Mexico Between 1996 and 1999

In February 1996 the negotiations led to the signing of a compromise agreement (San Andrés agreements) which set aside the question of agrarian reform and offered a series of guarantees in favor of the cultural, linguistic and local autonomy rights of the Indians.

If for Chiapas the moment of negotiations seemed to prevail, in another state, that of Guerrero, tensions between peasant groups and local police remained high and caused, in June 1995, the killing of 17 peasants. The event led to the resignation, in March 1996, of Governor R. Figueroa and to new clashes in June, on the occasion of the commemoration of the massacre organized by the Ejército Popular Revolucionario (EPR), an armed opposition formation that worked against the government positions above all in the states of México and Oaxaca. In November 1995, a third rebel force also appeared, called Ejército Revolucionario Popular Insurgente., who declared that he wanted to act in the central and northern states of the country. The case of Chiapas and the rise of the other economically backward regions of Mexico (the Zapatistas had always dissociated themselves from the other movements) seemed to be united by the refusal to be part of that globalization so much declaimed by the Mexican ruling class and which fueled growing doubts about the effectiveness for Mexico of the NAFTA choice, accused of favoring only the export sector (of the maquiladoras companies located on the border with the USA), of keeping real wages unchanged and domestic consumption levels low.

With great relief for Mexico, 1996 and the first months of 1997 marked a turning point both on the economic and political front, allowing Mexico, in January 1997, to repay, more than three years in advance, all the debt incurred. with the US (3, 5 billion) as a result of the crisis in 1994, and also to anticipate the repayment of other 1, 5 billion dollars to the international monetary Fund. The Mexican electorate then began to broaden its choices by clearly favoring the opposition in the municipal and regional elections of 1996 and 1997.. In the elections of 6 July 1997, the PRI retained the majority in the Senate (77 seats out of 128), but lost it in the Chamber (239 seats, 31 % of the votes) where instead the oppositions were strengthened with the 122 seats of the PAN (27 % of votes) and 125 PRD seats (26 %). The remaining seats were won by the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM, 8 seats) and by the PT (6 seats). For Mexico 1996, please check

The poor electoral results of the PRI sharpened the differences between the two factions of the party leading to the resignation of the president of the party R. Villanueva. Based on an informal agreement, positively tested on the occasion of the launch of the political reforms in August 1996 which introduced direct elections for the ‘head of government’ of the Federal District of Mexico City (previously the Regente was appointed by the president), the opposition managed to obtain important commissions from the Chamber (budget, fight against corruption and internal affairs). The opposition front broke however in December 1997 when the PAN supported the approval of the 1998 budget and was accused by the PRD of exhuming past connivance with the conservative wing of the PRI. The PRD, renewed into a partido-movement under the new direction of AM López Obrador, nevertheless managed to win the first elections for the Federal District (December 1997) with the candidacy of the party founder C. Cárdenas, elected for three years (while his successor will be for six) with 47, 1 % of the vote.

The Massieu case ended with the sentencing of Raúl Salinas to fifty years of imprisonment while Mexico Ruiz Massieu was arrested in the United States for money laundering and committed suicide in September 1999. The growing pressure from the United States for the fight against drugs led to many excellent arrests already during the course of 1996 (J. García Abrego, head of the ‘Gulf cartel’ later extradited to the USA, and Gen. Gutiérrez Rebollo, head of the National Institute for the Fight against Drugs) and the dismantling of the INCD itself in favor of an elite body under the direct control of the Attorney General. These measures earned Mexico the ‘certificate’ of good anti-drug conduct, renewed annually, albeit with many disputes,

The problems of Chiapas, on the other hand, were far from a definitive solution. During 1996, President Zedillo alternated gestures of détente (release of EZLN members, appointment of new government mediators) with an iron fist (strengthening of the military presence in Chiapas, expulsion of human rights activists from Chiapas). In September, the EZLN suspended the dialogue in response to Zedillo’s refusal to approve a bill on the rights of Indians proposed under the San Andrés agreements by the Comisión de Concordia y Pacificación (COCOPA) which grouped the main political parties. The action of paramilitary groups (including Paz y Justicia, financed by landowners and ranchers mostly anti-Zapatistas) responsible for the attempted murder of Bishop S. Ruiz and the extermination, in December 1997, of 45 Indios in the church of Acteal (Chenalhó). The National Indigenous Congress, which brought together about a hundred organizations, invited the Indians to rebel against the government and form autonomous municipalities (38 in 1998) while the National Brokerage Commission, chaired by Bishop Ruiz, was dissolved (also following intimidation measures undertaken against the diocese of San Cristobál, such as the expulsion of seven priests and the closure of 40 churches) In March 1999, over 95 % of the 2.5 millions of voters supported the Zapatistas’ claims in the informal referendum organized in the country by the EZLN. The erosion of the consent to the PRI was consumed during 1998-99 also in the rest of the country, where a renewed coalition of the opposition was established (in the State of Nayarit, July 1999).

Mexico Between 1996 and 1999