The Madeleine Brand Show for June 26, 2012

Chronicling the history of Mexico's PRI political party

Alex Cossio/AP

Mexican presidential front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, waves to the crowds during a campaign stop in the northern border city of Tijuana, Mexico, on June 3.

Sunday in Mexico, voters will choose their next president, and he could be a lot like the old presidents.

Enrique Peña Nieto has a double-digit lead over his rivals. He's a member of the PRI party, which ruled Mexico for 70 years before being thrown out 12 years ago. At the time, that outster was seen as a victory for democracy because the PRI's power and corruption went unchecked for decades.

Why is the PRI on the verge of a comeback just a dozen years after it was thrown out? Drug violence could be one reason. In less than a decade, 50,000 Mexicans have died in the drug wars.

First, a brief history lesson. The PRI's initial reign started off far more positively, ruling for 71 years. In the early years it delivered economic growth and stability, but it became increasingly out of touch with corruption. Ultimately, it wasn't delivering economically, and it was accused of being in cahoots with the drug trade.

Current Mexican President Felipe Calderón's strategy against the drug trade was to go after cartel kingpins, which in turn has created chaos and provoked inter-cartel violence. Under the PRI in the past, the drug cartels were considered a managed trade; they were able to ensure that violence didn't go beyond a certain point.

Guest:

Harley Shaiken, Chair of the Center for Latin American Studies at Berkeley


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