Shortly before he was assassinated in 1994, Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio admitted he had a dilemma. The long dictatorial reign of Colosio’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had ruled Mexico since 1929, was under threat from two increasingly potent opposition groups: the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). While the PAN and PRD represented genuine political philosophies, the PRI stood for little more than amassing power — and holding onto it in the most corrupt manner possible. Colosio knew the PRI had to bring something more meaningful than fraud to the ballot box.

So Colosio took a cue from Bill Clinton, a Democrat who had recently won the U.S. presidency with a centrist approach. “That’s where the PRI is going to position itself,” Colosio told me in an interview then, “as the socially progressive but more economically responsible alternative.” Colosio…

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