Breaching protocol: caciquismo and administrative capacity in rural Mexico
Pallais, Diana Margarita
MetadataShow full item record
This study explores the internal struggles of the upper ranks of the political elite in the wake of the neoliberal economic reforms in Mexico. Since, until recently, the PRI had a monopoly over the political system, the party's internal squabbles were tantamount to an intra-institutional crisis. The competing currents can be characterized as (a) an agendasetting, technocratic elite in control of the presidency and national leadership positions, and (b) a more traditional set of politicos, known as caciques in the countryside, who remain in charge of local institutions in remote states. The technocrats pushed for market liberalization, accelerated deregulation, and leaner public budgets. The caciques resisted the reforms, because the regulatory and budgetary largesse of the statist era was the key to their political modus operandi.In the statist era, Caciques understood their primary role in politics to be the dispensation of patronage---and largesse facilitated the nurturing of these networks. They enjoyed great discretion in the implementation of federal programs and in the regulatory ambit. In contrast, the neoliberal reforms threatened to starve caciques of patronage opportunities since government intervention is selective, public benefits are targeted at particular constituencies, and the president wants to enhance administrative capacity and accountability.This intra-institutional struggle has important consequences for the PRI's continued incumbency. As electoral competition became fiercer, the technocratic wing of the PRI made bold overtures to solidify the party's electoral ties to its most loyal constituencies. The corn growers were one such group, but they required a special effort because the PRI-sponsored NAFTA reforms injured their sectoral interests. To make amends, the technocrats introduced Procampo, a policy of direct cash transfers to corn growers. But the implementation of the policy has been varied by region. In areas where caciques have a historic advantage, they obstructed its implementation and electoral volatility ensued. I propose a model of geographic isolation to explain the Mexican state's regionally-varied institutional capacity. The technocrats sought to promote institutional checks in the implementation of Procampo, and the caciques resisted this attempt to wrest their administrative discretion. Isolation gave caciques a formidable advantage.
- Political science