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Candidate vetting

3 September 2008

With the Olympics scheduled to open in mid-October 1968, the Díaz Ordaz government was desperate to preserve a atmosphere of peace and stability. Changing social attitudes, the international student protests, fear of Communism and even Díaz Ordaz’ personal ugliness all collided in what is called “Tlatelolco”—the beginning of the end of the Institutional Revolution.

A few high school boys, playing soccer, touched off the explosion. The boys started a fight over a disputed goal, and the police responded in force. The police had been quietly removing troublemakers from the streets for weeks, but a fight within a few blocks of the National Palace seemed more serious than it really was. Even in the pre-Internet, pre-text messaging era, word of the police crackdown got around.

High school students throughout Mexico City started protesting and were joined by the University students….

(For the “rest of the story” buy the book. Reviewer copies should be out very shortly, but the publisher will take pre-release orders: $24.95 US/ MX$250)

This photo, from El Universal’s Los 71 dias que sacudieron a Mexico is from the summer of 1968, as student protests were just beginning in Mexico City.  The kid getting the crap kicked out of him was a shoe-shine boy from Baja California who had come to Mexico City to take advantage of the schools and the chance of a better future.  In 1968, he was a 17 year old planning to study economics and banking — not exactly an “anarchist youth” type.

He did earn his degree… and then a Masters… and then a Yale Doctorate.  And joined the Party. The PRI, in the years following Tlatelolco, went out of its way to recruit the best and brightest technocrats   As one of the few high-level PRI members not holding office when Luis Donaldo Colesio was assassinated in 1994,  and the unknown economist, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon found himself the front running presidential candidate.

A physical beating by the Party’s henchmen may not be the best way to prepare for the Presidency, but Zedillo came in at a delicate time.  His predecessor, and would-be controller, Carlos Salinas had managed to bankrupt the country, either through mismanagement or theft (or both) in his drive to “privatize” the economy and create a common market with the United States and Canada.

Zedillo withstood the financial pummeling, revalued the peso and gave the country enough stability to recover from its economic battering.  He knew his party was going to take a beating in the 2000 election, and refused to interfere in the change.  He had learned, even if the party hadn’t, to roll with the punches.

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