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Mexico and the Cold War: The International Context of the Perfect Dictatorship Halbert Jones, Ph.D. Office of the Historian U.S. Department of State

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Presentation on theme: "Mexico and the Cold War: The International Context of the Perfect Dictatorship Halbert Jones, Ph.D. Office of the Historian U.S. Department of State"— Presentation transcript:

1 Mexico and the Cold War: The International Context of the Perfect Dictatorship Halbert Jones, Ph.D. Office of the Historian U.S. Department of State

2 The views expressed and interpretations presented in this session are those of the presenter and not necessarily those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.

3 Foreign Relations of the United States Official documentary record of U.S. foreign policy and diplomatic activity Published since 1861 Documentary history: Documents from the archives, selected and annotated Congressional mandate: a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of major United States foreign policy decisions and significant United States diplomatic activity

4 The Office of the Historian Online Newly redesigned Provides access to FRUS and other resources

5 Other Online Resources For access to scanned images of pre-1960 FRUS volumes, fully searchable. or For information on the National Archives and for direct online access, through AAD link, to post-1973 diplomatic records (cables). Contact the Office of the Historian via e-mail at

6 Mexico is the perfect dictatorship. The perfect dictatorship is not communism. It is not the USSR. It is not Fidel Castro. The perfect dictatorship is Mexico…. - Mario Vargas Llosa, 1990

7 Mexico and the Cold War Unlike Chile, Argentina, and Brazil, no coups or anti-communist military dictatorships Unlike Cuba, no Marxist revolution Unlike Central America, no civil conflicts that became proxy wars Cold Wars impact on Mexico less obvious than its effects on many other countries in the region:

8 Mexico as an Exceptional Case Political stability, marked by dominance of a single party, 1929-2000 No extreme repression, though Mexico did have its own dirty war Alliance with US, but with displays of independence

9 Explaining Mexicos Stability Historians have pointed to: Regimes use of revolutionary rhetoric No Re-election principle Economic growth, Mexican Miracle Sectoral organizations Cooptation when possible Repression when necessary

10 International Factors Also Important … Cold War atmosphere made possible: A tacit understanding with the United States that enabled Mexico to enjoy an enhanced degree of independence in exchange for the maintenance of stability The implementation of anti-subversion laws justified by alleged threats from abroad

11 Social Dissolution Federal Penal Code Article 145 Imprisonment from two to twelve years and a fine from a thousand to ten thousand pesos will be applied to the foreigner or Mexican national who in spoken or written form, or by any other means, carries out political propaganda among foreigners or among Mexican nationals, spreading ideas, programs or norms of action of any foreign government that disturb public order or affect the sovereignty of the Mexican State.

12 Article 145 1941Enacted as WWII-era measure aimed at saboteurs and propagandists 1951Expanded in light of Korean War; penalties stiffened, new clauses added 1952-59Law used against striking workers, opposition figures, students

13 Article 145 1959Striking railroad workers arrested and charged; leaders later convicted 1960Communist muralist Siqueiros imprisoned for social dissolution, pardoned in 1964 1968Repeal of Article 145 included among demands of student movement

14 Tlatelolco Student movement calling for reforms arose following heavy- handed police response to July 1968 clash between rival student groups Tense stand-off with President Díaz Ordaz, who suspected communist involvement Movement suppressed by troops at Plaza de Tres Culturas, October 2, 1968, just before opening of Olympics

15 After Tlatelolco 1970Article 145 repealed (replaced by new clauses on sabotage and terrorism) 1970-76Echeverría administration sought to win over an increasingly disillusioned younger generation (despite continuing, often extrajudicial, repression of urban and rural guerrilla groups and others)

16 Early Cold War Leaders Miguel Alemán (1946-1952) Quietly pledged support to US, while adopting a more nationalist stance Curtailed labor independence through the charrazo Adolfo Ruiz Cortines (1952-1958) Promised a more honest administration Cracked down at various points on striking workers, students Limited objections to 1954 Guatemala coup

17 The 1960s Adolfo López Mateos (1958-1964) Maintained relations with Cuba after Revolution Welcomed JFK to Mexico Applied Article 145 against RR workers, Siqueiros; Jaramillo murdered Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (1964-1970) Remembered as most repressive figure in Mexicos Cold War history Held responsible for Tlatelolco

18 International Populism Luis Echeverría (1970-1976) GDOs interior minister Sought Third World leadership roles, asserting independence from the United States José López Portillo (1976-1982) Bolstered by new oil discoveries, continued to pursue an independent foreign policy Faced extreme economic problems by end of term

19 Debt Crisis and Economic Reform Miguel de la Madrid (1982-1988) Faced debt crisis inherited from JLP Legitimacy of regime further undermined by ineffective response to 1985 earthquake Carlos Salinas (1988-1994) Faced charges of electoral fraud Carried out neoliberal reforms Signed NAFTA (shaped by end of Cold War)

20 Key Points Mexicos Cold War experience was distinctive Cold War created conditions that facilitated the endurance of stable, single-party rule East-West conflict imposed limits but also created opportunities for Mexico and its leaders

21 Nikita Khrushchev, in response to the suggestion that Soviet aircraft could land in Mexico after bombing the United States: What do you think Mexico is – our mother-in- law? You think we can simply go calling any time we want?

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