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Decentralization, Democratization, and Informal Power in Mexico

Andrew Selee

Publication Year: 2011

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, many countries in Latin America freed themselves from the burden of their authoritarian pasts and developed democratic political systems. At the same time, they began a process of shifting many governmental responsibilities from the national to the state and local levels. Much has been written about how decentralization has fostered democratization, but informal power relationships inherited from the past have complicated the ways in which citizens voice their concerns and have undermined the accountability of elected officials. In this book, Andrew Selee seeks to illuminate the complex linkages between informal and formal power by comparing how they worked in three Mexican cities. The process of decentralization is shown to have been intermediated by existing spheres of political influence, which in turn helped determine how much the institution of multiparty democracy in the country could succeed in bringing democracy “closer to home.”

Published by: Penn State University Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

The research for this book began more than eighteen years ago, long before I ever realized it might one day be published or even publishable. In 1992, I moved to the city of Tijuana to work with a Mexican nongovernmental organization on migration and local development projects. The city...

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1. Introduction: The Paradoxes of Local Empowerment

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pp. 1-23

In the 1980s and 1990s, decentralization reforms swept across Latin America and the developing world, as almost every country implemented measures to strengthen the authority and autonomy of local governments. Mexico was no exception. At least in formal terms, Mexico had...

Part 1: State Formation and Political Change

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2. Centralization and Informal Power

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pp. 27-46

By 1980, Mexico was—formally, at least—one of the most centralized large countries in Latin America. The federal government controlled roughly 80 to 90 percent of public expenditures. In contrast, municipalities accounted for only 1 to 2 percent of public spending, and...

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3. Decentralization and Democratization

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pp. 47-70

In the 1980s and 1990s, the Mexican state underwent a gradual decentralization at the same time the single-party-dominant state was giving way to greater political plurality. A massive economic crisis that lasted from approximately 1982 until 1997 helped bring about these changes...

Part 2: A Tale of Three Cities

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4. Chilpancingo: The Continuation of Corporatism?

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pp. 73-97

In late January 2005, three weeks before statewide elections in Guerrero, three young men in suits had set up a stand in the central plaza of Chilpancingo, the state capital, to promote the campaign of Héctor Astudillo, the PRI’s candidate for governor. A giant television screen...

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5. Tijuana: Liberal Democracy?

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pp. 98-129

Shortly before midnight on August 1, 2004, Jorge Hank Rhon, millionaire casino owner, accused smuggler, and (at least for some) suspected assassin, came out on stage in front of his supporters to declare victory in the mayoral race in Tijuana, Baja California. His claim was...

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6. Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl: Social Movement Democracy?

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pp. 130-160

In August 2004, Belem Guerrero won the Olympic silver medal in women’s cycling, the second medal for Mexico in the 2004 Olympics. The inhabitants of Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, known usually by the city’s nickname, “Neza,” were ecstatic. “That’s where she lives,” one man said as...

Part 3: Conclusions

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7. Pathways of Democratic Change

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pp. 163-177

The Mexican political system that took root during the twentieth century, following the Mexican Revolution, was built on dual pillars, of both centralized formal power in the state and a diffuse network of informal power built on patronage politics. National political...


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pp. 179-191

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780271053691
E-ISBN-10: 0271053690
Print-ISBN-13: 9780271048437
Print-ISBN-10: 0271048433

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011