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Between Individual and Collective

Action: Citizen Participation and

Public Oversight in Mexico’s
Oportunidades Programme
Felipe Hevia de la Jara*

1 Introduction peasants’ cooperatives, rural workers’ unions and

Programmes against poverty implemented in Mexico community associations. This design was to suppress
over the last 30 years have become experimental any kind of societal intermediation. But there was
laboratories for citizen participation in social policy: another reason for this: those who formulated the
food programmes in the 1970s and 1980s, programme shared the view that those organisations
implemented through the establishment of were committed to old corporatist, authoritarian and
committees for rural supply; Solidarity National clientelistic practices. Therefore, the exclusion of
Programme (Pronasol) in the 1990s, also implemented community organisations and the strengthening of
by establishing thousands of solidarity committees; and direct links with the beneficiaries aimed to prevent
the PROGRESA/Oportunidades programme, the reproduction of the old distortions of social
implemented between the end of last century and policies in Mexico: corruption, authoritarian
early years of the current one. All those programmes corporatism and political clientelism.
have different institutional designs in order to boost
(but often in fact limiting and guiding) the forms and Nevertheless, as I point out in this article, the
capacities of people’s real participation in the design, inadequate design of the mechanisms intended to
operation, societal control and evaluation of social empower the beneficiaries to oversee the
programmes (Isunza and Hevia 2006). programme, as well as the Mexican government’s
inability to set mechanisms of direct communication
This article focuses specifically on the PROGRESA/ with the millions of covered families, rendered the
Oportunidades programme as it is the most intermediation of local institutions indispensable.
extensive poverty alleviation programme currently in Such intermediaries were thus granted new and
operation in Mexico, with five million beneficiary powerful instruments of control and consequently
families, a ten-year history and an institutional design enabled the continuation of authoritarian and
that broke with the participatory paradigm of clientelistic practices.
former projects.
In addition, there was a lack of effort on the part of
The implementation of the Education, Health and social actors to control, investigate and denounce
Nutrition Program (PROGRESA) in 1997 broke the these distorted relations. This is probably due to the
traditional way that poverty alleviation programmes fact that, on the one hand, many of those
had been run up until that time. The principal change community and rural workers’ organisations are
was that the family became the target of the engaged in the same authoritarian and self-serving
programme, rather than the community. For this practices in dealing with their own low-class
reason, programme design promoted a direct constituency, and on the other hand, non-
relationship between government and families, governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil
instead of relying on existing organisations, such as organisations for citizen rights were little concerned

