Mexico was ruled by the Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) during most of the 20th
century. The country was modernized after the Second
World War. An oil boom in the 1970s was followed by a
debt crisis in 1982. Subsequently, the economy was
increasingly directed towards market economy, but a new
economic crash occurred in 1994. PRI finally lost power
and between 2000 and 2012 the country was ruled by the
Conservative National Action Party (PAN). Under PAN's
rule, the military was embroiled in a "war" against the
violence and organized crime that the drug cartels were
During World War II, Mexico's industrialization began
in earnest. The post-war era was characterized by
political stability, strong population growth, expansion
of schooling and economic expansion. The years between
1940 and 1970 are sometimes called the "Mexican
miracle". But the growth in the social economy could not
keep up with the population growth, and the cities could
not swallow all the labor flowing from the countryside.
The result was mass unemployment and the fact that
townships were growing, especially in the capital, and
an extensive emigration to the United States.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Mexico. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The PRI was long regarded as a legitimate
administrator of the Mexican revolution's ideas of
democracy and equality. In reality, Mexico was a
one-party state, where a powerful elite through unfair
electoral laws and recurring election cheats kept the
community in a strong grip. Mixed economic policy
primarily favored the upper and middle class of cities.
In the 1970s, new oil deposits were discovered around
the Tehuantepec nose. An oil boom followed, the outside
world provided generous loans and the Mexican economy
showed impressive growth figures. But the success was
short-lived. Falling oil prices, high interest rates on
foreign currency loans, an oversized public sector and
general financial distress led Mexico to bankruptcy in
Drastic austerity measures were implemented, and
after a few years the economy began to show signs of
recovery. However, this was done at the price of
deteriorating living conditions for middle and low
income earners, and widespread dissatisfaction emerged
among traditional PRI supporters. The criticism against
the government grew after the severe earthquake that hit
Mexico City in 1985 with surrounding areas. Over 20,000
people perished and about 300,000 became homeless. The
reconstruction work was ineffective and those
responsible were accused of embezzling aid.
A rapid fall in oil prices in 1986 forced a shift in
economic policy. Import restrictions were switched to
free trade, and parts of the large state industrial
sector were sold to private owners. One result of the
criticism of PRI was a new electoral law with a mix of
proportional and majority elections and with state
support for political parties.
In the 1988 presidential election, PRI candidate
Carlos Salinas won by a narrow margin and after a
disputed voting process. Salinas implemented market
economy reforms aimed at liberalization, privatization,
free competition, free trade and budgetary balance.
Foreign investment poured into the country. But the
major class differences in society persisted.
On New Year's Day 1994, a few thousand residents of
the state of Chiapas in the far south began an armed
uprising against the government demanding land reform,
democracy and social improvements, mainly for the
indigenous peoples. They called themselves the Zapatista
National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de
Liberación Nacional, EZLN), after the old revolutionary
leader Zapata (see Older history). After a brief battle
between the rebels and the army, negotiations began with
the church as mediator.
Within the PRI, the reforms of the political system
had created a divide between the government and the
party's traditional power elite. Five months before the
1994 presidential election, the PRI presidential
candidate was assassinated and a few weeks after the
election, the party's secretary general was
assassinated. Most point to the fact that they fell
victim to conspiracies within the party leadership and a
number of high-ranking politicians were arrested in the
following years on suspicion of involvement in the
death. At the same time, a number of other murders took
place, including at a bishop, as well as kidnappings
linked to the drug cartels.
The 1994 presidential election was won by Ernesto
Zedillo, who has now become the PRI candidate. He got
off to a rough start: the Chiapas uprising, the violence
and the political chaos deterred foreign investors and
diminished confidence in the Mexican currency, the peso.
In December 1994, an acute currency crisis was a fact.
Pesons plummeted in value, stock prices fell and the
entire Latin American financial world was shaken.
International credit agencies and the United States
entered into billion in early 1995 to stem the so-called
The government implemented tough austerity measures
and raised taxes, while interest rates and prices
skyrocketed. Bankruptcies hit large sections of the
middle class and about one million people lost their
jobs. But in 1996, the economy began to recover and
Mexico was able to repay large parts of the crisis loans
fairly quickly. In the 1997 congressional elections, the
PRI lost for the first time its absolute majority in the
Chamber of Deputies. Three years later, a point was made
for the party's long holding of power.
When the right-wing PAN's candidate Vicente Fox won
the 2000 presidential election, the PRI was defeated for
the first time in 71 years. In Congress, the PRI
remained the largest party, albeit by a small margin.
Without congressional support, Fox had a hard time
enforcing promised reforms.
Rights of indigenous peoples
The rioting uprising in Chiapas was reminiscent of
early 2001, when a large group of Zapatists, with their
mythical leader "subcomendante" Marcos, led a three-week
march against the capital demanding increased rights for
the indigenous peoples. March participants were met
everywhere by flag-waving people and in the capital,
150,000 people gathered to pay tribute to Marcos.
President Fox promised to meet some of the requirements,
and new laws were passed that at least on paper
strengthen the rights of indigenous peoples.
In the spring of 2006, a demonstration in San
Salvador Atenco outside Mexico City led to riots and
several deaths, and a teacher strike in Oaxaca led to a
social uprising with several dead and many arrested. The
police were criticized for assault, sexual abuse and
torture in both cases.
The 2006 presidential election was a smooth match
between PAN's candidate Felipe Calderón and his main
challenger, Mexico City's popular mayor Andrés Manuel
López Obrador, a candidate for the Leftist Democratic
Revolutionary Party (PRD). PRI's candidate came a long
way. In the congressional elections, PAN became the
largest party for the first time.
