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Cuauhtémoc CárdenasMexico’s Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Receives The Notre Dame Prize


Mexican democracy advocate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was awarded the Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America at a ceremony in Mexico City on February 16.

“The fact that the Notre Dame Prize is going to a Mexican statesman underscores the tremendous strides that Mexico has undertaken over the last twenty years in expanding and consolidating a true democracy,” says political scientist Scott Mainwaring, the director of Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies.

An unwavering advocate for democracy and justice, Cárdenas was instrumental in opening up the political process in Mexico, long dominated by the one-party rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Cárdenas broke “the logjam of the authoritarian system,” says Dain Borges, associate professor of history at the University of Chicago.

In 1987, Cárdenas challenged the PRI’s unwritten rule that allowed presidents to designate their own successors. Leaving the party, he ran for president in 1988. He came very close to winning against the PRI candidate—indeed, many Mexicans contend that the government stole the election.

“The electoral outcome triggered a popular mobilization that accelerated Mexico´s transition to democracy,” says Soledad Loaeza, professor of political science at El Colegio de México’s Center for International Studies and a former Kellogg Institute visiting fellow. “Cárdenas gave hope to many people.”

The son of one of Mexico’s most revered PRI presidents, Lázaro Cárdenas, Cuauhtémoc rose through PRI ranks before becoming fed up with the party’s increasing corruption and electoral fraud. A civil engineer by training, he served as senator and then governor of the state of Michoacán. In 1989, he founded the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and in 1997 was elected mayor of Mexico City. He ran for the presidency again in 1994 and 2000.

Currently president of the Fundación para la Democracia (Foundation for Democracy), he has remained active in efforts to confront problems facing Mexico. “Addressing poverty and expanding Mexico's formal economy are necessary parts of any strategy to stem drug trafficking and drug-related violence and to provide alternatives to those leaving Mexico for the United States,” he said in a 2010 address at UCLA.

Established in 2000 by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Notre Dame Prize for Distinguished Public Service in Latin America is the only award of its kind to recognize the efforts of visionary leaders to enhance the region’s welfare. The award carries a $15,000 cash prize, with a matching amount donated to a charitable organization recommended by the laureate.

Upon the recommendation of Mr. Cárdenas, both his own award and the matching prize were donated to “Hermanos en el Camino” (“Brothers on the Road”), a shelter for migrants in Oaxaca, Mexico founded in 2007.

Hermanos en el Camino provides food, lodging, medical care, and legal support for Central American migrants passing through Oaxaca on their way north. In the face of violent threats from gangs and others who prey upon the migrants, the organization is uncompromising in its daily care of migrants and its stance against the abuse of their human rights.

For more information:

Elizabeth Rankin, writer/editor, Kellogg Institute, 574-631-9184 or




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