Cárdenas augments presidential power by subordinating the entire apparatus of the official party under the chief executive. He also expands the role of the state, making it the sole mediator among competing interest groups and the arbiter of political disputes. The military is close at hand and ready to support the state in the event of opposition.
Mexican presidents are nominated by dedazo ("pointing the finger") by which the outgoing president designates his successor, to be rubber stamped by less-than-transparent national elections. Corruption runs rampant as the state plays a larger role in the economy.
Brutality and systematic human rights abuses by members of internal security forces are pervasive and go largely unpunished. Students and labor are kept under control so as not to disrupt economic growth. Mexico's rural indigenous people periodically rise in protest against poverty and encroachment by large farmers.
Several guerilla organizations operate in rural areas but remain fragmented. Many of their leaders are tracked down and killed by military forces. Armed forces open fire against thousands of students as they protest for free speech and more rights. Politically motivated "disappearances" are not uncommon. Drug trafficking and production engender a new form of criminal activity.
Personnel at the Federal Directorate of Security are found to be in league with drug traffickers. The agency is disbanded and replaced by the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISN), but it, too, is suspected of illegal activity. Government denies the existence of a White Brigade, a group of army and police officers using illegal tactics to destroy guerilla movements.
Zedillo supports military involvement in internal law enforcement and anti-drug efforts. Allegations of police brutality decline, but torture, wrongful arrests, and involvement in drug trafficking among government and law enforcement officials continue. The attorney general, claiming to crack down on illegal activities among officials, is himself suspected of ties with drug traffickers.
A rash of political assassinations in 1994 highlights the unlawful nature of the political process. Unrest in Chiapas leads the Mexican army to embrace a counterinsurgency mission against the Zapatistas to quell the rebellion. The Zapatistas agree in principle to lay down arms during peace talks in 1996, but they remain a political force.
The United States and Mexico coordinate their efforts to combat drug trafficking, but these efforts are marred by continued corruption among counternarcotics officials. Under greater international scrutiny, the number of cases of human rights violations decreases.
The relatively transparent 2000 presidential election restores some faith in the political process, but Mexico still has a poor human rights record and is under pressure from the United States to deal with drug trafficking. Stiffer penalties and militarization of the counternarcotics effort have led to few arrests. Illegal immigration into the U.S. continues to cause tension along the border.
The government releases files from the "dirty war" repression era and, after many years of glossing over the period, opens an investigation into the 1968 massacre of student protestors. In the Northern frontier city of Juarez, the unsolved murders of hundreds of women draw international attention. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani becomes a consultant to the Mexico City police.
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