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Bordering on Chaos: Mexico's Roller-Coaster Journey Toward Prosperity 1st Edition

14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316650250
ISBN-10: 0316650250
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is an attempt to understand Mexico's steep descent into turmoil, which happened rapidly after the uprising in Chiapas on New Year's Day 1994. Following the assassinations of a presidential candidate and then the congressional leader, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari had barely left office when the peso collapsed. Pursued by allegations of corruption, Salinas then fled the country. Oppenheimer, a reporter for The Miami Herald, argues that the crisis is the result of nothing grander than a turf war within a decrepit ruling party and that the Chiapas uprising is not something new, just another eruption of the Marxist intellectualism that has long flourished in Latin America. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Miami Herald Latin American correspondent Oppenheimer traveled all over Mexico between 1992 and 1995, and this crisply written, eye-opening report depicts a country in the throes of political turmoil, corruption, peasant rebellions and massive layoffs. The authors, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987 as part of a team that uncovered the Iran-Contra scandal, scaled guerrilla-held mountains to interview self-styled Subcommander Marcos, the white, middle-class Marxist revolutionary who in 1994 led a Maya armed uprising in the southern state of Chiapas. Oppenheimer views this revolt as symptomatic of a country marked by vastly unequal distribution of wealth and wasteful public works projects that fail to address the real needs of the people. He offers disturbing, fresh slants on the ruling party's control of TV news, the booming cocaine trade of Mexico's drug mafias, the rise of government-backed monopolies in key industries and the recent political assassinations that have weakened the ruling elite's credibility. Despite this bleak picture, Oppenheimer suggests that Mexico is stumbling toward a modern democracy under its new, technocratic administrator president, Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (October 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316650250
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316650250
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #440,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
Andres Oppenheimer shared a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Iran-Contra. Normally, I find investigative reporting in the U.S. dull, since the reporters get wrapped up in the technical details of a subject like Whitewater and tend to miss the big picture. But the Woodward/Bernstein approach is exactly what Mexico needs. Oppenheimer's dug up scandals that are doozies -- a lengthy recounting of the "Billionaire's Banquet" in which 30 Mexican plutocrats pledged an average of $25,000,000 million US dollars each to fund the ruling party's 1994 re-election bid is a classic.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Ritter on December 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
The dearth of good books on Mexico makes this one very welcome. It's architecture rests largely on two character portraits: one of Ernesto Zedillo, and the other of the man who calls himself Subcommander Marcos. There is some sketchy material, too, on Carlos Salinas, but it's the type of data that adds to the enigma of the man rather than to our understanding of him.
With Zedillo, one can see why two huge accomplishments coincided with his term in office, and went largely unlauded: 1) the payback of the bailout money ahead of time, and 2) the holding of real elections.
Oppenheimer shows Zedillo to be honest and smart--unlike many Mexican politicians, his degree from an Ivy League school was not just window dressing; he really is a trained economist. But he was not very popular. As an uncorruptible technocrat, he never would have gotten the nod to be the new president if not for the assassination of Colosio, whose campaign manager he was at the time of the murder. But once he was thrust in by Fate to the number one spot, he proved unusually effective. He was not fashionable or charismatic, and not very well loved by the electorate, which understandably blamed him for the devaluation which occurred at the very beginning of his term. Carlos Salinas was fashionable and charismatic, and there can be little doubt that the conditions necessitating the devaluation accumulated during his term.
Even now, with Zedillo gone, those two accomplishments loom over the future more powerfully than anything else that has happened in Mexico for many years.The payback of the bailout money signals that though there may be stumbles on the way to free trade with the US, a quick recovery is possible instead of a long Japanese-style tailspin.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mr. Oppenheimer has talked to those outside and inside the government of Mexico to describe in careful detail the myopia and success of the PRI which has kept Mexico "stable" for seventy years but has looted the country in a form of political machismo that now affects the middle class which no longer applauds such audacious machismo. The Zapatista movement is particularly well detailed in both its true meaning and its sad hijacking by idealistic middle-class Marxists who have no more concern for the Mayas than does the PRI for the majority of the Mexicans. If one is to begin to understand Mexico one should begin with this book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Pozzi on December 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a great read for anyone wanting to know about Mexico during the 1990s. It's very indepth, at times it feels like maybe Oppenheimer doesn't have all the information to tell the story, but he sure tells a lot of it. It's also not overly biased, like many books about recent Mexican history. Oppenheimer does a great job of setting the scene, explaining who is who, and helping the reader get their arms around all the different factions that make for a volatile social environment in Mexico. I also read "Castro's Final Hour" which was informative, but not as good (especially since the "final hour" was somewhere in the early nineties, and now it's 2001). I'd love to read more of Oppenheimer.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Denis Benchimol Minev on April 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
In Bordering on Chaos, Oppenheimer does a very good job of depicting the events and digging up the dirty that led to many of the most important events in mid-1990s Mexico, including the murder of the leading presidential candidate, the rise of the Zapatistas and the choice of Zedillo for president.
However, instead of pure history, we are presented with deep character development for the two main actors in this process, Zedillo himself (the president to be) and Subcomandante Marcos, the leader of the Zapatista movement. In this process, we learn of the political ploys adopted by the PRI, the almost monarchic party that led the country for most of the century. These include forays into education, health, and the most important social services. Another important area is the corruption going on at the top levels of the PRI, requiring, for example, that business people contribute a minimum of [several] million to participate in the government, or else be excluded, with all that it entailed. There is less than I would like to know on Carlos Salinas, the now disgraced but formerly darling leader.
Overall, a good history and a well written book. If you have an interest in Mexico, or in the crisis period of the mid-1990s, this may offer some of the pieces that build up a puzzle of it.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Smith on July 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
I read this book as a person who has visited Mexico on a number of occasions for both business and pleasure. I found it to be highly informative and also entertaining. Having experienced firsthand the struggle of Mexicans to catch up with their wealthy neighbors across the border, while simultaneously putting up roadblocks in their own way, I had no trouble believing some of the outrageous political wheeling and dealing Mr. Oppenheimer described. A great book if you want to get insight into the modern Mexican political and economic climate.
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