History, Postwar Mexico
Miguel Aleman Valdes, anticorruption drive, Francisco Madero, mordida, Mexican president
Miguel Aleman Valdes, the first Mexican president without a military background since Francisco Madero, assumed office in 1946. His government began recruiting administrators from among university graduates, rather than military professionals. In 1947 Aleman became the first Mexican president to visit the United States as head of state. Aleman emphasized large-scale industrial and agricultural growth, as well as foreign investment. During his presidency government-financed dams and irrigation projects brought large areas of Mexico into cultivation and tripled the nation’s output of electricity. A dual society began to emerge during this period—one based on capital-intensive industrial and agricultural wealth, and the other tied to labor-intensive activities with poor wages. Economic growth helped Mexico’s growing middle class, but it failed to benefit many poor Mexicans and contributed to growing social inequality. Aleman promised to battle growing corruption in local and state PRI organizations, but his own administration became tarnished by bribery and corruption at all levels.
Dissatisfaction and anger over government corruption resulted in the selection of Adolfo Ruiz Cortines as president in 1952. Ruiz Cortines initiated an anticorruption drive that made some progress in restoring the government’s credibility, but did little to combat the custom of the mordida (bite), a bribe that was often demanded by minor bureaucrats, or to stop larger payoffs to officials who awarded government contracts. In 1953 the president helped to pass a constitutional change that gave women the right to vote. Increasingly, the Mexican government relied upon troops and police to quell protests or social unrest.
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