When Calderón was declared victorious in the
presidential election, López Obrador and his supporters
refused to accept the result. The left demanded that all
votes be recalculated. A tense political situation
ensued and mass protests on the streets paralyzed the
capital for weeks. Only after two months was the
official result clear: Calderón had won by a 0.6
percentage point margin. Foreign observers, from the EU,
among others, considered that the election had been
carried out correctly. Despite this, the protests
In December 2006, Calderón could still take over as
president. One of his first steps was to lower wages for
himself, the government and high-ranking government
officials as part of a austerity package. He succeeded
better than his predecessor in implementing structural
reforms, including by agreeing with PRI on many issues.
In 2007, a change was made to the pension system and new
tax legislation that would increase the state's income.
War against the drug leagues
One of Calderón's main promises was that he would
take action against drug-related violence and police
corruption, using the military. About 50,000 soldiers
were deployed to fight the drug leagues. But the tougher
shots led to the situation deteriorating. The murder
rate rose and organized crime spread throughout the
country (see Democracy and Rights).
At the beginning of 2009, it was clear that the
international financial crisis had hit the economy hard.
Money shipments from the US declined, as did exports.
During the spring, the infectious swine flu also broke
out, spreading from Mexico and coming to be classified
as a pandemic. The infection caused great concern and
hit the important tourism industry and the food
At the same time, the image of Mexico was
increasingly characterized by widespread violence. It
contributed to a defeat for PAN in the 2009 general
election. PRI more than doubled its representation and
gained close to half the seats, giving Calderón a more
difficult government position during the second half of
his six-year term.
PRI will return
Nevertheless, PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto,
former governor of the state of Mexico, won by a good
margin ahead of López Obrador, who was again the PRD's
presidential candidate. For PAN, things went worse,
partly because of dissatisfaction that the violence
continued to increase despite Calderón's major efforts
to overcome it.
As in the previous election, López Obrador claimed
that cheating and irregularities occurred, with bribery
and manipulation of media reporting. PAN also protested.
López Obrador, who was supported by tens of thousands of
protesters in the capital, forced a recast of some of
the votes, but the result was firm. He then filed a
formal appeal, but two months after the election, the
Supreme Electoral Court determined the outcome. The
situation never became as chaotic as after the 2006
election. López Obrador left the PRD after the election
defeat and instead focused on the left-wing National
Renewal Movement (Morena).
In its 2012 entry, Peña Nieto presented an ambitious
reform plan and a "pact for Mexico" to which the two
major opposition parties PRD and PAN had already joined.
Later, PRI's closest ally, the environmental party PVEM,
also joined the plan.
Pact in 95 points
The pact consisted of 95 points, including
strengthening the rule of law and social justice,
boosting the economy, increasing security and reducing
corruption, and strengthening democratic governance. How
the reforms were to be financed was not entirely clear,
but the pact also contained plans for increased tax
collection. Peña Nieto's promises of increased
competition contributed to a strong influx of foreign
investment, which pushed the stock exchange to record
levels and strengthened the currency against the dollar.
Initially, Peña Nieto was successful with her pact.
In a short time, the government succeeded in, among
other things, passing through structural reforms in the
education system and the telecom and energy sector.
The educational reform means, among other things,
that compulsory evaluations of teachers have been
introduced, in order to overcome corruption and abuse in
appointments and professional activities. The unions who
feared mass redundancies protested vigorously. Strikes
and violent demonstrations - sometimes with fatal
outcome - occurred for several years (see also
Contested energy reform
In the telecommunications sector, the semi-monopoly
previously held by billionaire Carlos Slim was unlocked,
and foreign ownership was allowed. At the same time, a
limit was set at 49 percent for foreign ownership in the
The most controversial was the reforms in the energy
field. The plans to open up the state-controlled oil
industry for private investment required a
constitutional change. Peña Nieto assured that it was
not a privatization, but rather a loosening of existing
rules. PAN set conditions for its support and received
some changes to the electoral laws. But the PRD was
unhappy and one year after Peña Nieto's accession, the
party unexpectedly withdrew from the pact. Despite this,
Congress soon afterwards took a first step towards
dissolving the state's strict monopoly in the oil
industry (see further Economic overview).
In spite of election promises on other measures
against the violence, the military continued to be used
in the fight against drug-related violence. After a
certain decline, the violence soon rose instead, to
record high levels (see Democracy and Rights).
Authorities at all levels attempted to obscure abuses
committed by security forces, including torture of
A particularly noteworthy case occurred in the fall
of 2014 when 43 teacher students disappeared without a
trace, following a demonstration that ended with them
being arrested by Iguala police in the state of
Guerrero. Gradually, it became clear that the students
were murdered by members of a criminal gang - on behalf
of local authorities. No clarity could be brought into
exactly what happened to the students. Several
independent investigations, with the participation of
foreign experts, rejected an official statement that
their corpse was burned at a dump. Relatives of the
missing students and other critics continued to protest
throughout the country for several years.
The corruption of government officials - and rising
violence - contributed to historic losses for the PRI in
the governor's election in June 2016. PRI lost control
of six of the twelve states in question, four of which
the party ruled for almost 90 years.
The PRI's crusade continued in the presidential and
congressional elections in July 2018. The party's
presidential candidate, José Antonio Meade, received
just under 15 percent of the vote and came in third
place. Victory did this time Andres Manuel López Obrador
who stood for the third time, now for Morena. López
Obrador won convincingly, with 52 percent of the vote.
At the same time, his left alliance gained a majority in
both chambers of Parliament.