The presidents who alternated after Cárdenas (M. Ávila Camacho, 1940-46; M. Alemán, 1946-52; A. Ruiz Cortínez, 1952-58; A. López Mateos, 1958-64) favored development works by focusing on industrialization and the contribution of foreign investments. The power of the PRI became invincible, while the right and left oppositions were relegated to the margins of political life. This crystallization of the revolutionary legacy led to a youth uprising in Mexico City in October 1968, which the police and army suffocated in blood. However, the PRI retained its political monopoly. The presidents L. Echeverría Alvarez also left this party (1970-76), who gave an innovative impulse to the life of Mexico, and J. López Portillo (1976-82), who had to face the serious political and economic crisis of the country, debated between the need for state interventions and industrial development largely linked to North American capitals. In July 1982 the president M. de la Madrid Hurtado was elected who agreed with the International Monetary Fund it faced the serious internal economic situation, also caused by the foreign debt, which in 1985 was close to 100 billion dollars. The austerity plan launched in 1983 reduced the already low standard of living of the population and increased social inequalities. The previous economic difficulties were joined by the Mexico City earthquake in September 1985 and the drop in oil prices at the beginning of 1986. In the second half of the 1980s, situations occurred that significantly changed the traditional political framework: among these, the significant decline in the consensus of the ruling party (PRI), which still won in the 1988 elections, with the affirmation of the left opposition candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (son of the former president Lázaro), founder of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). If the internal debate, stimulated by the discontent caused by the severe economic austerity programs, was revived by this evolution, even more news brought about the turning point impressed on the PRI itself and on the guidelines of government action by President Carlos Salinas de Gortari: according to a trend implicitly foretold by joining the GATT (1986), liberalization measures were adopted and a large number of privatizations were initiated. Possibilities were looming for a deep integration with the United States, of which, in addition to the Brady plan for the solution of the debt problem, the idea of the “North American free trade zone” was accepted without hesitation. To the diplomatic and political rapprochement, also expressed in the increased commitment against drug smuggling, was finally added the restoration of diplomatic relations (with the introduction of an amendment to the Constitution approved in 1991) also with the Vatican, long opposed by the original anticlericalism of the PRI. Confirmed at the helm of the country by the 1991 political elections, Salinas’ party carried out the free trade agreement with the United States and Canada (NAFTA), which entered into force on January 1, 1994.
The same year, despite the outbreak of peasant uprisings in the Chiapas region, determined by the precarious economic situation and by an urgent need of a general reform of the democratic system, and an electoral campaign marred by the assassination of the official candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, the PRI registered a further success with the election of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León as President of the Republic. But the continuing political tensions, accompanied by the spread of vast areas of corruption and connivance with the organized crime of drug trafficking itself, resulted in a flight of capital that brought the fragile Mexican economy to its knees. In this difficult context, the initiative of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) resumed (1995) which in Chiapas, with a series of rapid actions, kept the government army in check, while Salinas de Gortari, whose brother was involved in a sensational case of political murder, accused by Zedillo of being responsible for the economic ruin of Mexico, he left the country (March 1995). The new president also adopted a soft line towards the Zapatista rioters which began to bear fruit with the opening of direct negotiations (September 1995) and the release of some EZLN militants. Alongside the military organization, the Zapatista guerrillas created a political body, the Zapatista Front for National Liberation (January 1996), as if to foreshadow their future inclusion in the legal political struggle. In the legislative elections of July 1997, for the first time since 1929, the PRI was unable to win an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies, but only obtained 38% of the votes, against 27% of the PAN (National Action Party) and 26% of the PRD, led by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, who also won the simultaneous elections to designate the governor of the Federal District, including Mexico City, previously appointed by the President of the Republic. But, beyond any contingent events, according to dentistrymyth, Mexico still showed the contradictions of a country too conditioned by social and political violence, as well as by the inextricable tangle of interests between institutional leaders and crime, especially that linked to international drug trafficking. This is a condition in common with other realities of the Hispano-American world, but in stark contrast to the will of the Mexicans to be able to reach the horizon of complete modernization and stable economic development. A further economic crisis between 1998 and 1999, however, decreed the definitive end of the political hegemony of the PRI which in the political elections of July 2000 was defeated by a coalition called the Alliance for Change, which also included the PAN, the party center-right, whose leader Vincente Fox was elected head of state. However, in the July 2003 elections, the PRI again won the majority. Presidential elections were held in July 2006, won by Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party, on the right, with a gap of 0.57% on his opponent, Andres Obrador, who contested the outcome of the vote. In 2008, clashes between police and drug traffickers intensified, causing hundreds of victims, while in Chiapas continued military activities to counter the actions of the EZLN Zapatista rebels. The legislative elections of July 2009 were won by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); meanwhile, the tension in the country due to the war between criminal groups, especially the cartels linked to drug trafficking and the police. Especially in the city of Ciudad Juarez these episodes of violence caused the flight of many civilians and the intervention of the United States State Department with aid and greater control in the border areas. In fact, the migratory flow towards the USA remained high and caused phenomena of xenophobia in the southern states of the United States. In 2010, the violence related to drug trafficking took on the characteristics of a civil war with over 12,000 deaths and vast regions de facto beyond the control of the state. In the presidential elections of June 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI was elected head of state, defeating the leftist candidate Obrador.