Local Democracy in Modern Mexico

A Study of Participatory Methods

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Dr. Arturo Flores
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About The Author

Dr. Arturo Flores is a leading Citizen Participation specialist. He obtained his doctorate in political philosophy at the University of York (England) in 2003. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Social Research Institute based in the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where he is developing a citizen empowerment index. Dr. Flores is also part of a research project aimed at promoting citizen participation and regional development in Mexico; an initiative directed by the National Autonomous University of Mexico, entitled: “Mexico: Las Regiones Sociales en el Siglo XXI.”

The book considers how and why citizen participation initiatives have been recently promoted in such a traditionally centralised and top-down decision making environment as found in Mexico. By analysing three participatory agendas, the book provides a realistic view behind the truth of citizen participation schemes at the local level. The book is an important contribution to the citizen empowerment debate taking place in many parts of the globe.

About The Book

This in-depth study of local government in Mexico raises issues which go far beyond the territory it covers. It will be of absorbing interest to all students of local democracy and participatory methods, not only in Latin America, but in Western and Eastern Europe, the USA, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, where initiatives and experimentation are driven by socio-economic change.

Everywhere citizen participation has become an important part of the democratisation debate, and this is certainly the situation in contemporary Mexico. This book presents a revealing insight of the wide range of participatory mechanisms, including plebiscites, referenda and neighbourhood committees, which have been introduced by different political parties at the local level in Mexico.

After presenting the overall picture, the author examines the implementation of the participatory agenda in three localities: Tlalpan, Puebla and San Pedro, governed by Mexico’s three main political parties, the PRI, PAN and PRD. The critical insight of the author reveals that these parties have a broad range of political motives in promoting participatory mechanisms. The restricted powers and resources given to these bodies and the top-down implementation process have contributed to the limited extent to which citizens have been empowered by these participative initiatives, and this offers a thought-provoking lesson to students of local government worldwide.

The distinctive contribution of the book is provided by the three empirical case studies which bring out the political agendas underpinning these initiatives and the diversity of participatory forms currently in place. It also shows that the literature on participative democracy underestimates the significance of social class and clientelist practices in shaping the nature of local participatory mechanisms.

Whilst this book is an essential read to local government students throughout Latin America, it will also be highly rewarding in many aspects to those in local government in other parts of the world.