IDS Bulletin Volume 38 Number 6 January 2008 © Institute of Development Studies

with overseeing the programme, as many of their policy if we want to prevent abuses of power.
own members were involved in its management.
This article is divided in three parts. In the first part,
In fact, the election of Vicente Fox and the widening the structure of participation in the PROGRESA/
of political powers brought to PROGRESA a new Oportunidades programme is surveyed, the main
stream of policymakers (Fox 1992) that the author characteristic of which is the search for direct
calls the ‘civic stream’ (corriente cívica). Their main relations between the beneficiaries and the
characteristics are deep linkage with civil programme, avoiding the intermediation of
organisations and non-partisanship. Besides changing community and rural workers’ organisations, as they
the name of the programme from PROGRESA to were found to be authoritarian, corporatist and
Oportunidades, this stream introduced important corrupted. The second part describes the position
moves towards new kinds of relations with taken by social actors in such a restrictive context for
beneficiaries and civil organisations. They gave participation, and offers some interpretations on why
priority to direct relations with families by means of civil organisations showed so little concern in
campaigns for public information and oversight, and effectively overseeing the programme. Finally, a
so aimed to prevent abusive political use of the series of lessons taken from this case is presented in
programme. Hence, dissemination of information order to strengthen the structure of citizens’
and policies for citizens’ active participation were participation to counterbalance political power.
boosted, and mechanisms were set for preventing
the political use of the programme during elections. 2 PROGRESA/Oportunidades programme
The Programa de Desarrollo Humano Oportunidades
These changes, however, did not affect the (Programme for Human Development Opportunities,
mechanisms for verifying conditionalities, which PO) was founded in 1997 and first called PROGRESA.
were thus maintained in the hands of local It has been maintained throughout three different
authorities and intermediaries. As a consequence, presidential administrations1 and has grown year after
changes had little efficacy in restraining authoritarian year both in budget and coverage.2 The PO is a
practices. Although the ‘civic stream’ shared a conditional cash transfer programme and is guided
negative view of intermediation by traditional rural towards the improvement of human capital,
workers’ organisations and was aware of the hazards generation of capabilities and breaking the circle of
of adding new intermediaries, they were also unable poverty spread from one generation to another. It
to design, until 2005, regular forums of cooperation combines the identification and targeting of
and information (rather than deliberative beneficiaries, direct cash transfers to the families
participation) for civil organisations interested in (particularly the women) and optimisation of the use
defending and ensuring the rights of the poorest of institutional resources in education, nutrition and
portion of the population. healthcare by means of conditionalities or
beneficiaries’ co-responsibilities.
This incapability was closely related to the little
concern these organisations actually showed for the Accordingly, the heads of households (usually
programme. Civic associations did not push or fight women) only receive economic support if they
either for public overseeing or for stopping abuses of attend monthly workshops on healthcare and consult
power at either the federal or the local level. As the the general practitioner at least once a year.
‘civic stream’ was taking part in the government, Scholarships are granted to children and adolescents
they were confident that it would be enough to from primary (third year) to junior high school,
ensure that things were correctly done. provided they are enrolled in the schools and
regularly attend the classes. Adolescents who
From this, it can be learned that effective continue their studies, attending either high school
prevention, control and punishment of abuse of or a college, are granted cash aid for self-
authority requires an institutional structure capable maintenance or productive projects. Two other
of embodying both direct and collective actions to financial aids have been recently set up: a financial
oversee the programme’s performance. Finally, it aid to third age members of the programme and
demonstrates that there must be collective actors one as an ‘energy subsidy’.3
enabled to and concerned with overseeing public

IDS Bulletin Volume 38 Number 6 January 2008 65

The amount of money that each family receives directed specifically to rural zones, an emphasis on
depends on the official confirmation that the co- human capital development), as well as in the relation
responsibilities have been accomplished. Those in between government and beneficiaries.
charge of issuing this confirmation are the doctors
and nurses of the healthcare centres, and public The main changes included targeting families rather
school teachers. than the communities, and the limiting of any kind of
intermediation between federal government and
The programme was born at a particular juncture: benefited families. The central argument was that
the Mexican politics and economy crisis triggered in cash transfers made directly to families would not
1994. This included unpopularity of the ending require any local intermediation structure (Levy and
government of president Carlos Salinas, political Rodríguez 2004). In this sense, local intermediation
disarticulation of the Revolutionary Institutional structures (whether governmental or not) in rural
Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) and zones were viewed as retrograde, unprepared,
the Zapatista rebellion in the south of the country. corporatist, corrupt and clientelistic. Many municipal
All these factors and deep ideological differences mayors had not even completed primary school
between Salinas’ social policymakers and those of his education and intermediation institutions were
successor Ernesto Zedillo contributed to the end of inclined toward authoritarian corporatism and other
the National Solidarity Programme (Pronasol). This corrupt practices. As such, a variety of mechanisms
social programme became symbolic of the Salinas were adopted to prevent local intermediation and
administration and was then stigmatised as an promote transparency in the programme’s operations.
instrument exploited for political gains. Without
making any considerable progress against poverty, it The localities to receive the programme’s resources
was considered to have reproduced the same were selected by the central offices in Mexico City
clientelistic and corporatist practices as the worst according to census data, without the participation
times of the post-revolutionary period – by means of either of government representatives (state
a secondary, abusive political network set up governors, elected representatives or municipal
throughout the whole country (namely, the presidents) or civil organisations.
Solidarity Committees) and a presidential system
with no counterbalances. As for the programme’s admittance process, private
companies had been in charge of accepting and
The functioning of Pronasol rested on Solidarity evaluating application forms up until 2002. From this
Committees in every region of the country. These year on, the process of targeting depended on the
committees were in charge of establishing priority programme’s National Coordination, again without the
for the many actions to be carried out, their public participation of any civil organisation or association.
control (through the board of public oversight) and
allocating labour and financial resources for the Families were selected according to a mathematical
project’s execution. Nonetheless, like the traditional scoring system. Public financial institutions were hired
PRI corporations, this network of committees to deliver the aid, preventing municipal or state
worked as a secondary source of political power, authorities from having any part in the transfers.
rewarding those loyal to the president with extra Finally, a system of state liaisons, dependent of
resources, while punishing anti-incumbent positions. National Coordination and called coordinaciones
Therefore, these resources were distributed estatales, was developed to bring the operation
according to partisan interests rather than technical ‘closer’ to the population. Municipal spheres were
criteria, thus making little impact on poverty deliberately left out of all these processes – municipal
(Cornelius et al. 1994). administrations had hardly any attribution or role in
PROGRESA – and the same happened to traditional
As Pronasol had been plainly used for political communitarian, rural workers’ and political
purposes and had little effect on poverty alleviation, organisations. The idea was to eliminate any kind of
PROGRESA’s policy designers and managers intended intermediation from the operational processes.
to distinguish it from Pronasol. Such a distinction was
easily noticed in the programme’s central features The selection of beneficiaries, localities and families
(targeting, centralised management, expenditures depended and still depends exclusively on the

