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1976,Mexico

In late September, the ruling, Partido Revolucionario Institucional's (PRI) announced that Treasury Minister José López Portillo would be its candidate for the presidency. It seemed obvious that he was chosen because the "Revolutionary Family" believed that economic problems in the years of recession and inflation required a expert public administrator. The nominee, a political moderate, seemed likely to continue many of the liberal reforms instituted by President Echeverría, a childhood friend. The official nomination came in November.

The National Action Party, the major opposition, met in November to debate electoral participation and select a nominee. However, it suffered a deep schism and most of the moderate-progressive wing of the party left; the part adjourned its convention without nominating anyone.

The only electoral opposition came from Valentín Campa of the Communist Party; the other parties supported the PRI candidate (who got 96% of the vote). Winning under these circumstances lessened the mandate of López Portillo and gave the lie to the assertion that Mexican politics were democratic.

The two new leftist parties did not receive the official recognition necessary to be on the ballot. When the Minister of National Patrimony advocated Mexican membership in OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries) in January, he was dismissed. Since the United States would strongly oppose such a move, Mexico could not afford to join.

President Echeverría spoke at the National Autonomous University in March, but driven out by students and their supporters who threw bottle and rocks at him. He was the cabinet minister responsible for the massacre of students at the Tlatelolco housing complex in October, 1968 and the president when right-wing thugs, linked to the government, attacked a student demonstration in June, 1971. The attack was unprecedented and represented a distinct break in the tradition of treating the president's person as sacrosanct.

Echeverría's government was sympathetic to education. Mexico budgeted $2.4 billion for its 16 million students but the task of providing educational opportunities for all K-12 students was insurmountable. Nevertheless, new state universities were created in Chihuahua state in Ciudad Juárez, Chiapas state, and Coahuila state. The federal government paid 50% of state university costs and has in. creased support for the national university and national polytechnical institute by 80% since 1970.

New government-issued textbooks in the social and natural sciences drew strong protests from the ultra-conservative National Parents Union. The Union made the false accusations that the textbooks taught Marxist-Leninism. In addition, it said that they promoted sexual practices, an odd charge since the books did not deal explicitly with sexual practices and the Unio never defined in detail what "normal" sexual practices were. President . Echeverría defended the texts as being consistent with Mexican nationalism and democratic views. In August federal employees' salaries were raised by 16% to help offset inflation. The private sector was expected to follow this lead. New laws strengthened the enforcement of minimum wages and fixed minimum professional salaries. Further pro-labor measures included an increase in profit-sharing funds and expanded worker-protection. Congress passed a new consumer protection measure.

The Ministry of Agrarian Reform was created as a gesture to the Revolutionary shibboleth of land redistribution but the Ocampo Pact, which unified the four major farmer organizations, brought rural Mexico more firmly under government control. Some 19% of total public investment was designated for the rural sector, not enough given that some of the agricultural sector was barely surviving but, given the budgetary demands of urban areas, which had more political clout, still a substantial percentage. The government continued to promote increased agricultural production and collective approaches to agriculture. The newly-created National Rural Credit Bank took control of existing agricultural credit institutions.

Mexico, although an oil producer, was hurt by the oil price increases of 1973-74 which set off an inflationary spiral and created a recession just as it happened in the United States to whose economy Mexico was closely tied. There were some successes in the effort to combat these problems. By September, the central bank reported that the consumer price index rose only 8.3% and the wholesale price index 9.4% in the first eight months of 1975. Industrial production was up 2.2% over the 1974 average in the first six months of the year. However, by July production had risen 6.1% since December 1974. Leading the recovery were electricity (up 7.9%), manufacturing (up 7.4%), construction (up 6.7%), and petroleum (up 3.1%). Petrochemicals and mining had fallen 28.1% and 7.8%, respectively, since December. Tourism and border transaction, important for earning foreign exchange as well as income, fell during the year, prompting the creation of the Ministry of Tourism and the exemption of tourists from the 15% hotel and restaurant tax. Although exports fell 7% in the first quarter, new export stimulation efforts and a simplified tariff schedule encouraged a trade revival by midyear.

Through increased taxation and charges for services, government revenue increased 48% to represent, 11% of the gross domestic product. Income for state participation and decentralized agencies increased 20%. The government planned to spend about $24 billion, an increase of 25%, during 1975. Of this, $7.3 billion was destined for public investment. Industry was given top priority with a 35% share. The size of the state sector and its constant growth concerned many but the Echeverría government was not worried.

Mexican crude petroleum production was expected to reach 830,000 barrels a day by

the end of the year, allowing the country to continue exports and earn foreign exchange. Mexico exported $176 million of petroleum products in the first six months of 1975. A new oil field was discovered in Chiapas state in August, and natural gas, which Mexico had been importing, was discovered in the northern part of the country. Energy policy called for self-financed increases in capacity while searching for diversified, new sources.

President Echeverría continued his policy of seeking Third World leadership as well as trade and loan agreements. In July and August, he made a 14-country, 41day tour of 3 continents, the longest presidential trip in Mexican history. His support of Third World causes, including those of the Panamanians and the Palestinians, was interpreted as an effort to obtain the secretary generalship of the United Nations or a Nobel Peace Prize. He was doomed to failure, however. Mexico planned to extend its offshore control to 200 miles (320 km), thus preserving the Gulf of California for Mexican exploitation. The Pan American Games were staged in Mexico City in October.

Women's World Conference. Mexico hosted the UN-sponsored Commission on Women's Legal and Social Conditions from June 19 to July 2. Attended by prominent women from throughout the world, the conference was addressed by President Echeverría.

The nation of 59,200,000 people (1975 est.) manufactured petroleum products, iron, steel, chemicals, transport equipment, aluminum, pharmaceuticals, cement and grew corn, cotton, sugarcane, wheat, vegetables, citrus fruits, fish, as its principal activities. Foreign Trade in 1974 in exports was $3,420,000,000 while imports were $6,518,000,000. The peso was 12.5 pesos to the U. S.$1in March 1975).

Chief Cities (1974): Mexico City, the capital, 7,000,000; Guadalajara, 1,200,000; Monterey, 1,000,000.

Donald J. Mabry

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