From Publishers Weekly
Preston and Dillon, former Mexico bureau chiefs for the New York Times, combine personal experience and journalistic accounts in this thoughtful report on the trials of Mexico's turbulent first taste of democracy after decades of authoritarian rule. With grace and candor, the authors capture this transitional period, which has been characterized by a slow and tense crumbling of Mexico's main political party, the PRI (a victim of its own incompetence and hubris), and a rapid increase in civic fervor. This is a portrait of historical change of seismic proportion, told from individual perspectives, depicting an intriguing web of heroic Mexicans struggling to bring about cultural change while others tend toward corruption. As a result, this book is as bleak as it is insightful. Hopeful victories in this "imperfect democracy" are few and far between. The authors detail government negligence and deception during the devastating earthquake of 1985, cunning reporters and renowned intellectuals attempting to pierce the regime's stronghold on the media, and the ongoing low-intensity warfare against deeply divided indigenous communities in the southern state of Chiapas. Also featured here is the controversial investigation of Mexico's narcotics underworld that implicates two high-level PRI officials as "associates" of Mexico's most notorious drug trafficker, Carillo Fuentes. This type of coverage earned the authors strong criticism from the authorities in Mexico and a Pulitzer Prizethe latter well deserved. B&w photos.
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Two reporters lately posted in Mexico by the New York Times review the county's recent political history in this hefty narrative. The authors structure their story line around the relinquishment of presidential power, which was held without interruption for the preceding 70 years by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as the PRI), in the 2000 election. They develop the PRI's increasingly blatant rigging of elections over the course of the 1980s and 1990s and the types of opposition the chicanery provoked. They describe the protests and appraise the motivations of election monitors, intellectuals, candidates, Mexican journalists, and leaders of a rebellion in Chiapas. As for the PRI's response to discontent with its rule, the authors recount the ascent of figures such as Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo and their differences in handling the severe crises (assassinations, the collapse of the currency, the wave of hypercriminality) that wracked Mexico during their terms. With a concluding and diffident portrayal of current president Vicente Fox, Preston and Dillon have compiled a crowded, comprehensive survey for watchers of contemporary Mexican politics. Gilbert Taylor
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