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Mexico, indigenous and peasant struggles, 1980s-present

Bill Weinberg


The decline of Mexico's populist and corporatist system in the period of neoliberal reform beginning in the early 1980s saw a deepening of poverty in marginal rural areas. This immiseration led to a revival of campesino struggles, especially in the impoverished and heavily indigenous south. The new movements often represented a convergence of traditional peasant demands over land rights and farm support, with demands for indigenous cultural autonomy. They also saw a tension between reformist and electoral strategies versus revolutionary imperatives. In the case of Chiapas, and then of those in the Sierra del Sur of Guerrero and Oaxaca states, the resurgence of campesino militancy actually led to the emergence of armed revolutionary movements which persist today. In the 1970s Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) engaged in both Third Worldist posturing and a grisly “dirty war” against radical student and peasant organizations. In the 1980s, with these movements in retreat, the party tilted sharply to the right. Miguel de la Madrid, Mexico's first US-educated president, launched a far-reaching process of neoliberal reform upon taking power in 1982. By the time Carlos Salinas took power in 1988, free trade orthodoxy reigned. The number of Mexican millionaires rose impressively, while a 1990 World Bank study found that 41 million (nearly half) of the population ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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