The election of 1970 and after

Luis Echeverría is anointed the official PRI candidate in 1969, which means he will win the election, but he nonetheless campaigns as if he were really running for the Presidency, traveling 35,000 miles and visiting more than 900 villages, towns, and cities during a seven-month campaign. He proclaims that the Revolution's work is incomplete, parades with women dressed in regional costumes, and declares that helping peasants and workers will be his first priority when he reaches office. He also wears guayaberas in public. (The significance of the guayabera.)

Echeverría had risen through the PRI ranks as a hardliner, especially noted for arranging the Army's occupation of the National Polytechnic Institute in 1956 and the crushing of striking railroad workers in 1958. According to Judith Adler Hellman, in Mexico in Crisis, as Interior Minister Echeverría was noted for "his tireless pursuit and persecution of communist organizations, the destruction of several left-wing publications, the imposition of an official script in TV radio newscasts, and the reversal of electoral results in two contests lost by the PRI....He was widely believed to have taken the fatal decision" to attack the protestors in 1968.

Nonetheless, he promises "new and unprecedented democratic overtures," stands up for freedom of thought ("there is no such thing as ideas which are exotic or alien to the revolution") and consistently visits isolated parts of the country to discuss the peasants' problems with them directly. He attacks the "tragic complacency" of previous regimes and their refusal to help workers and peasants; he attacks corruption within government directly and personally, noting that public office "is regarded by many so-called public servants as booty." He attacks private industry as greedy, selfish, unpatriotic and "un-Mexican": "Mexico needs modern entrepreneurs who do not think only in terms of personal proft, but in terms of the general progress of the country and the duty they have to serve society....Today we must demand that industrialists do not carry on raping the land as you have done in the past." Novelist and essayist Carlos Fuentes writes in August of 1971 that he has "lifted the veil of fear thrown over the body of Mexico by Díaz Ordaz." He pays particular attention to students. He allows student-movement leaders in exile in Chile to return and releases prisoners from 1968; radical leaders reappear in the political arena and some academic leftists are offered government posts.

In his first year, Echeverría expands social security by 10 million people, so it covers more than 1/3 of the population; builds 100,000 houses for workers; increases the budget for the Ministry of Education by 5x; increases technical schools from 281 to 1301; raises taxes on corporations and the rich (top income bracket rises from paying 35% to paying 42% tax) and on luxury goods, imports and exports, and imposes a consumption tax to pay for all of this. His government treats farmers as a "priority area," increasing credit to peasants, insuring crops against failure and in general trying to get rid of/weaken intermediaries (local officials, bankers, people who owned transportation/storage facilities) who exploit them. He forces industries to compete on world markets by helping only those who produce affordable goods for the masses will be helped; foreign investors are forced to deal more fairly with Mexican markets and investors. He tries to forge new trade connections with Canada, Japan, China, the USSR, and other countries that are not America, leading all Third World nations in the effort to build fairer relations with industrialized countries. He travels to 36 countries and reaches 160 international agreements, nearly doubling the nations with which Mexico has formal relations, from 65 to 127.

Hellman sums this up as evolution, not revolution: "he was trying to modernize and rationalize Mexican capitalism...with spreading the fruits of development more widely and fostering a slightly more open, democratic political atmosphere. His goal was to create the climate of social and political stability that would permit further development." Unfortunately, the elites resist, limiting the extent of change, and the goverment, Echeverría very much included, remains unable to respect student protests, as seen most clearly in the Corpus Christi massacre of 1971.