Madrid Hurtado, Miguel de la (1934–)

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Madrid Hurtado, Miguel de la (1934–)

Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado served as president of Mexico from 1982 to 1988, taking office at the Mexican presidency's lowest level of legitimacy in modern times. Confronted with a major economic crisis created by rapidly increasing inflation, a downturn in growth, high rates of unemployment, extraordinary capital flight, and massive external debt, the president pursued an orthodox strategy of economic austerity. Having achieved only moderate economic success, de la Madrid is likely to be remembered more for laying the groundwork for his successor's liberalization and privatization programs. However, de la Madrid's administration did bring inflation under relative control, renegotiate the debt, and begin the process of selling off state-owned enterprises.

Politically, de la Madrid restored the shattered relationship between the private and public sectors, a step necessary for the success of his economic strategy. Whereas he initially attempted moderate electoral reforms, he reversed this strategy midway through his presidency. The government's mishandling of earthquake rescue efforts in 1985 provoked the development of numerous popular opposition movements. Electoral fraud in Chihuahua in 1986 caused further problems and brought, for the first time in four decades, formal denunciations from the church hierarchy and encouraged a more activist church posture in politics. In 1986, de la Madrid introduced a new electoral code mandating an increase in the number of proportional seats in the Chamber of Deputies from one hundred to two hundred (raising the total number of seats from four hundred to five hundred), setting the stage for the extraordinary representation of the opposition in the 1988 chamber.

Internally, de la Madrid reinforced the growing tendency of the two preceding administrations toward the dominance of political technocrats: younger, bureaucratically experienced, highly educated (often abroad), urban decision makers with few ties to the president's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) or the electoral scene. The control of these leaders continued to exacerbate internal disputes between the more traditional leadership and reform-minded younger technocrats. Finally, de la Madrid's designation of Carlos Salinas as his party's 1988 presidential candidate and the unbending treatment of party dissidents Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, who formed their own party, led to the most disputed presidential election in the party's history, in which it captured only a bare majority of the votes cast under conditions of widespread evidence of fraud.

Miguel de la Madrid was born December 12, 1934, in Colima, Colima, the son of Miguel de la Madrid Castro, a lawyer and government employee murdered by wealthy landowners after he defended peasant rights. His mother, Alicia Hurtado, took Miguel and his sister to Mexico City, where he attended the Colegio Cristóbal Colón and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) law school, from which he graduated with honors on August 8, 1957. An outstanding student, de la Madrid had the second-highest grade point average of his 732 law school classmates. In 1965, on a fellowship from the Bank of Mexico, de la Madrid obtained a masters degree in public administration from Harvard University; he would become the first Mexican president with a graduate degree as well as the first with a degree from abroad. He also taught constitutional law at UNAM from 1958 to 1967. As a student, he worked in the National Foreign Trade Bank under Ricardo J. Zevada, his professor, to support himself at school. After graduation, he obtained his first government post at the Bank of Mexico as an adviser to Mario Ramón Beteta. Beteta became the president's early mentor, and when Beteta moved to the treasury department, he took de la Madrid along as his subdirector general of credit (1965–1970).

In 1970 de la Madrid became assistant director of finances for the government oil company, Pemex, but moved back to his mentor's agency as director general of credit (1972–1975). When Beteta became treasury secretary in 1975, he appointed de la Madrid assistant secretary of credit, a post he continued to hold in the next administration. On May 17, 1979, president José López Portillo (1976–1982) appointed him secretary of programming and planning. Although considered a dark horse candidate for the presidential nomination, he became the party's candidate on September 25, 1981. His ties to José López Portillo, who chose him as his successor, extended back to law school, where he studied under López Portillo. After de la Madrid left the presidency in 1988, his successor, Carlos Salinas, appointed him director of the government-funded publishing firm Fondo de Cultura Económica. De la Madrid often participates in intellectual and policy conferences, where he is viewed as a valued contributor to debates on contemporary public issues.

See alsoCárdenas Solorzano, Cuauhtémoc; Mexico, Political Parties: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI); Muñoz Ledo Lazo de la Vega, Porfirio; Salinas de Gortari, Carlos.


Bailey, John J. Governing Mexico: The Statecraft of Crisis Management. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Dornbierer, Manou. El hombre gris: El sexenio de Miguel de la Madrid, 1982–1988. México, D.F.: Grijalbo, 1999.

Gentleman, Judith, ed. Mexican Politics in Transition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1987.

Loret de Mola, Rafael. Radiografia de un presidente. México, D.F.: Grijalbo, 1988.

Madrid Hurtado, Miguel de la. Cambio de rumbo: Testimonio de una presidencia, 1982–1988. México, D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2004.

                                  Roderic Ai Camp