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PRI and the Mexican Student Movement of 1968 : a case study of repression. Hernandez, Salvador


This report is a study of the development of strategies of political conflict surrounding the Mexican Student Movement of 1968. It analyzes strategies of the students' organization of the National Strike Committee and the Government Party of Revolutionary Institutions (P.R.I.), in order to understand why violent repression was applied by the government to suppress the student group. The understanding of repression is undertaken in a review of the development of governmental structures and the history of conflict in Mexico beginning in 1910. In looking through the history of Mexico and examining the student movement, the report weaves together three theories: 1) the conflict of different political groups in history; 2) the development of a one-party system of government; and 3) the routinized use of repression in political conflict since the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In review of the historical development of the P.R.I., the study indicates that the early period in the 1930's contained an opportunity for a viable political democracy with a control and orderly conflict between interest group on the left and right. The push to a centralized government came from Cárdenas who was sympathetic to the needs of the peasants and workers and whose administration worked on their behalf. But following the leadership of Cárdenas, the presidential successors, Avila Camacho and Alemán, used the Central Party, and by strengthening its control, suppressed labor and peasant movements. It is at this time that the legacy of violence in policy matters is introduced — a strategy of repression in modern Mexican politics. Evidence on the composition of the P.R.I. points to a structure in which control of the government flows, from the top down in a unidirectional manner with little or no influence from the workers, peasants or small businessmen. Representation in the party does not bring with it the ability to participate in the decision making, nor does the populist ideology of the party mean that the masses are able to influence the leadership of the government. This being the case, the problem for the government becomes one of persuasion and control. A chronological account of the events of 1968 reveal that the strategy of the student movement, was that of calling for a public debate with the government in order to provide a means of restoring the influence of the masses of the people upon public officials, and the strategy of the government was to applied physical force through the police and the army in order to avoid a public debate and to quickly eliminate the student movement.

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