politics in Mexico (updated)

During the last presidential elections in Mexico, I just happened to be visiting my grandmother. I never anticipated getting a first-hand experience of a history-making event in that country. My grandmother is in her seventies. Her sisters are pretty much the same age. For many of them, and their friends, that election was the first time they voted. The first time in their entire lives.

Now the country is approaching a new election, under differen circumstances.

Bosses still call shots on local level
— reported by the Houston Chronicle

Mexico votes July 2 in what could be the most hotly contested presidential race in its history.

This is not a watershed election like President Vicente Fox’s dramatic victory in 2000 over a 71-year-old authoritarian regime. Instead, this year’s vote underscores Mexico’s difficult, unsteady march toward democracy.

There has been progress. Fears of wholesale ballot rigging have faded. Freedom of expression has grown. Rulers listen more to the ruled. But as candidates for president, congress, statehouses and city halls shower voters with promises, many Mexicans remained confused by, and largely disenchanted with, the democratic experiment.

Under Fox, the once all-reaching power of Mexico’s presidency has continued to unravel. Fox “destroyed the presidential aura,” Mexican democracy activist Guillermo Pizzuto said.

Trouble is, there’s nothing to replace it. And now, everyone from old-time political bosses and ranchers to mayors and congressmen is angling to fill the void.

In Mexican democracy today, change is everywhere and nowhere. Politicians change political parties. The parties change their platforms. People change the channel.

Yet old pockets of power persist, largely untouched and even bolstered by the weakened presidency.

In a three-part series beginning today, the Houston Chronicle explores some of the less visible but enduring centers of Mexican political power.

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Author: Paloma Cruz

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