Out now, Mexico: Democracy Interrupted is a frank portrait of the country since the historic 2000 presidential election. In her book, Jo Tuckman, a top Guardian reporter, looks at the nation’s problems (corruption, drug wars, bitter poverty) and discusses why they seem so intractable. With the next election looming, and with fresh scandals highlighting the fragile state of Mexican democracy, we take a look at this exciting and timely new book.
In 2000, Mexico’s long invincible Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost the presidential election to Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN). The ensuing changeover – after 71 years of uninterrupted PRI dominance – was hailed as the beginning of a new era of hope for Mexico. This Sunday (July 1), the country goes to the polls to vote on its next president, a hotly contested race which sees the PRI back in the lead (according to opinion polls) and the PAN lagging behind in third place. Meanwhile, a huge media scandal unfolds, regular grass roots demonstrations take to the streets and political unrest continues to grow. Perhaps not such a ‘new era’ after all.
Those following world news will have read about the recent scandal over the Mexican media’s biased toward Peña Nieto of the PRI. On Tuesday, the Guardian‘s Jo Tuckman reported that the country’s largest media group, Televisa, has been linked to the illegal sale of favourable coverage to Peña Nieto’s campaign, quite possibly one of the man factors in his party’s resurgence. This scandal has only bolstered the student-led pro-democracy movement known as #iam132 (or #yosoy132 in Spanish), who took to the streets in the thousands last weekend to demonstrate.
It makes sense that Jo Tuckman, who is based in Mexico and is one of the formost authorities on its current political climate, should write a book called Mexico: Democracy Interrupted. In her vivid account of Mexico’s recent history, Tuckman investigates the nation’s young democracy, its shortcomings and achievements, and why the PRI is favoured to retake the presidency in 2012.
A seasoned reporter, Tuckman investigates the murky, terrifying world of Mexico’s drug wars, the counterproductive government strategy, and the impact of U.S. policies. She describes the reluctance and inability of politicians to seriously tackle rampant corruption, environmental degradation, pervasive poverty and acute inequality. To make matters worse, Tuckman reports, the influence of non-elected interest groups has grown and public trust in almost all institutions – including the Catholic church – is fading. The pressure valve once presented by emigration is also closing.
However, as Tuckman finds out, there are positive signs: Mexico’s impartial media organisations cannot be easily controlled, and small but determined citizen groups such as #iam132 notch up significant, if partial, victories for accountability. While Mexico faces complex challenges that can often seem insurmountable, Tuckman concludes, the unflagging vitality and imagination of many in Mexico inspire hope for a better future.
As stories continue to break on the political situation in Mexico, Tuckman’s book is an essential read for anyone interested in how the country arrived at its present state, truly a democracy interrupted.
Mexico: Democracy Interrupted is available now from Yale University Press.