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Political Intelligence and the Creation of Modern Mexico, 1938–1954

Aaron W. Navarro

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2010

Political Intelligence and the Creation of Modern Mexico, 1938–1954

Aaron W. Navarro

“Aaron Navarro’s excellent book should transform our understanding of how Mexican politics developed into the regime Mexico endured from World War II into the 1980s. For decades misconstrued by political scientists as well as the media, right, left, and center, this political system was not, Navarro shows, an extrapolation from the country’s revolutionary past or an old party’s perpetual rule through a new era, much less (as a Peruvian novelist once called it) ‘the perfect dictatorship.’ It was improvised, contrived, and continually reformed between 1938 and 1954 for specific reasons, mainly to prevent violent uproars over presidential elections in a very dangerous period (1940, 1946, and 1952). The regime, in consequence, was a machine intended primarily to keep national order in a still deeply divided country during World War II and the cold war. Its public head, the president, changed via internally negotiated elections every six years. Its public front was the seemingly stable Mexican state. Its public electoral agency, the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), organized in 1945–46, gained all of the fame, or infamy.

“Navarro’s history gives an often amazing account of a key part of the machine, its presidential bureau of investigation, which served the chief executive in turn as his center for national political intelligence. After a CIA-advised reorganization in 1947, ‘the bureau of federal security’ allowed increasingly centralized management (though often ugly and not always successful) of every mandated election in the country.

“This study is the first incisive explanation of a highly critical factor in the making of modern Mexico—the making of its terrifically violent politics into ‘the post-revolutionary state.’ Richly informed by massive original research in newly opened Mexican public and private archives (among them the tremendous federal investigative files), drawing deep on U.S. State and several other department files, clear and cogent in its argument, it opens the way for the first historically serious explorations of political struggle in that now old regime—before its collapse in the 1990s.”

 

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Mexican politics in the twentieth century was dominated by two complementary paradigms: the rhetoric of the Mexican Revolution and the existence of an “official” party. The Mexican Revolution has enjoyed a long and voluminous historiography; the “official” party has not. While the importance of the Revolution as a historical period is self-evident, the development of a party based on the political aspirations of the surviving revolutionary elites has not generally sparked as much historical interest. This book traces the path of the party, founded as the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR), through its reformation as the Partido de la Revolución Mexicana (PRM) in 1938 and then as the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in 1946, which finally fell from power in 2000. Aaron Navarro shows how the transformation of the PRM into the PRI, the removal of the military from electoral politics, the resettlement of younger officers in the intelligence services, and the inculcation of a new discipline among political elites all produced the conditions that allowed for the dominance of a single-party structure for decades.
“Aaron Navarro’s excellent book should transform our understanding of how Mexican politics developed into the regime Mexico endured from World War II into the 1980s. For decades misconstrued by political scientists as well as the media, right, left, and center, this political system was not, Navarro shows, an extrapolation from the country’s revolutionary past or an old party’s perpetual rule through a new era, much less (as a Peruvian novelist once called it) ‘the perfect dictatorship.’ It was improvised, contrived, and continually reformed between 1938 and 1954 for specific reasons, mainly to prevent violent uproars over presidential elections in a very dangerous period (1940, 1946, and 1952). The regime, in consequence, was a machine intended primarily to keep national order in a still deeply divided country during World War II and the cold war. Its public head, the president, changed via internally negotiated elections every six years. Its public front was the seemingly stable Mexican state. Its public electoral agency, the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), organized in 1945–46, gained all of the fame, or infamy.

“Navarro’s history gives an often amazing account of a key part of the machine, its presidential bureau of investigation, which served the chief executive in turn as his center for national political intelligence. After a CIA-advised reorganization in 1947, ‘the bureau of federal security’ allowed increasingly centralized management (though often ugly and not always successful) of every mandated election in the country.

