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Perpetuating Power: How Mexican Presidents…

Perpetuating Power: How Mexican Presidents Were Chosen

by Jorge Castañeda

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Jorge Casta#65533;eda, who served as Mexico's foreign minister from 2000 to 2003, has been both an insider and an outsider in Mexico's political system. In Perpetuating Power, he lays bare the often mystifying workings of power in Mexico, offering readers what the New York Times Book Review called "an unusually revealing explication of the inner workings of three decades of presidential succession." To outside observers, Mexico stood out for its odd mixture of democratic pretension with autocratic inevitability: there were always elections, but everyone knew the next president would be the candidate of the aptly named Party of the Institutional Revolution, which governed Mexico throughout most of the last century. In six penetrating essays combined with interviews by Casta#65533;eda with each of the living Mexican ex-presidents, Perpetuating Power provides a remarkably candid account of the political machinery behind Mexican presidential politics and a view, startling to political outsiders, of how power really operates.… (more)



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As the title says, this book is a review of how presidents were chosen in Mexico's one-party system between 1970 and 1994. This could have be an interesting case study if the author had focused on the contradictions of quasi-democratic one-party rule in a relatively free society, but instead he just narrates how each president designated his successor. So page after page lists the names various people in the president's cabinet and inner circle, and explains how they did or did not get along with each other, who influenced the selection process, and how each president eventually settled on the candidate who succeeded him.

The first part of the book contains the author's own analysis of the successions, and the second part contains transcripts of interviews with the Mexican presidents who were still living when the book was written. These interviews contain some amusing comments especially on the elections of 1988, when the party leadership distraughtly realized that their means for electoral fraud might be insufficient for bringing forth the result they had decided beforehand. But other than that, I don't think this book can be of much interest to non-Mexicans.

The author does not put the presidential selection mechanism into any general societal context. The internal squabbles of Mexican political elites are hardly of much interest without some analytic tools which would enable the reader to draw parallels to other political systems, such as China, for example. All in all, I can certainly see that this book is of interest for locals who lived through these years, but readers who don't have any previous familiarity with the persons involved in the narrative will probably find it uninformative.
  thcson | Oct 28, 2017 |
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