “La Muerte Anda Suelta En Iguala.” El País. Ediciones El País. Web. 28 Sept. 2015.

O’Neil, Patrick H., Karl Fields, and Don Share. 2015. Cases in Comparative Politics. 5th Edition. Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.

Shedler, Andreas. 2014. “The Criminal Subversion of Mexican Democracy.”Journal of Democracy 25(1).


13 thoughts on “Is Democracy Consolidated in Mexico?

  1. I completely agree with your assertion that in order for Mexico to be deemed consolidated, state institutions such as reliable local/state leadership and unaltered electoral processes need to be considered. You mention many issues that come from the ‘top’ of the state system. If you agree that the PRI caused decades of prolonged competitive authoritarianism, what are your thoughts on the subversion of Democracy from the informal and criminal ‘bottom’? Criminal organizations and instability arose out of the PRI’s mismanagement and lack of accountability for state-periphery affairs. A state where criminal leaders have permeated hopeful democratic institutions, cannot be considered consolidated.

    This consensus thus affects the political mindsets and civil society of the Mexican population. If the population knows the ‘level playing field’ is skewed due to corrupt officials or intimidating criminals, a sense of apathy and distrust grows within every politically conscious citizen.

    • PAN’s recent triumph over the PRI ended is decades long monopoly of presidential and congressional power. For a long time, a single political party had control of Mexico, and so the elections weren’t very meaningful — only one party had a chance of winning. This made Mexico undemocratic in many respects. That changed, and Mexico has improved its democracy, particularly in accountability to the people, dramatically.

      • I understand on you believe that Mexico has a weak democracy. However the fact the corruption has infiltrated the government and organized crime persists is not unique to the regime. Even the most sophisticated democracy faces this challenges. However is unclear that PRI’s mismanagement and failing democracy have any direct correlation.

    • You propose a very valid point, which we also read about. Analyzing this case from both the top and bottom origins can make us find different causes and situations that have weakened democracy in Mexico. Nonetheless, your analogy, in addition to that presented in the literature, make me believe stronger that THE cause of Mexico’s democratic crisis comes from the “top” alone. You have suggested that the organized criminal world is the result of a crisis (which I understand did not cover the entire 71 years of the PRI autocracy) in which the Federal government found insufficient means to aid or govern the periphery. That itself is a phenomena facilitated by what I propose is a flawed governmental system and poorly exercised Constitution.
      This is further exemplified by how the government wasn’t successful at a national scale in the 12-year involvement of PAN in the executive branch. The local and state seats held by PRI majorities and the PAN national war against drug cartels were unable to create a safe environment. Organized crime murders increased throughout this period, the economy weakened further (also due to global reasons), and this along with a feeling of hysteria led to PRI re-gaining power in 2012. In conclusion, the Mexican reality and/or the Constitution proved to be unprepared or not fit to work in conjunction.

  2. I commend you on your analysis of Mexico’s democratic flaws and their origins. You address very relevant issues such as the domination of the political environment by the PRI and organized crimes syndicates, but did you consider that it is possible that the reason for the ‘state of democracy’ in Mexico is more profound, having more to do with colonial institutions? The history of Mexico has a crucial role in understanding its present, and there must have been a precedent to the PRI’s autocratic democracy. You suggest that a ‘whole reformation of the state’ is the solution to consolidating democracy in Mexico, but if you completely undermine a nation’s foundation and revolutionize its internal structure, is it even the same state? Leaving Mexico intact, I believe that a safe development of democracy can be achieved through electoral monitoring and a third party intervention. Otherwise, a peaceful transition of power is unlikely.

  3. In the introduction I can definitely assess what the topic of your paper will be about. It instills fear and great concern for the reader regarding the intensity of the corrupted democracy. However, I do believe your second paragraph could address a more detailed assertion of this “state of democracy” you mention Mexico is in. The two causes are appropriate but are not exactly presented clearly in your second paragraph. The first cause is not presented concisely and could use a bit of syntax reversing by stating “the first cause is the autocratic control the 71yr old institutional based government famously known as the (PRI) had over Mexico’s elections”. I do agree with the many valid points relating to the organized crime. You clearly state how Mexico’s attempts to remove organized crime have failed on the corruption it faces in the government system. However, I did not get enough information or valid points on why you consider the (PRI) to be the cause of the Mexico’s current state of democracy. Although overall you do a great job on presenting your first second point!

  4. I agree with you that the PRI and corrupption are roots to the state of democracy in Mexico, but recommend you go into more detail on how exactly it is that they affect Mexico’s democratic state. However I disagree that the only solution to developing a functioning democracy in Mexico is through the whole reformation of a new state, like Bryan stated undermining the foundation of a nation would create a completely different state. In order to preserve Mexico I think the best solution would be the reformation of the parties and their structures as opposed to the structure of the state itsellf. Now that Mexico has had open elections since 2000, it is up to the people to develop or elect a party that sustains from old parties principples of corruption, and to boot out of office corrupt officials through monitored elections.

  5. Interesting points! While I agree with the corruption of the elections by the PRI is a major factor undermining the success of democracy in Mexico and supercedes the effects of other factors such as irradication of crime. If the people can not expect to have open and fair elections there is no hope for democracy and respect for law to prevail. That being said, I will not go as far as to say that they are the only factor that has given rise to the current state of democracy in Mexico. Corruption runs deep in Mexico and so long as anything goes for the right price, we shouldnt hope to see a change anytime soon. Corruption and Mexico are synonymous, albeit redundant to state, and that’s the real issue here.

  6. There is a valid point to be made here. Democracy does not exist in Mexico but the violence that the country is experiencing is not to blame. A corrupt and weak system is to blame for the incompetence of the Mexican government. With its one-term system it makes it very difficult for the incumbent to be accountable to its constituents. It allows these politicians to ignore the needs of their constituents and instead pursue their own money making agendas. Until the day that the system is reformed and the politicians are made accountable to their constituents there will never exist true democracy in Mexico.

  7. From the beginning the article caught my attention, it had a good lede. There are various valid points on your post, specially when you say that “Mexico would greatly benefit from removing the influence of crime organizations, but democracy would not be consolidated easier just like it isn’t now, and wasn’t in the past.” It is important to recognize and treat violence a serious problem, but it is also crucial to highlight the incompetence of governmental institutions. The article is concise and provides various points that later solidify your point.

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