Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

More specifics on the political results of disaster

A few days after the previous article appeared in the Los Angeles Times, this article was published in the New York Times. The authors agree that Mexicans might be making political decisions based on their experiences after the earthquakes. Are political memories long enough to affect the next presidential election?

Mexico City’s People Power
When the earthquake rattled this mountain capital on Tuesday, a five-story office and apartment block round the corner from my home collapsed into a mountain of rubble, burying computer programmers, salesmen, secretaries. Right away, a handful of neighbors approached the wreckage, calling to see if anyone was alive and removing debris. Within hours, the group had swelled into the hundreds, joined by volunteers from across the city arriving by foot, truck and bicycle…
Rescuing earthquake victims
This immense human effort, shown in the pictures of ordinary men and women sweating with spades, running with wheelbarrows, passing stretchers over their heads will surely be the lasting image of the 7.1 magnitude tremor that struck Mexico less than two weeks after a more distant 8.1 earthquake. It is a story of tragedy, but also of solidarity and hope…

Similar scenes were repeated at dozens of collapsed buildings across the battered capital as thousands of volunteers worked nonstop. Their efforts paid off, with more than 50 people rescued by the end of Wednesday…

The brigades of 1985 had an impact on Mexican politics, Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, a politics professor and author,said. Angry with a government they saw as uncaring, these empowered volunteers sought change. Many became activists fighting to end the hegemonic rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or P.R.I. The capital became a bastion of opposition, and the P.R.I. lost political control of it in 1997, before losing the presidency in 2000, after seven decades.

The latest mass mobilization may also have a lasting political effect. The country now has multiparty democracy, and more open media and civil society. But people are angry about officials embezzling millions of dollars… The P.R.I. returned to power in 2012 under President Enrique Peña Nieto, but he has suffered his own corruption scandals…

A heightened awareness of people power could favor the presidential hopeful Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who trumpets a populist anti-establishment discourse from the left. A former Mexico City mayor, he already leads many opinion polls for the 2018 election as he calls for “el pueblo” to defeat a “mafia of power.”…

It could also strengthen Mexico’s resolve against the aggressive stance of the Trump administration, Dr. Meyer said. Around the rubble, the armies of volunteers often raise their fists and shout in unison, “Viva México.” “When we shout this, there is an implication that we are standing up to the hostile policies of the United States,” Dr. Meyer said. “After all of the recent insults, the humiliations, it is a way of reaffirming our pride.”

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