66 Hevia de la Jara Between Individual and Collective Action: Mexico’s Oportunidades Programme
National Coordination. There is no possibility of an receive less money? How can an accurate survey of
organisation asking for ‘benefit shares’ in favour of its beneficiaries be maintained? In the face of the State’s
members, nor can professors or doctors have any incapacity to communicate directly with the
role in deciding which families are truly poor and beneficiaries, the only possible solution was to create
which ‘do not need’ the aid. a transmission belt information system, which, in other
words, meant constructing new intermediaries.
Communities and their organisations only had a
small part in designing the programme: a community In 1999 PROGRESA had to incorporate two figures
assembly. Once the beneficiary families have been which did not depend directly on the centralised
selected, a community assembly should detect National Coordination: a municipal liaison (enlace
possible mistakes concerning the inclusion or municipal) and a communitarian promoter (promotora).
exclusion of families (those included but ‘without real The former was a municipal employee paid by city
need’ for the aid, as well as those left out but truly in hall, responsible for advising title holders of payment
need). Nevertheless, independent evaluations have dates as well as providing security to its actual
shown the inefficiency of this process year after year delivery. The communitarian sponsor, on the other
(Adato 2004). hand, was a ‘representative’ of the beneficiaries
whose principal responsibility was to transmit
In short, grounded reasons – such as the prevention information from the liaison to the rest of the
of authoritarian and mass patronage practices – led programme’s beneficiaries, as well as ensuring that
to the design of a system that could operate without the beneficiaries spend the financial aid that they
intermediation. The central government was receive appropriately (González and Escobar 2002).
supposed to hold direct relations with the benefited
families. Nonetheless, this design required direct Later, with the change of name from PROGRESA to
communication with the beneficiaries for its Oportunidades in 2002, when the programme’s
operation to be effective. coverage began to increase, the liaisons’ and the
communitarian sponsors’ responsibilities expanded as
The question of how the families could be listened to they collaborated with the programme’s operators to
did not seem difficult: various mechanisms to attend update survey data and conduct other important
to citizens had been established at state level – procedures.
though in a disorderly manner. These mechanisms
were only organised into a unified system in 2003, Due to the evident influence acquired by these
when the Citizen Complaints System (Sistema de agents, the programme attempted year by year to
Atención Ciudadana) began to strengthen. In this limit their intermediation power. The requisites for
way, each family had the possibility (at least in the position of municipal liaison increased (e.g.
theory) of communicating with the programme by specifying that they be appointed by a local town
letter or telephone, without intermediation. council and prohibiting leaders of political parties)
and, from 2002 on, individual sponsors were
But things become more complex when the replaced by Committees of Community
objective is to speak directly with beneficiaries. The Development (CPC) which were made up of three
question is: how to reach each of the thousands of (and later four) beneficiaries elected by their peers.
towns in Mexico’s most remote areas – the places
where the majority of the programme’s beneficiaries This change sought to limit the power that the
are concentrated? In a country where there are no municipal liaisons were acquiring as intermediaries
mailing addresses in smaller localities (addresses are between the programme and the beneficiary
simply listed as ‘general delivery’); where the postal families. It also hoped to strengthen the
service generally functions poorly; where there was programme’s information system and monitor the
no official photo ID until 1990 (when the IFE, title-holders themselves. In this way, the actions and
Elections Federal Institute, issued voter registration functions of these committees continued to be
cards); where there is no banking network, etc. – defined from the National Coordination, and ended
How can these families be informed of the payment up as platforms for the representation of the
date? How can they be informed that they have not programme vis-à-vis beneficiaries, rather than vice
made good on their co-responsibilities and so will versa. Consequently, their principal actions continue

