Naked farmers from Veracruz protest, Tuesday, November 16, 2004, in Mexico City.
About the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Institucional or PRI) held power in Mexico for more than 70 years. It was the final result of all the political accommodations after the Mexican Revolution, in which most of the victorious combatants finally agreed to join under its umbrella.
The party, under its different names*, held every major political position during this time. Only the odd federal deputy (diputado) or senator (senador) from other parties ever got elected, and the first state governor not to come from its ranks was not elected until 1989 (Ernesto Ruffo Appel).
The party has acquired a reputation for dishonesty to the extent that it is an open secret, and while this is admitted (to a degree) by some of its affiliates, its supporters maintain that the role of the party was crucial in the modernization of Mexico. The party is described by some scholars as a “state party,” a term which captures both the non-competitive history and character of the party itself and the inextricable connection between the party and the Mexican state for much of the 20th century.
Perhaps Mexico’s only popular 20th-century president Lázaro Cárdenas, most renowned for expropriating the oil interests of U.S. and European petroleum companies in the run-up to WW2, came from the ranks of the PRI. He was a person of leftist ideas who nationalized different industries and provided many social institutions dear to the Mexican people. At the other end of the spectrum Carlos Salinas de Gortari privatized many industries, including banks and roads, and also negotiated NAFTA.
The PRI was heavily criticized for using the Mexican flag colors in its logo (something considered not unreasonable in many countries, such as the United States, but frowned upon in Mexico). This is expressely forbidden by the law, but was flaunted with many excuses, perhaps the most imaginative being that the colours were transparent but the background behind was that of the Mexican flag.
In recent years the following have been key events in the history of the PRI:
1988: Amidst stronger than ever suspicions of electoral fraud, Carlos Salinas de Gortari won the presidential election
1994: For the first time in decades a high profile politician was murdered: PRI presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was shot during a campaign event
2000: For the first time since its inception, the PRI lost the presidency to an oppoisition candidate, Vicente Fox Quesada of the PAN.
2003: In midterm elections, the PRI was practically wiped off the map in the Federal District – only one borough mayor (jefe delegacional) out of 16, and no first-past-the-post members of the city assembly – but recouped some significant losses on the state level (most notably, the governorship of former PAN stronghold Nuevo León). It also remained the largest single party in both chambers of the federal congress.
2004: On August 6, in two controversial and closely-contested elections in Oaxaca and Tijuana, PRI candidates Ulises Ruiz Ortiz and Jorge Hank Rhon won the races for the governorship and mayoralty respectively. PAN had held control of the mayor’s office in Tijuana for 15 years.
* Three Names One Party
4 March 1929: Plutarco Elías Calles. Founded as: Partido Nacional Revolucionario (National Revolutionary Party – PNR)
30 March 1938: Lázaro. Cárdenas PNR dissolved. New name: Partido de la Revolución Mexicana (Party of the Mexican Revolution – PRM)
18 January 1946: Manuel Ávila Camacho. PRM dissolved. New name: Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party – PRI)