“This study is the first incisive explanation of a highly critical factor in the making of modern Mexico—the making of its terrifically violent politics into ‘the post-revolutionary state.’ Richly informed by massive original research in newly opened Mexican public and private archives (among them the tremendous federal investigative files), drawing deep on U.S. State and several other department files, clear and cogent in its argument, it opens the way for the first historically serious explorations of political struggle in that now old regime—before its collapse in the 1990s.”
“This imaginative and provocative work explores Mexican politics historically through three influential elections—1940, 1946, and 1952—focusing on the importance of opposition leaders and politics while delving deep into the evolution of civil-military relations and the growth of political intelligence agencies. Navarro’s research is based on extensive original archival sources in Mexico, a noteworthy accomplishment given the difficulty of obtaining access to historical data about the military and the intelligence agencies. Indeed, no other researcher on Mexico has compiled such a record of this material. Navarro aptly uses these sources to offer significant, fresh arguments that contradict existing views and are essential for understanding the crucial development of civil-military relations influencing Mexican politics to this day.”
“Navarro provides both a history of the establishment and regularisation of the Mexican intelligence services and an account of the changes in the ways government intelligence officers viewed the political opposition. . . . At heart [Political Intelligence and the Creation of Modern Mexico] is an almanac of intelligence reports, expertly linked and analysed, which allow the reader insights into both specific events and broader themes. . . . This is a very useful book with much to recommend it to all with an interest in the post-Cardenas period. It gives an admirable account of the development of the PRI model and reiterates the exceptionalism of the Mexican case.”
“In this excellent and provocative book, the author offers new explanations for the consolidation of Mexico's political system following the Mexican Revolution. . . . [The book] breaks important new archival ground with Navarro's exhaustive research in the recently opened archive of the Mexican intelligence services and in his pairing of these sources with contemporaneous United States intelligence documents. Combined with a close reading of relevant secondary sources, this rich source base allows Navarro to provide new insights regarding events and figures that are well known within Mexican history, as well as to reveal many previously unknown facets of post-revolutionary politics.”
“Aaron Navarro's study of mid-20th century Mexican politics is welcome—not just as a significant contribution to the historiography of the post-revolutionary period, but also as an insightful account of the development of institutions that continue to play an important part in Mexico's national life.”

Aaron W. Navarro is Associate Professor of History at the University of North Texas.

Introduction

Mexican politics in the twentieth century have been dominated by two complementary paradigms: the rhetoric of the Mexican Revolution (1910–20) and the existence of an “official” party. The Mexican Revolution has enjoyed a long and voluminous historiography throughout the nine decades since the violence ended. The “official” party, founded as the Partido Nacional Revolucionario (PNR) in 1929, reformed as the Partido de la Revolución Mexicana (PRM) in 1938, and called the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) since 1946, has not received the same level of historical scrutiny. While the importance of the revolution as a historical period is self-evident, the development of a party based on the political aspirations of the surviving revolutionary elites has not generally sparked as much historical interest.

The PRI was not a Mesoamerican Marduk, born whole and spitting (electoral) fire in 1929. The structural changes in the party as it transformed from PNR to PRM to PRI reflected shifting domestic political realities as well as a changed international environment. The PNR began as an agglomeration of competing interests, political ambitions, and personal feuds that operated under a basic principle: political conflicts would be negotiated within the party. But the strength of the PRI as an institution through the second half of the century derived from the appearance of unity and the unwavering certainty of its leaders, a veneer that was meant to inspire confidence and reinforce the supposedly disinterested values of party politicians. The appearance of political unity and bureaucratic competence dissolved with the government’s tardy and weak response to the disastrous 1985 Mexico City earthquake. Soon after, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas’s defection from the PRI to the leftist opposition and his strong presidential challenge in 1988 signaled the waning of the era of single-party dominance. The victory of Vicente Fox, candidate of the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), in the presidential election of 2000 marked a watershed in the political history of the country, as executive power moved peacefully into the hands of an opposition party for the first time.

This book is an analysis of opposition politics in Mexico. The aim throughout is to strike a new path into the discussion of the long dominance of a single party in Mexican politics. After the PNR came into existence in 1929 as a reaction to the political chaos issuing from both the Mexican Revolution and president-elect Álvaro Obregón’s assassination, the country was seemingly in the thrall of a monolithic party bureaucracy. Much academic writing has followed this line of argument as well, unnecessarily simplifying a complex reality. Crucial to the present analysis is the argument that the PNR was not completely dominant in electoral politics from 1929 onward. Much as the weaknesses of a levee are revealed by the rampage of floodwaters and are then rebuilt and strengthened at the most vulnerable points, so too did the PNR and its successors learn from its challengers. As it faced and defeated opposition movements, the party leadership learned which elements of internal party rules and federal elections law needed tinkering with to avoid similar challenges in the future. The PNR and its successors also openly appropriated the portions of an opposition candidate’s platforms that were most popular. Throughout the period from 1929 to 1952, the PNR experienced a very steep learning curve. The fact that from 1952 to 1988 there was very little electoral opposition suggests that the party leadership learned its lessons well.