IDS Bulletin Volume 38 Number 6 January 2008 67

to be governmental functions executed towards the complaints and suggestions, which in the end leaves
beneficiaries: to inform title-holders of payment individual programme beneficiaries to face a
dates, to organise co-responsibilities and to ensure government officer.5 With the exception of an annual
that the transfers are put to good use, among others meeting with civil organisations, collective action
(Oportunidades 2006). does not have regular and institutional instances of
denouncement and negotiation with the authorities.
These changes, however, could not put an end to
authoritarian corporatism and the culture of political There were no changes in the form of relation with
clientelism at the local level, as many of the NGOs and civic society until 2005, eight years after
institutional intermediaries became political the programme was founded. Then the ‘civic stream’,
operators. The position of municipal liaison turned in one of their last innovations, created a
out to be useful for political ascension: many Programme of Incentive for Civil Society
municipal mayors constructed their political capital Organisations, the basic tasks of which are to provide
around PROGRESA/Oportunidades. CPC members information to these organisations, develop
also kept the same practices that the PO had so experiments of social supervision concerning the
eagerly intended to avoid, such as solicitation of programme results and hold an annual meeting for
benefit shares, political proselytism, improper accountability of the actions performed during the
behaviour towards opposition, etc. In fact, most of year. However, the small number of organisations
the complaints concerning ‘proselytism’ involved inscribed in the programme (only 58 in 2006) and
CPC members and municipal liaisons/authorities, the little concern they have shown in taking part in
reinforcing the association of collective action with the control of the PO points out the limitations of
political clientelism.4 this mechanism of public oversight.

In addition, the control system for co-responsibilities, This brings us to the central question: Is it possible to
essential to a conditional cash transfer programme, set up an efficient system of direct participation
was of great advantage to these intermediaries. capable of promoting the public overseeing of public
Those in charge of confirming the fulfilment of programmes, without intermediation between
obligations in fact control the amount of money that families and government? The Oportunidades case
goes to each family. If a family is reported to have shows that it is not possible, either when the state
failed in their co-responsibilities, there are quite lacks capacity to communicate with beneficiaries, or
concrete consequences – they will receive less when there is a wide set of political institutions and
money. State actors (especially those from public state agencies controlling the beneficiaries themselves.
healthcare) and institutional intermediaries can take It also shows that placing extreme limits on
great advantage of this control instrument, for it intermediation also reduces the possibility of
allows every sort of abusive power practice, with a denouncing and punishing abuses of power, because
low possibility of punishment. collective action cannot find an effective institutional
platform for the exercise of societal control over policy
As a consequence, many of the programme’s and politics. Finally, as will be seen in the following
beneficiaries are often given a kind of a second class section, it shows that, no matter how stable the
citizenship, being forced to carry out community work, mechanisms related to social organisations for the
such as sweeping the streets or healthcare posts, or to poor are, the quality of the collective actors who take
give part of the money they receive to the authorities part in the process is still crucial in determining its
as a condition to keep receiving it. If they denounce success or failure. If they are not concerned or capable,
such practices, they risk losing their benefits the programme’s structure by itself is not sufficient to
altogether, given the way in which the control of co- ensure that it functions soundly.
responsibilities works. What can the poor do in these
cases? How can they prevent such situations? 3 Social actors: civic stream and lack of dialogue
The public targeted by PROGRESA/Oportunidades
It is of vital importance to ensure efficient programme are people in the most precarious social
mechanisms of accountability and public overseeing. conditions, unprotected and vulnerable. Its
The institutional design of the Oportunidades allows beneficiaries are the poorest of the poor. The fact
for only one possibility: the system of citizen that it targets mainly the population of rural zones

