Mexico. On March 11, representatives of the Zapatist
guerrilla reached Mexico City after a two-week march from
the headquarters in the southern state of Chiapas. The
march, which passed through twelve states and was bordered
by howling crowds, ended with a mass meeting of up to
200,000 participants in the large central square of El
Zócalo and resulted in guerrilla representatives speaking
before Congress on March 28. The march intended to put
pressure on the government to accept a proposal for a new
law on the rights of Indians drawn up by a parliamentary
Countryaah, the proposal was subsequently accepted in a modified form
by Congress, which was criticized by the Zapatis, and the
government has announced a possible new revision of the
legislative text next year. President Vicente Fox is
particularly keen to establish a permanent peace agreement
in Chiapas to launch his so-called Puebla-Panamá plan, which
aims at industrial development in Mexico's poor southern
parts in cooperation with the Central American Republics.
The old ruling party PRI (Partido Revolucionário
Institucional), which lost last year's presidential post for
the first time in more than 70 years, has made a commitment
to find itself in its new role as opposition party. At the
November National Convention, some measures were taken to
democratize the party. A power struggle has been feared
between former Governor of Tabasco, Roberto Madrazo, and the
party's presidential candidate in the 2000 election,
Francisco Labastida. In February, however, the two phalanges
agreed to create consensus on the leadership issue.
The party also won some local elections during the year;
most cities in the states of Durango and Chihuahua, for
example, went to the PRI at the mayoral election in July. In
the new election to the governor post in Tabasco on August
5, PRI candidate Manuel Andrade was re-elected, whose
victory in October 2000 was annulled.
New economic crisis
Until December 20, the country's economy continued to
grow, but the extensive flow of speculation capital out of
the country forced the government to abandon the gradual
depreciation of the Mexican currency. In a few days, the
peso fell 42% against the dollar and the Mexican stock
market collapsed. The new crisis seriously called into
question the liberalization model imposed by the IMF and
threatened other countries in the region.
To curb the crisis, in March 95, the government adopted a
tight crisis package while receiving extensive loans from
the United States and the IMF. The harsh conditions
associated with this "help" triggered a severe recession. In
order to reduce the worst effects of the crisis package for
the popular strata, the minimum wage was raised by 10% and
the health care was extended to people who had been
unemployed for 2-6 months. Millions of Mexicans from the
Middle Ages and the petty bourgeoisie joined in 95 to
spontaneous protest movements like "El Barzón" due to the
rise in their debt as a result of the devaluation. In
August, therefore, the president announced the
implementation of a plan for the benefit of 7.5 million
The peace talks in Chiapas broke down, and in February 96
Zedillo began a new military offensive, however, which had
to be halted after significant international protests. That
same month, Raúl Salinas de Gortari was arrested as an
intellectual backer of the Ruiz Massieu murder. He was the
brother of the former president. At the same time, Mexico
requested Mario Ruiz Massieu extradited from the United
States for obstruction of the investigation into the murder
of his brother. Mario had previously sought asylum in the
United States. In November, Raúl Salinas' wife was arrested
in Switzerland as she tried to transfer larger funds from
her husband's account with fake papers. They apparently
stemmed from the laundering of drug dollars. President
Carlos Salinas declared he was annoyed at his brother's
enrichment crime.WTO (World Trade Organization) after the
end of its presidential term in 94, but this was failed due
to the scandals surrounding the PRI and his own person.
In December, the PRI and the two largest opposition
parties agreed on an electoral reform, which included
entailed the establishment of an electoral commission which
was to be independent of the government and the imposition
of an upper limit on the parties' electoral budgets.
In September, EZLN interrupted the peace talks with the
government, which had been going on for 16 months, accusing
it of breaking the agreements concluded to be insensitive
and racist. 7 months earlier, the two parties had signed the
San Andrés agreements on the rights and culture of the
indigenous peoples. In particular, they were about the right
to autonomy. The Mexican Interior Ministry responded that it
saw no reason to interrupt negotiations.
In July 97, Cuahutémoc Cárdenas was elected mayor of
Ciudad de México, while for the first time the PRD became
the largest opposition party in the Chamber of Deputies. At
the same time, the party joined forces with the conservative
PAN, the Greens and the Labor Party in an opposition
alliance facing PRI.
On December 22, 45 Tzotzil Indians were killed in the
village of Acteal in Chenalhó municipality in Chiapas. They
belonged to the pacifist group, "Las Abejas" (the bees) and
were killed by paramilitary forces with the support of the
public security forces. The massacre forced the PRI inmate
in the state, Julio Ruiz Ferro and Interior Minister Emilio
Chuayffet to resign. The Justice Department made the
subsequent investigation of the massacre a federal matter.
After Ruiz Ferro's resignation as Chiapas governor,
Zedillo appointed Roberto Albores new governor of the state.
On April 11, 98, Albores ordered hundreds of police and
soldiers to invade the town of Taniperlas. On the occasion
of the 79th anniversary of the murder of Emilio Zapata, the
city had the day before been made headquarters in the
autonomous municipality, Ricardo Flores Magón. The 32
municipalities that EZLN continued to control were put in
the highest alert. Although the San Andrés agreements were
not yet implemented in law, the Congreso Nacional Indígena
(National Indian Congress) called for the creation of new
autonomous municipalities across the country.
Referring to Article 33 of the Constitution and with
allegations of supporting the development of parallel
government structures - and thus interfering with Mexican
domestic policy - 12 foreigners were deported from Mexico.
They had stayed as observers in Taniperlas in Chaipas. The
action sparked sharp criticism - not only diplomatically but
also from the national and international civil society.
In previous years Mexico had displaced Colombia as the
most important center for the drug cartels in Latin America.
Still, the United States continued its policy of aid and
loans to Mexico, while Colombia was sent out into the cold.
This once again raised the debate about America's
contradictory policy towards Latin America.
The number of deaths while trying to reach across the US
border was quadrupled in 1998 compared to the previous year.
US Border Police used much tougher funds and stepped up
patrolling at the places where refugees used to go. It
forced them to seek new and more dangerous routes. But
despite the danger, low wages in Mexico and the lack of work
are still sending more across the border to the United
States. The number of illegal immigrants in California,
therefore, continues to rise.
In August 1999, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of the center-left
PRD and Vicente Fox of the right-wing PAN formed a historic
alliance. In an effort to break PRI's 70-year monopoly in
power, the two parties would elect one joint presidential
candidate for the July 2000 election.
However, the coalition collapsed as early as December
when PAN rejected a proposal by a group of "reputable"
citizens on how to select the coalition's presidential
candidate. The right wing had formulated 25 criticisms of a
proposal made by 14 independent personalities. These had
suggested the holding of primary elections and the conduct
of 4 polls to appoint the joint candidate for the 8
opposition parties. A study by La Reforma newspaper in the
week that the coalition collapsed showed that 63% of
Mexicans supported the formation of an opposition alliance
as a counterbalance to PRI and that 60% of those polled
preferred Vicente Fox as the alliance's presidential
candidate. Only 19% supported Cárdenas' candidacy.