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Mexico, 1940-76

Did the Revolution end in 1940?

What do you mean by Revolution? Social Security instituted, a little, under Cárdenas. It has grown since. Other goals of the Revolution were slowly implemented after 1940. The Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) was created in 1946 from the Partido de la Revolución Mexicana. The Revolution was supposedly institutionalized. In fact, the PRI became the conservative force in Mexican politics until the end of the century but convinced the Mexican public and many scholars (domestic and foreign) that it was liberal or even leftist. The presidents since 1940 have been good, grey Tom Deweys, administrators, not leaders. They have implemented benefits for the people and democratic reforms only when they had to do so.

Political System Since 1940

Party concentrated in National Committee in Mexico City (the Distrito Federal). The power of the President of Mexico is greater than the power of the US president. Competition for the presidency can be fierce. Until late in the 20th century, it was done behind closed doors. An incumbent president tried to discourage futurism, the constant speculation as to who his successor would be. The decision began to be made a year or such before election. The President announced the designated one, the "El Tapado." The majority view is that politicians of the party and a good many of the ex-presidents choose candidate. The minority view is that big business is involved. The size of party has brought forth complaints. In 1965, Carlos Madrazo was appointed head of the party. He made public statements that sympathized with idea of size too big and that nominations should be made at local level. Seemed to argue that the party be democratized. Those who had power refused to consider the idea. Madrazo died in an airplane crash that year.

Mexico enjoyed considerable economic success. It had an average 6% growth rate in its Gross National Product for 27 yrs, what is often called the "Mexican Miracle." Both industry and agriculture grew but the agricultural sector grew more in the export sector. By the 1970s, Mexico had to import some basic foodstuffs. The governments have been sensible about diversifying exports. The tourist trade brings hundreds of millions of dollars. No other country approaches Mexico. It has brought a trade balance, i.e. makes up for the imbalance of imports over exports. Tourism includes border transactions.

Great care was taken with fiscal transactions under the leadership of Antonio Ortiz Mena, Secretary of Treasury from 1958 until 1970. He approached finances conservatively and with great discipline. His successor, Hugo B. Margaín, tried to follow similar policies but President Luis Echeverría fired him in 1973 and replaced him with his childhood friend, José López Portillo. Echeverría went on a spending and borrowing spree. Although López Portillo was initially more cautious when he became president in late 1976, he so mismanaged the economy that Mexico was defaulting on its debt in 1982. In the 1940-54 period (WWII and the Korean War), Mexico suffered high inflation but brought it under control. It was not until the oil price revolution of 1973-74 and Echeverría's attempt to buy favor with a spending spree that inflation again became a problem.

To protect the average person, the government used selective price controls. CEIMSA, succeeded by CONASUPO, controlled the price of rice, sugar, tortillas, and other basic foods by buying crops and selling them to processors at a loss. CONASUPO developed subsidized retail stores, some on trucks, so that the poor might have access to basic household goods. When discussing inequitable income distribution, one has to remember that there is also imputed income.

The armed forces get only about 10% of national budget, a measure of the ability to reduce power of military.

Business in Mexico worried a lot that government autonomous organizations meant or will mean the end of private enterprise. This has not been the case. The government used them as a yardstick and to do things that private enterprise can't or won't do. The problem has been that there is no inherent economic check on state enterprises; they grow because people want jobs and power and wealth. They can easily be corrupted. Commercial activity has always been disparaged in Latin America. It has been called exploitive. This cry became fainter in Mexico. There has been the growth of department stores. There was considerable Mexicanization of ownership in stores, mines, and others enterprises.

Public housing was confined to the big cities because urban areas are more politically dangerous to a regime; it is more visible and, thus, more helpful to prove the government is doing something.

The bureaucracy is much like the rest of Latin America. More corrupt, less well-trained, and less efficient than in US. This is partly result of problem of unemployment. Compartmentalization of bureaucracy is encouraged by President.

PRONAF (national frontier program) was begun in 1950, promoted by Chambers of Commerce. Its purposes were to try to reduce the economic dependence of the northern border on the US and integrate it into Mex economy, and to clean up the northern border region. It has been very successful but has produced its own problems as people have flocked to the northern border faster than the government can build infrastructure.

The government made an effort to decentralize economy, especially industrial activity. Have tried to move or start industry in areas other than the Distrito Federal but without much success. The DF is the center of political and economic power with the best transportation connections in the country.