This project seeks to amend the view of a monolithic party dominating elections since 1929 by examining the ongoing struggles within the dominant party and analyzing the consequences of those conflicts, namely opposition presidential campaigns. Opposition presidential campaigns are crucial for at least two major reasons. First, the emphasis on presidential contests derives from the fact that the president of Mexico has generally been the chief negotiator of political conflict in the country. That is, he has been, for the length of his term, the arbiter of all manner of high-level disputes. The president is emphatically not an all-powerful force, someone who rules by decree, or the issuer of commands that are always heeded. Indeed, this book explicitly rejects the idea of presidentialism as it is usually understood in the Mexican case. The president may have been the jefe de los jefes, but his position was only marginally stronger than other elites because of his official standing, which did not guarantee compliance. The old colonial maxim obedezco pero no cumplo (“I obey but do not comply”) continues to be a guiding force in modern Mexican politics. Further, one need only consider the substantial power of some of the men who never felt the need to run for president (sugar magnate Aarón Sáenz, for example) to understand that the office itself only provides a seat at the head of the table; it does not ensure fealty. Often more power rests with those behind the office than the person in it.

Still, the struggle for the presidency provides a unique opportunity every six years to peer inside political machines and electoral alliances in an attempt to understand the lay of the land. Unlike the usual ambiguity of political life, an election is Manichaean in nature, a zero-sum game. During the presidential elections presented in this book (1940, 1946, and 1952), stalwarts of the dominant party decided to challenge the very system that they had once supported through opposition campaigns. These fractures within the party demonstrated its weakness at an early stage and its failure to accommodate strongly dissenting political views. The opposition campaigns also show the frailty of the PRM/PRI at a time when most academic studies consider it to already be an “official party” or monolithic in structure and effect. The challenges provided the impetus for structural changes of the party, carried out by visionary leaders such as Miguel Alemán, Ernesto Uruchurtu, and Rodolfo Sánchez Taboada. Thus, the threat of electoral opposition from renegade high-level operatives forced the PRM/PRI leadership to clarify the party’s internal discipline, deal with the military once and for all, and create a force of political control that would all but guarantee the party leadership’s continuation in power.

This study engages two distinct literatures beyond traditional Mexican historiography, one on intelligence and intelligence services and the other on the military in politics. In the first case, the arguments here do not so much differ from the existing intelligence literature as add to it, in large part due to the relative dearth of analyses of the Latin American intelligence services. The current literature concentrates heavily on what may be termed the “master” services: the United States, British, Russian, German, and Japanese agencies that dominated up to and, in some cases, after World War II. The “apprentice” services, in peripheral areas, enter the literature mainly as corollaries or outgrowths of the master agencies. The logic of this structure is clear: for example, no discussion of Estonia’s Kaitsepolitseiamet can ignore the role that German and then Soviet intelligence played in its development. For Latin American cases, the dynamic is similar, although the United States is usually the master service on which the apprentices are modeled. But the literature on Latin American intelligence services has not kept pace with that of other apprentice agencies.

“We know little—almost nothing—about the Mexican intelligence services. This ignorance is not only absurd but dangerous.” So wrote Sergio Aguayo Quezada, a leading scholar of the Mexican intelligence services, in 1996. This was no doubt true then, and the situation has improved only marginally in the intervening years, though there appears to be a light on the horizon. Mexico has since made the transition from the electoral dominance of the PRI to the semblance of a multiparty democracy. This political shift provided the necessary impetus to finally open to researchers the long-guarded collections of intelligence files at the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City. The archive of the Dirección General de Investigaciones Políticas y Sociales (DGIPS), one of the main intelligence bureaucracies, was opened in 1999. The collection consists of nearly three thousand boxes of intelligence files for the period from 1920 to 1985. When I was conducting research for this book, the DGIPS archive was completely disorganized and without a proper catalogue of materials. Lacking reference materials, I consulted the collection box by box in a time-consuming but ultimately very enlightening process. Much of the argument about the structure and culture of the intelligence services in Mexico springs from such a thorough acquaintance with the documents.

