How the presidency of Ernesto Zedillo changed Mexico

During the 1990s Mexico was suffering from economic issues, scandals of corruption in federal agencies, and social uprisings. In 1994 the Peso collapsed and which led to economic chaos. Moreover, an uprising of a guerrilla group began in the southern state of Chiapas. Under these conditions, President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon took office (1994-2000). His presidential term was marked by the problems that Mexico was facing and how he responded to these problems.

Zedillo was the beginning of an end for the political party Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). For over sixty years, the PRI maintained absolute control over state and federal government. This political party was able to hold power for so long with fixed political campaigns, corruption, and sometimes with the use of force. Zedillo recognized that under this system the country would not be able to progress. That the country needed competitive political campaigns with other political parties that would pressure the PRI to become better in order to win elections. He also recognized that Congress needed to be formed by a diverse group of politicians from other political parties. Zedillo accomplished his vision and during the 1997 state elections, the Mexicans all around the nation voted for different political parties and not only for the PRI. Moreover, Zedillo decided not to select his successor to the presidency, which was a tradition for the PRI. By doing this, during the 2000 presidential campaign, the PRI did not have a strong candidate for the presidency which led to the PRI first presidential campaign lost in its history. Zedillo’s term led Mexico to a political reformation that created a political establishment that was characterized for being more diverse and honest.

Mexico Under Zedillo, edited by Susan Kaufman Purcell and Luis Rubio. A book that summarizes and analyses the presidential of Ernesto Zedillo.

Forum Debate: Winning the War on Drugs: Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon
Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon, Director, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, Yale University, USA; World Economic Forum Foundation Board Member; Global Agenda Council on Institutional Governance Systems is captured during the Forum Debate: ‘Winning the War on Drugs’ at the Annual Meeting 2013 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 24, 2013.

The peso collapsed just months after Zedillo took office. For this reason, his presidential term was marked by economic instability and a need for some kind of reform. Zedillo responded to this crisis with the continuation of his predecessors’ strategy who decided to abolish state-owned corporations and led the private sector rule the Mexican economy. Moreover, in January 1994, the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force which opened the doors for more foreign investments. Zedillo, his economic advisers, and the businessmen in Mexico were convinced that NAFTA was the solution for the economic problem. However, farm workers around Mexico disagreed. In the southern state of Oaxaca, a guerrilla group conformed by farmers resurrected to stop NAFTA. They were convinced that NAFTA would make them unemployment and that they would be able to compete with the low prices of foreign companies. His fears were real, by 2008 thousands of farmers were unemployment, which led to a massive immigration to the United States.

President Zedillo was never able to address the scandals of politicians that were accused of being connected to criminal organizations. Drug cartels under his term were able to infiltrate to organizations such the Mexican army and acquired control over these organizations. A clear example of this is the 1997 scandal on which military generals were accused of accepting money from drug lords. In February 1997, General Gutierrez Redollo was the first general that loses his job and went to prison because of these accusations. General Gutierrez was accused of receiving money from the leader of the Juarez Cartel, a cartel that increased his power during the 1990s and beginnings of the 2000s. By the end of Zedillo’s term, it was clear that these scandals were not an isolated problem.

Narcomex by Ricardo Ravelo. A book that explains the history behind the drug cartels.

Zedillo’s political reformation allowed the integration of other political parties to the national establishment. The economic crisis that Mexico suffered during the 1990s also pushed citizens to new political ideologies. Criminal organizations under Zedillo’s term began to infiltrate in national organizations such as the national army. Zedillo’s presidency was the beginning of a new political structure, a new social structure, but an end of the political party.


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