Mexico in 1994:
Politics and Public Life
On New Year's Day, 1994, peasant rebels took over six towns in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Chiapas is one of the poorest states in Mexico, suffering from job declines in coffee and oil production, and with a sizable ethnic population (Mayan Indians). The rebels, who call themselves the Emiliano Zapata National Liberation army (EZLN), also carried out acts of terrorism in several central states and planted car bombs in Mexico City. Their leader, who calls himself Subcommander Marcos, described the rebellion as a rebellion of the poor masses against the rich few, and argued that the government needs to create a new economic system that better serves the needs of the poor. While the rebellion never significantly threatened the stability of the government and has been largely surpressed, it did cause considerable bloodshed (86 persons died in the fighting during the first few days of 1994), and has ocassionally flared up again. Particularly before the August election, the Chiapas rebellion led some to question the extent of popular support for the government's economic program.
On March 23, 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio, the presidential candidate of the ruling party (PRI), was assassinated. While the assassin was arrested, the issue of whether he was part of a broader conspiracy was not resolved. In mid-July the special investigator for the case announced that the assassin had acted alone. Evidence that later emerged after the assassination of another prominent PRI politician, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, indicated strong connections to figures within the PRI and a possible link to the Colosio assassination.
Selected as the PRI's presidential candidate in November of 1993, Colosio vowed not to accept any illegal votes and prepared for a tough presidential campaign. Public opinion polls suggested that Colosio had the support of only 27-40% of voters and thus needed to make up ground in his campaign. Colosio faced strong opposition within the PRI from Manuel Camacho Solis, mayor of Mexico City and a close friend of Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari. After the assassination, Camacho and Ernest Zedillo, the former Education Minister and Colosio's campaign manager, were the most prominent possible substitutes for Colosio. Zedillo was ultimately chosen.
On August 21, 1994, Mexican voters elected as president Ernesto Zedillo from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He received about 50% of the votes, while Diego Fernandez de Cevallos of the National Action Party (PAN) received about 30% and Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) received about 16%. The PRI lost seats in the Congress but retained governing power. Observers were generally surprised by the amount of support that the PRI received, particularly among the poor, who voted overwhelmingly for the PRI. The PRI has governed Mexico since 1929 as a party organized around well-connected political families. Some have charged that the PRI has used fraud to control the electoral process. In any case, before 1994 the outcome of elections in Mexico never was subject to much doubt. The election of 1994 was distinctive both because it was largely considererd to be free from faud and because there was considerable uncertainty about the outcome.
Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, who was to become the ruling party (PRI) majority leader in the lower house of Congress, was assassinated on September 28, 1994. Within two weeks PRI Congressman Manuel Munoz Rocha was linked to the assassination. Two weeks later, the assistant attorney general investigating the case, Mario Ruiz Massieu, the brother of the assassinated politician, resigned. He asserted that he had proof that high officials in the PRI were blocking his investigation. On February 28, 1995, Raul Salinas de Gortari, the brother of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, was arrested as the mastermind of the Ruiz Massieu assassination. Three days later Mario Ruiz Massieu was arrested in Newark, NJ, boarding a plan to Madrid while carrying $46,000 in unreported cash. The Mexican government charged him with impeding the investigation into his brother's murder. The Mexican government found seventeen million dollars in U.S. bank accounts linked to Mario Ruiz Massieu. These facts suggested the involvement of drug traffickers in the Ruiz Massieu conspiracy. Shortly after the arrest of his brother and Mario Ruiz Massieu, former President Salinas went on a hunger strike in a house in a poor neighbor rebuilt under his Solidarity anti-poverty program. Salinas protest against the assault on his "personal honor" ended after 36 hours, and symbolized the changed position of Mexico's traditional ruling party.
Mexican Economic Crisis