Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 09/2007

Challenges for a Postelection Mexico: Issues for U.S. Policy

Pamela K. Starr

November 2006

Council on Foreign Relations


After two decades of profound yet incomplete economic and political reforms, Mexico stands at a crossroads. Its economy is now one of the most open to international trade and capital flows among emerging markets, in stark contrast to the insular development model on which Mexico relied for more than half a century. Mexico also carried out a transition to democratic politics during the last decade, after seventy-one years under single-party, authoritarian rule. Many commentators heralded the 2000 election of an opposition leader to the presidency as the capstone of this process, but it was only one important step in a long, gradual transition. President Vicente Fox promised additional steps that would consolidate previous economic and political advances and place the country on an irreversible path to becoming a fully competitive market democracy. The last six years in Mexico have been characterized instead by political stalemate, leaving an unfinished agenda of structural change that is essential for long-term economic growth, job creation, and the deepening of democratic practices.