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 The Presidency of Lazro Cardenas  1934 - 40

 

 

Cardenas

 

Calles decided to throw his support behind Cardenas, a Governor of Michoacan, thinking he would be able to control him as a puppet. With Callas' support, Cardenas was able to carry the 1933 PNR convention and was elected in July, 1934 Cardenas cut his own salary in half and did not move into the presidential palace but kept his own home .This became the presidential residence of Los Pinos, and Chapultepec Castle was converted into the National Museum of History.Cardenas decided he would not be a Callas' puppet and would proceed with the reforms of the Revolution. The major factor that let Calles' control the last few presidents was his control of the army. Cardenas made moves to make himself supported by the army as well such as raising army pay and improving army education .By 1935, Cardenas felt strong enough in his position to start removing Callas supporters from high posts and in the army .when Callas realized what Cardenas was doing he openly criticised Cardenas .

 

Callas sent into Exile

 

 In the Spring of 1936 Cardenas had Callas and his supporters arrested and sent on a plane to exile in the US .As he had in Michoacan, Cardenas often met with common people to hear their concerns .He did not use bodyguards, which endeared him to the people .

 

Cardenas was determined to fulfill the Revolutions pledge to redistribute land which had ceased under Calles' rule . By his first term he had redistributed 49,000,000 acres. As before, the redistributed land did not go to individuals but to the community ejidos .The lands were sometimes worked by an individual or by the community. Some cooperative projects were started, such as Laguna ejido which grew cotton .Cardenas established the Banco de Cedeito Ejidal to help fiance projects for ejidos .By the 1940s more than half of Mexico's cultivated land was held by the ejidos and the large haciendas no longer existed .

 

Cardenas also worked to strengthen the labor unions and weed out the corruption of the major union CROM by forming a new union , the CTM.

 

Cardenas decreed the end of the use of capital punishment ( usually in the form of a firing squad). Capital punishment has been banned in Mexico since that time.

 

Mexico was better able to weather the Great Depression with its oil income and had cash reserves of around $15,000,000 in 1930 .As the depression went on, the country burned up its reserves and as exports dived, the Peso weakened and the economy worsened .

 

 

 

Nationalization of the Oil Companies

 

In 1936, Mexican oil workers went on strike against low pay and better working conditions against the foreign oil companies.The matter was sent to an arbitration board, which ruled that the oil companies should increase wages by one third and improve working conditions. The foreign oil companies refused to comply Cardenas ruled they were in contempt and on March 18, 1938 Cárdenas nationalized Mexico's petroleum reserves and expropriated the equipment of the foreign oil companies in Mexico. This move was extremely popular with the Mexican people and huge celebrations were held and it was the high water mark of the Revolution .The railway Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México was also nationalized in 1938 and put under a "workers administration".

 

In the US there was outrage and some called for intervention. However, the new American president, Franklin Roosevelt had a policy of nonintervention in politics south of the border and the matter went  to a commission, which ruled Mexico should pay the US companies 24 million . Cardenas established PeMex to manage the oil industry, but started in a weak position since many of the technicians and engineers had left .The US, also refused to sell the Mexicans spare parts .While this move was popular, it hurt the economy. Foreigners were afraid to invest in Mexico as did many wealthy Mexicans.

 

Oil income was a major source of income for the government, and as production declined the national debt rose .Land redistribution slowed down after 1938. In the election of 1939, deciding Mexico needed to move in a more conservative stable direction, he threw his support behind Avila Comacho, who won the 1940 election . Cardenas was aware of the devastation the Spanish Civil War was causing Spain, and decided to moderate his course to prevent the same from happening in Mexico .Cárdenas allowed thousands of Spanish refugees enter Mexico after the defeat of Republican Spain by Franco .

 

It is often said that Lázaro Cárdenas was the only president associated with PRI who did not use the office to make himself wealthy. He retired to a modest home by Lake Pátzcuaro and worked the rest of his life supervising irrigation projects and promoting free medical clinics and education for the nation's poor. He also continued to speak out about international political issues and in favor of greater democracy and human rights in Latin America. Lázaro Cárdenas died of cancer in Mexico City in 1970 .

 

 

 

 

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