A second collection of intelligence documents was opened too late to add greatly to this project. The massive archive of the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN), complete with card catalogue and fully digitized, opened to researchers in 2002. The remnants of the DGIPS and the Dirección Federal de Seguridad (DFS), the other key domestic intelligence agency, were consolidated in 1985 after the abuses perpetrated by the agencies during Mexico’s “dirty war” of the 1970s came to light. The CISEN was the direct descendant of these services, created in 1989 to provide greater transparency and accountability. The collections of the DGIPS and the CISEN offer historians of modern Mexico an entirely new viewpoint on political and social developments during the period.

My approach in this book has been to approximate the historical trajectory of Mexican politics in this period by a process of triangulation. Mexican intelligence documents as described above form the first leg. The second leg of evidence is drawn from U.S. government documents. The bureaucracies of the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Military Intelligence Division, Office of Strategic Services, and State Department produced voluminous and sometimes very cogent reports detailing economic, social, and political developments in Mexico. The third evidentiary leg consists of newspaper accounts and editorials, published memoirs, campaign flyers and other propaganda, and eyewitness accounts.

The documents of the DGIPS collection are cited here in a standard format, including box number, internal file number, expediente, and page numbers (if available), as well as dates and places. Such a format may seem too detailed, but the continuing reorganization of the DGIPS archive demanded it. Although the collection of boxes may by now be renumbered, the notes herein refer to the old system, which should be preserved for future reference. In all cases for the DGIPS archive, I have included a place name for a document only when it was filed from outside of Mexico City. Also, lacking the original file number scheme, I nonetheless provide numbers in the hope that the future discovery or re-creation of such a guide may make the notes here even more useful. Although from the formation of the Departamento Confidencial in 1918 onward there were several name changes, I refer to this main Mexican intelligence service throughout as the DGIPS for the sake of simplicity. The DFS, since it was formed only after World War II, is treated separately. Chapter 4 offers an explanation of the early history of these agencies.

The nature of intelligence documents is often conditional or tentative. Agents may present information without the benefit of context or even specific knowledge of the persons involved. Likewise, it may be difficult for supervisors to correctly identify the pertinent morsels of intelligence in the sea of reports produced daily. This reality affects the way that historians can utilize intelligence archives. Many of the DGIPS reports contained information regarding rumors that were prevalent among various communities. For example, a theft of arms and ammunition from the Colegio Militar in early 1952 was quickly linked in the rumor mill to a supposed rebellion, allegedly because the perpetrators were “unconditional supporters” of Luis Alamillo Flores. The central fact of the report, the theft of arms and ammunition, faded into the background of the more compelling political possibility: the rumor of rebellion. This rumor was all the more fertile since Alamillo Flores functioned as a close advisor to the opposition presidential candidate Miguel Henríquez Guzmán. In all, the report focused not on attempting to resolve the crime against the Colegio Militar, but on the potential political disturbance deriving from the rumor of rebellion. Although there are uncertainties regarding the intelligence documents utilized here, the problem of bias appears in the use of any primary source. The tremendous advantages gained from these reports are the opportunity to read the considered analyses of interested Mexican officials writing about their own political reality and to see the variety of opinion feeding into the intelligence bureaucracy of the federal government.

Rumors can attest to the popular beliefs of certain segments of a population where they may be current. In the case of the DGIPS files, however, the interest of the historian is not so much the creation of the rumor and its effect in society, but the decision to report the rumor and the effect it has on any official who reads about it. In the period from 1918 to the early 1940s, agents had to develop their own ideas about what was worth reporting, how to present it, and how it might affect their superiors. But after World War II, each Mexican intelligence agent was charged with being the “eyes and ears of the President,” constantly reporting facts or suspicions that might have a bearing on national politics. High intelligence officials, cabinet members, and the president himself in turn read and digested the reports streaming in from around the country. Since they could base decisions on that intelligence, they had to trust that it was either accurate or at least plausible. Returning to the theft of arms in 1952, the rumor of an Henríquez link was no less interesting because it was uncorroborated. The importance of the rumor lay in the fact that some part of the public heard it or even believed it. The same was true among high-level consumers of the intelligence reports: reported rumors were important insofar as they were read and believed. The problem of rumors in intelligence reports was not one of objective truth, but of subjective perception. The continuing threat assessments and rumors coming in from field agents had a cumulative effect on the behavior of the officials who received them.

