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  • Documents on Democracy


In his annual address to Congress on September 1, Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo candidly spoke of some of his country’s serious problems, but emphasized its commitment to democracy. Excerpts appear below:

Mexico is now living in democracy. Democratic life in Mexico is today being authentically and actively experienced in representative and decision-making bodies, in public forums, in political and social organizations, and in the mass media; but above all, in citizens’ mindset and attitudes. Never before has democracy been so much a part of the nation’s life as it is today. This cannot be attributed to, nor is it the accomplishment of, any single individual, any single group, or even any single generation.

Building our democracy has cost long and arduous efforts. It has even cost men and women their lives. Because of this, it is the responsibility of us all to appreciate and safeguard our democracy. And all of us also have the responsibility to practice it. Practicing democracy involves decision-making processes, standards of conduct, and ways of doing and saying things to which we must all become accustomed.

Democracy implies the free expression of our differences, which give rise to more intense, sometimes heated, debate. It implies, as well, a broader panorama for putting forward proposals, objections, and counterproposals on all important national issues.

Democracy implies strong public opinion. It implies constant attention on the part of society and a closer scrutiny of public affairs. Together with the vast majority of Mexicans, I feel absolutely certain that we will all realize, sooner rather than later, that our political life is healthier and works better in a democracy than under authoritarian rule. [End Page 179]

We Mexicans reject authoritarianism because it relies on force, overrides the law, and is not accountable to anyone. We reject authoritarianism because it restricts our freedoms, stifles debate, and represses differences of opinion. Today’s Mexicans reject authoritarianism because it is intolerant and is imposed through violence, and because it acts without control and without measure.

We Mexicans of today have fought for openness, tolerance, and free participation, and to ensure that the nation’s interest takes precedence over personal or group interests. Mexicans have fought for democracy because it is the one system that enables us to tackle challenges and solve problems without trampling on people’s rights and without excluding anyone. Democracy provides a solution—the will of the majority and respect for minorities—even when we do not see eye to eye.

We know that democracy demands, more than any other system, that politics be practiced with honesty, tolerance, and restraint; that, at all times, we must respect one another, behave with civility, and participate in a constructive manner. Democracy demands that politics be practiced with a strong vocation for service, a long-term vision, and a profound sense of duty.

Furthermore, democracy requires a careful balance between the branches of government and a clear sense of shared responsibility in performing the functions vested in each by the law. That sense of joint responsibility implies that each branch must abide by the Constitution at all times, while maintaining respectful, ongoing communication with the other branches, and assuming and fulfilling its own responsibilities.

Ever since the beginning of my mandate, I have expressed my commitment to exercise exclusively the authority that the Constitution confers on the President of the Republic. I believe that this is how one should act, so that areas previously dominated by the unduly excessive power of the Presidency can now be the province of the many political participants required by a democratic system. . . .

Mexicans want a government that is seen as the sum of its three branches, one that is orderly, civil, and functional; a government that is pluralistic and united by the higher interests of the Nation and by the effective performance of the tasks assigned to each branch.

That means building consensus, working together, reaching agreements, and carrying them out. Specifically, in the issues that most concern Mexicans today, citizens expect the Executive and Legislative Branches to work in a jointly responsible, constructive, and useful manner, which will surely strengthen our democracy.

Moreover, only within the framework of...

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pp. 179-183
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