68 Hevia de la Jara Between Individual and Collective Action: Mexico’s Oportunidades Programme
and with women acting as family representatives Oportunidades, the organised actors do not seem to
results in an even greater inequality of power be pressing for the improvement of participatory
between the beneficiaries and the government. spaces within the programme.
How can an indigenous woman who does not speak
Spanish denounce the doctor who asks her to wash To better explain this situation, this article goes on to
his clothes; the municipal authority who forces her analyse the two opposite phenomena. First,
to attend party meetings or who threatens to cut off generally speaking, rural workers’ organisations with
her benefits if she does not vote in accordance with a more traditional profile do not interact with the
this or that party? programme at the local level because they consider
it a programme for women, and one which, in
As mentioned above, participation mechanisms were addition, provides only small amounts for each family
designed in a way that does not empower the (notwithstanding the fact that the total sum is quite
beneficiaries to solve this kind of problem. They are considerable). These factors weaken the interest of
forced to confront a huge government structure as rural workers and communal authorities in using
individuals, and this article has shown that sometimes their time and influence to fight abuses of power. In
participation platforms are not the solution, but these cases, they only act when the problem appears
rather a part of the problem. In addition, the to be very serious.6 They are usually more interested
society–state relationship in rural Mexico has been in programmes that can bring resources in the form
historically associated with public authorities’ abusive of fees or commissions to cover administration costs.
practices. Therefore, the woman as described above is As the PROGRESA/Oportunidades programme pays
ill-prepared to defend herself from ‘authorities’. small financial amounts to the families, there is
greater interest in other programmes that involve
That is why collective action is of fundamental more resources to fewer beneficiaries. Such is the
importance for the enhancement of beneficiaries’ case, for instance, with programmes that provide
protection capacities and reducing unbalances of assistance to rural workers. Moreover such
power. Representation institutions were set and organisations consider the assistance paid by the
strengthened in Mexico during the twentieth programme as minor aid to the families. The fact
century, especially in rural areas, such as the councils that it is a programme for women shows the little
of ejidatarios and communal assemblies, which still symbolic importance these authorities attribute to
function considerably well. In addition, rural workers’ them. But the political operators that intend to
leagues and confederations that played an important manipulate the programme understand very well
role in balancing the post-revolutionary regimen are what these beneficiaries represent: political clienteles
still influential in agrarian policies, as can be seen with little public oversight and, therefore, a breeding
from their participation in subsidiary rural ground for a generation of political leaders for this
programmes like Alianza para el Campo. Several kind of voter. Designers and operators seem to be
organisations, both civil and governmental, are active right in their diagnosis concerning corruption and
in many intensely impoverished regions reached by authoritarian corporatism. As specialised literature
the programme, and they work with the same has stressed, collective actors do not necessarily
women that match the programmes beneficiary represent civic virtues; nor do their practices always
profile. However, neither traditional organisations, favour the strengthening of democracy (Dagnino et
such as the communal assemblies and councils of al. 2006; Gurza Lavalle 2003).
ejidatarios, nor the rural workers’ associations seem
to be concerned with overseeing or taking part in However this does not explain why NGOs and civic
the programme. organisations show little interest in overseeing the
programme, and why, when they do so, they focus
The same may be said of the social organisations. The exclusively on watching the potential use of the
Programme of Incentive for Social Organisations, for programme for political and electoral purposes.7 This
instance, counted a total of 58 organisations seemingly lack of attention may have much to do with
inscribed in 2006. Nevertheless, no more than five the presence of ‘civic stream’ within the programme.
joint projects were conducted between 2005 and Rogelio Gómez-Hermosillo, the national coordinator
2006 (Hevia 2007). In short, although they are better of the programme, was the ex-director of the Civic
provided with capacities to defend the public of Alliance, which is one of the organisations fighting