The second large theme dealt with in this book is the issue of the military in politics. For Latin America, as with most other regions, this topic has been the province of political science. Mexico maintains an air force and a navy alongside the much larger army. Throughout this study, the army is the focal point because, unlike other Latin American cases, the navy and air force never provided the leadership or prestige that the army did in Mexican history. Thus, when reference is made to military officers or soldiers, the reader may assume that these are members of the army and not the other services.

The Spanish word militares is often used interchangeably to indicate both members of the armed forces generally and a group of ranking officers in particular. In the first case, the translation would be “soldiers” or “military men.” The second case could be translated as “military officers” or simply “officers.” These are imprecise translations at best since they do not adequately capture the specific contextual meanings that can be associated with the term in the original language. Moreover, the basic meaning of the word military is something or someone related to the military. Very few items in my research materials refer to soldados, which specifically means soldiers, or official, which literally means officer. For the purposes of this project, I have rendered the term militar(es) as either “soldier(s),” “the military,” or, if the context warrants, “military officer(s).” Although this removes some of the nuance of the original language, it also more accurately conveys the meaning of the sources.

The existing literature on the army in Mexican politics has developed a rather too facile explanation of civilianization, a process that made Mexico the exception in Latin America, with no military governments or coups since 1945. (For comparison, Latin America as a whole has had over one hundred coup attempts and almost every country has dealt with a military government over that period.) Edwin Lieuwen, who studied the process explicitly in his 1968 book Mexican Militarism, concluded neatly that “the elections of 1940 finally ended the political sway of the generals of the Revolution.” This explanation fails to deal with the fact of continuing political activity among the officer corps throughout the 1940s and into the 1950s, finally abating after the 1952 presidential elections and the U.S.-sponsored coup in Guatemala in 1954. It is true in retrospect that the break in military dominance came in 1940, after the political opposition had been beaten at the polls and Manuel Ávila Camacho removed any remaining authority from the military sector within the PRM. However, the officers who supported the presidential aspirations of Henríquez in 1946 (and again in 1952), or the powerful revolutionary generals who met secretly in 1948 to plot political change, or Octavio Véjar Vázquez, who argued for the political rights of soldiers as Mexican citizens, all seem to belie Lieuwen’s easy interpretation. The rules of Mexican politics were not entirely clear (then or now), and it took over a decade for the importance of the 1940 election to be fully appreciated, a period that also hastened the retirements of many of the older and more recalcitrant officers. This book is in part an analysis of the historical process that Lieuwen so quickly glosses over: how the Mexican military lost its authority in political matters and subjugated itself to a single-party dominant electoral system ruled by civilians.

In the discussion of political leaders and presidential candidates, another problem of language presents itself. The word “elite” derives from the Latin eligere. Therefore, members of the elite are literally a “chosen” group, different from and above other groups. The problem in Mexico from the revolution forward was that there were competing groups of elites, each vying for greater political and economic authority. This project deals with several elite groups at once, accepting the existence of dominant and nondominant elites. How is this possible? There were elite groups that chose poorly in these presidential elections, most of all the opposition candidates themselves, and they often fell into a sort of political purgatory after the voting. This does not imply that they lost their elite status, only that they lost their share of dominance. Moreover, the cases of political rehabilitation presented in chapters 1, 3, and 5 suggest the difficulty of definitively losing elite status in Mexican politics.

Chapter 1 explores the presidential election of 1940 and the collision of the PRM candidate, General Ávila Camacho, with two opposition candidates, Generals Juan Andreu Almazán and Joaquín Amaro. While Almazán represented a coalition of business leaders, conservative social groups, and some factions of the army, Amaro counted on the support of former president Plutarco Elías Calles and his political machine. This dual threat from the Right threatened the political strategy of the newly formed PRM and offered an alternative to the left-leaning policies that had defined the administration of Lázaro Cárdenas. The “conservative wave” that carried Almazán and Amaro in the election of 1940 brought with it the danger that right-leaning revolutionary veterans could effectively subvert the long-term stability of the PRM by competing for power in elections. Almazanismo represented the reaction to the increasingly hegemonic behavior of the PRM and the best chance for the opposition to scotch the nascent dominance of that party. Almazán’s defeat in 1940 provided an important set of lessons for PRM leaders, who continued refining the political system to their benefit through changes in both internal party rules and national electoral laws, and it offered the opportunity to further perfect the political machinery that would provide lasting access to power.

