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Mexico: is this the ‘fourth transformation’?

LAB's latest Inside Out series title



LAB’s latest book, Mexico Inside Out by Nick Caistor, was published on 17 April 2021. The book is available from Practical Action Publishing for £13.95 (paperback) or £9.99 (ebook).

In December 2018 Andrés Manuel López Obrador became President of Mexico. A veteran left-wing politician, he and his MORENA party roundly defeated the two traditional parties, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and the PAN (National Action Party), who had swapped power between them for more than eight decades.

AMLO, as he is commonly known in Mexico, came to power promising he would bring a ‘fourth transformation’ to the country, the first three being its independence struggle from Spanish rule, the liberal reforms of the 1860s, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910–1917.

Almost half way through his six-year term, how far has AMLO succeeded in this mammoth task?

Mexico Inside Out

This is one of the questions explored in Mexico Inside Out by Nick Caistor, the second in a series of short introductory books on Latin American countries published by Latin America Bureau.

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Whoever governs Mexico, they are faced with a host of problems. These vary from the continuing fight against the illegal drug cartels, which leads to thousands of violent deaths each year; the often difficult relations with the ‘giant to the North’ with whom Mexico shares a 3,000 kilometre border; social unrest that has shown itself most dramatically in the Zapatista uprising of 1994 (a still largely unresolved problem affecting indigenous communities throughout Mexico); the tragedy of ever-increasingdisappearances and femicides that has led to mass mobilization and widespread protests; corruption in many areas of the public sphere, from the police and judicial system to local and federal politicians.

In addition, Mexico’s rich biodiversity and geographical heritage is increasingly under threat from loss of habitat; the strain that mass tourism is placing on its coastlines; as well as the chaotic growth of its cities.

He promised change – has he delivered?

Mexico has seen enormous political change in the twenty-first century. The year 2000 saw the election of the first modern-day president who was not from the PRI  but from the right-wing PAN. Since then, three different parties have won the presidency, and yet many Mexicans feel there has not been any decisive deepening of democracy in their country.

The current president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, promised to change all that. He proposed to consult people much more before taking important decisions, and to root out corruption at all levels. Mexico Inside Out looks at how far he has kept those election promises, and whether his MORENA movement has a coherent strategy to enable it to effect real reforms, and make Mexico a far more inclusive society.   Despite these problems, despite the violence and entrenched corruption, Mexicans know how to celebrate life. They enjoy a vast cultural tradition that encompasses all Mexico’s great past civilizations, but are constantly adding new, often surprising facets to that tradition, in art and literature, music and films. Mexico Inside Out explores the events in Mexico’s history that have shaped its contemporary society, and offers its readers insight into the concerns and hopes of Mexicans today.  

This is the second title in LAB’s new ‘Inside Out’ series of country guides. The first was Brazil Inside Out by Jan Rocha and Francis McDonagh, published in 2014, with a 2nd edition in 2016. We hope to publish Colombia Inside Out in 2022 and Costa Rica Inside Out soon after.

LAB’s Inside Out books are intended to be short-read, intelligent overviews of a country, its history, politics, society and culture, aimed at the visitor, gap-year student and researcher — and at all who want a concise and readable guide that probes beyond the travel and tourism focus of many guidebooks.