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Lectura escrita por Jenifer Hellman

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  • Mexican Popular Movements, Clientelism, and the Process of DemocratizationAuthor(s): Judith Adler HellmanSource: Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 21, No. 2, Social Movements and Political Change inLatin America: 1 (Spring, 1994), pp. 124-142Published by: Sage Publications, Inc.Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2633878 .Accessed: 09/09/2014 19:34

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  • Mexican Popular Movements, Clientelism, and the Process of Democratization

    by Judith Adler Hellman

    The study of new social movements in Latin America has proven irresist- ibly attractive to many scholars. Examining these movements allows us to explore the formation of new identities, the emergence of new political and social actors, the creation of new political space, and the overall expansion of civil society. While all or any of these phenomena seem sufficiently intriguing to claim our attention in their own right, the most common rationale offered for the study of new movements is their apparent link to the democratization process. Through the last decade, in books, articles, and, above all, doctoral dissertations produced around the globe, scholars have justified their interest in new social movements in terms of the presumed importance of these organizations in the consolidation of democratic institu- tions. Most theorists writing in this field would agree with Alvarez and Escobar (1991) that these movements have "a democratizing impact on political culture and daily life" and "contribute to the democratization proc- ess." The problem for most analysts is that we do not know enough about how this takes place, that is, the way in which "grassroots democratic practices [are] transferred into the realm of political institutions and the state."

    When I look at the gap between the broader theoretical discussions of the question and the specific Mexican reality, I am tempted to attribute the faith in the democratizing powers of new movements displayed by other analysts to the fact that they are, perhaps, generalizing on the basis of South American cases. And yet, it turns out that it is not only students of the transition process in the Southern Cone or Brazil who are claiming that new social movements have this potential. On the contrary, a number of contributors to the most important recent collection on social movements in Mexico (Foweraker and

    Judith Adler Hellman is a professor of social and political science at York University, Toronto. She is the author of Mexico in Crisis (New York: Holmes and Meier, 2nd ed. 1988) and Mexican Lives (New York: The New Press, 1994). This article was originally presented at the 1991 meeting of the Latin American Studies Association in Washington, DC. The author is grateful for comments provided by Sonia Alvarez, Alberto Ciria, Arturo Escobar, Lisa Fuentes, Paul Haber, Steve Hellman, David Slater, Tamar Diana Wilson, and Sidney Tarrow.

    LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES, Issue 81, Vol. 21 No. 2, Spring 1994 124-142 ? 1994 Latin American Perspectives

    124

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  • Hellman / MEXICAN POPULAR MOVEMENTS 125

    Craig, 1990) depart-albeit with a bit more caution-from the very same premise: that the growth of a social movement sector is part and parcel of the march toward democracy. In his contribution to this volume Munck (1990: 29), for example, argues that "the demands of social movement ... necessar- ily spill over into the political arena, because access to power, or at least influence on power, given economic conditions, is needed to satisfy their demand for tangible benefits.... From here springs the great potential that the actions of social movements can form a part of a wider democratic project." And in the introduction to the book, Foweraker (1990: 3) writes, "the breadth and impetus of these movements have come to present a strong challenge to the existing system of political representation and control; recent events (and especially the elections of July 1988) have suggested that popular movements might be the wedge that will force an authentically democratic opening within the political system overall."

    What, precisely, is this "wider democratic project?" What would a "demo- cratic opening within the political system" look like? Is there any evidence that the Mexican movements observed by these scholars in the late 1980s subsequently contributed to the institutionalization of democratic expres- sion? Before we can address these questions or search for evidence of a direct link between the development of new social movements and democratization in Mexico, we need to examine the claim that the Mexican system is indeed democratizing.

    MEXICAN EXCEPTIONALISM

    While I am in complete sympathy with virtually any effort to develop a framework for understanding Latin American politics on a broad comparative level, the attempt to shoehorn the Mexican case into models designed principally to explain the military domination or the democratization of the Southern Cone and Brazil has frequently brought Mexicanists to grief. Mexico was never as authoritarian as the countries that this model was originally formulated to analyze (see Middlebrook, 1986), and the framework currently in fashion for the study of the democratization process does not provide us with a very comfortable fit for the Mexican case. This is because Mexico is not democratizing as rapidly as the slowest South American case, if, indeed, it is even limping along in that direction. Notwithstanding all our wishes to the contrary, and despite the growing presence and influence of new social movements, Mexico is not marching inexorably toward a democratic dawn.'

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  • 126 LATIN AMERICAN PERSPECTIVES

    Why, then, the confusion? Evidence that a "democratic transition" is under way in Mexico rests largely on a series of political and, above all, electoral reforms that began with Luis Echeverria's (1970-1976) response to the 1968 student movement: an apertura democratica, a "democratic opening" that loosened state censorship of the press, gave more space to democratic tendencies within the state-controlled labor movement, permitted parallel, autonomous peasant and labor movements unaffiliated with the official party sectors to organize and strike, and strengthened ties between the Partido Revolucionario Institutional (Institutional Revolutionary Party-PRI) and the Socialist International (Shapira, 1977).

    Echeverria's efforts to open up the political system and reinvest it with legitimacy culminated in the political reform that he initiated in 1976 and that came into effect under his successor, Jose Lopez Portillo (1976-1982). While the federal law on political organizations and electoral processes reinforced PRI hegemony by guaranteeing the continued numerical superiority of the official party in all governing bodies, local, state, and federal, it gave new impetus to the formation of a formal parliamentary opposition. The 1977 law facilitated the registration of new opposition parties, gave "minority parties" the right to sit on the supervisory committees at the polls, provided these parties with electoral commission grants for the payment of campaign ex- penses, and guaranteed all registered parties access to television and radio time and financial support for their parliamentary staff and their party press. The legislation also increased the size of the Chamber of Deputies and reserved a quarter of its seats to be distributed among minor parties according to the proportion they received of the total vote.

    Notwithstanding all of these encouraging changes, as the right-wing opposition Partido de Accion Nacional (National Action Party-PAN) gained strength between 1977 and 1988, the clean-up of the electoral process that many analysts anticipated would be likely to take place in a more competitive and mature electoral system did not occur. On the contrary, electoral fraud continued to be as prevalent as ever, with the PRI-controlled Federal Electoral Commission disallowing on technicalities what were in fact clear PAN victories at the state and local levels in the PAN's area of support, the northern border states. Despite a new level of interest and media scrutiny from the United States (prompted by the Reagan regime's obsessive focus on elections as the single indicator of democracy and political health in Central America), the PRI continued through the 1980s to steal elections, although it began to employ more sophisticated methods to do so (Gomez Tagle, 1987). Manipu- lation of computer data largely replaced out-and-out ballot-box theft and strong-arm tactics at the polls, although the latter also took place. And, after the 1988 elections in which the center-left coalition that formed around the

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