Chapter 2 analyzes the theme of the military in Mexican politics. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the Mexican military declined in political status and eventually became one of the most exceptional cases in Latin America: a national army removed from politics. While military officers maintained control of national politics in the immediate aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, the efforts of Calles and Álvaro Obregón to systematize national politics transformed the traditional methods of exercising influence into a more modern structure. The creation of the PNR, and its reformations into the PRM and then the PRI, afforded the dominant elites the opportunity to shift acceptable political speech from the realm of violence to that of parties and elections. As the revolutionary generation of officers aged and the education gap between young military and civilian leaders grew, the federal bureaucracy became increasingly controlled by civilians. These leaders, especially under the administration of Miguel Alemán, effectively co-opted the new generation of military elites by offering leadership positions within the newly expanding national security apparatus and secret police. In this way, the praetorian impulses of the military officers could be sated in the service of civilian political goals, including the elimination of electoral opposition.

Chapter 3 examines the presidential election of 1946 and the beginning of a new era of civilian control of government. The particular rhetoric of democracy surrounding the end of World War II provided a unique window of opportunity for civilian ascendance in Mexican politics, embodied in the presidential contest between two nonmilitary candidates: Miguel Alemán of the PRM and Ezequiel Padilla. The perception of increasing civilian control was cemented after Alemán’s victory, as the military sector of the PRM was drowned in the massive popular sector of the PRI during the party’s reformation in 1946. Alemán staffed his administration with a large number of university-educated civilians and walked a fine line between curbing the military and appeasing it. His decision to bring a new generation of military officers into the leadership of the DFS in 1947 signaled a willingness to cede strategically important posts without relinquishing executive control. Indeed, the success of the dominant civilian elites in creating a single-party dominant system depended on the committed work of the military officers who ran the intelligence community. This set of roles made Mexico an outlier in the region, as civilian government was institutionalized alongside the increasing professionalization of the intelligence services.

Chapter 4 outlines the history of the Mexican intelligence services from 1918 to the present and describes changes in the professional methods that agents used. The creation of the DFS is taken as a case study of the interplay between domestic and international interests and the increasing professionalization of the Mexican intelligence services. As methods improved, agents began to see themselves as extensions of the party in power, gradually aligning their work with the greater strategic goals of the PRI. In this way, although the Mexican intelligence services could deal with international threats reasonably well, they were more often utilized in the battle against domestic political opposition to the PRI. Thus, the creation of the DFS was a signal policy success for Miguel Alemán, as the new president was able to parlay his warm relations with President Truman into direct funding and training aid. In this specific case, we see Alemán getting it both ways: appeasing the Cold War aims of the United States and the domestic political needs of the PRI. The intelligence bureaucracy operated as a political police force for the PRI and became one of the crucial tools that party leaders could use to deal with challenges from within and from without.

Chapter 5 argues that the presidential election of 1952 represented the first time that the adjustments made by the PRI to electoral law, internal candidate selection, and domestic intelligence gathering operated at their full potential. Party discipline was enforced as never before as the PRI, under Sánchez Taboada, cracked down on futurismo by candidates such as Henríquez. Even Alemán failed in his attempts to gain reelection and to impose his successor on the PRI. The costs of working outside of the PRI surpassed the limits of most Mexican elites, most of whom chose to take their chances within the bounds of the dominant party after 1952. Finally, the military settled into the role of pillar of the state, solidifying the alliance of civilian leadership and military staffing that defined the Alemán-era intelligence bureaucracy. In all, the Henríquez campaign of 1952 signified the end of three related characteristics of postrevolutionary Mexican politics: the cardenista revolutionary ideology, the influence of the military in national electoral politics, and the existence of opposition parties. With the loss of Henríquez, Mexican politicians and generals fully realized the primacy of the PRI in electoral contests and acceded to its dominance.

This book, in short, posits an alternative lifespan for the “official” party’s dominance in Mexican politics. Rather than looking to the foundation of the PNR in 1929 as the starting point for such control, my analysis argues that the PRI’s dominance was only cemented in the aftermath of the 1952 presidential election. This study thereby offers a new viewpoint on the political transition that occurred in Mexico during the 1940s. The transformation of the PRM into the PRI, the removal of the military from electoral politics, the resettlement of younger officers in the intelligence services, and the inculcation of a new discipline among political elites all produced the conditions that allowed for the dominance of a single party structure for decades. As leaders of the PRI became more adept at negotiating political disputes and running the electoral machine, the costs for any elite attempting to oppose it at the polls became too high to reasonably fathom.

© 2010 Penn State University