IDS Bulletin Volume 38 Number 6 January 2008 69

hard for fair elections. This gave the NGOs confidence real power of negotiation that collective actions can
that Gómez-Hermosillo and his team would bring have, and puts the victim alone to face the whole
transparency and non-authoritarian dynamics into the government structure. On the other hand, if the
programme, eliminating and fighting political and structure does not explicitly specify a capable agency
electoral uses of the programme. Indeed, his for oversight, taking into consideration collective
administration was receptive and proactive in respect action and allowing for the adequate representation
to the organisations. However, those organisations of interests, authoritarian practices will return
were unable to take advantage of the opportunity, disguised as informal operators or institutional
partly because they were at a stage of relatively low intermediaries whose practices are even more
enthusiasm compared with the euphoria that difficult to control and whose manoeuvring may
precedes political transition (Olvera 2001). have even more harmful consequences for the
poorest portion of the population.
Therefore, the Mexican collective actors that could
have watched over the programme were then either In other words, there is no contradiction between
more part of the problem than the solution, or they forums for direct, individual action and those for
did not have capabilities for defending more general collective action regarding the oversight of and
public aspirations, but only particular ones. Traditional participation in public policy. Given the large portion
or rural workers’ organisations were little concerned of the population that benefits from Oportunidades,
with a programme for women that provided small it is necessary to develop and strengthen forums of
financial aid to families, while the fact that the ‘civic direct action in order to have an efficient system of
stream’ was within the programme staff appeared to information for and from the population. It is
guarantee its transparency and good administration. important that the population is well informed and
These factors did not contribute to improvements in has access to a strong, efficient system for filing
participation and public oversight beyond the delivery complaints and suggestions. But it is also necessary
of information, and the system of citizen complaints to strengthen the collective action of the
held very limited possibilities for fighting abusive beneficiaries themselves so that they can be, first of
political practices. all, citizen counterbalances within the programme.
This is the way to reduce the inequalities of political
4 Conclusions power and improve the programme’s efficiency.
According to what has been shown in the Mexican
case, the prevention of abuses of authority and the But the structure is only one side of the coin. As the
effectiveness of systems of public oversight require Mexican case demonstrates, without concerned and
an institutional design that admits both direct action independent collective actors, with effective
on the part of each family, but also collective action resources for action and oversight, such spheres may
as a means to communicate with the programme. If become vacuous mechanisms of ornamental
any of these possibilities are blocked, the capacity for participation. The constant flow of information to the
public overseeing on behalf of the impoverished title-holders is still one of the most effective
people will be reduced. instruments to prevent abuses of power.
Nonetheless, it is also necessary to strengthen the
If the possibilities for individual action are obstructed, independent forums of collective action, both on the
organisations may be strengthened but, in turn, the part of the title-holders themselves and on the part
authoritarian control over low-class constituencies of civil society. With the election of Felipe Calderón
will also be strengthened. The monopoly of to the Mexican presidency in 2006 – amidst doubts
representation can be very inefficient in overseeing about his legitimacy – the ‘civic stream’ left the
public policy, as seen in the post-revolutionary times programme, while a confessed party activist was
of the PRI. If the spaces of institutional power and installed in the national coordination for the first
the forms of representation are not well designed, time since its foundation in 1997. It is of fundamental
they will not be able to contribute to the importance, therefore, that the social organisations
transparency or efficiency of public policy. watch over the programme in order to hinder the
return of clientelistic and corporatist mechanisms
But the complete exclusion of any kind of that had been previously overcome, specifically at the
intermediation is equally inefficient, as it limits the federal level.

70 Hevia de la Jara Between Individual and Collective Action: Mexico’s Oportunidades Programme
In summary, the Mexican experiment shows that achieve efficient mechanisms of participation and
two factors – a structure that combines collective accountability in programmes of conditional cash
and individual actions as well as concerned and transfers.
independent social actors – seem to be essential to

Notes scholarships vary from MXN$115 (US$10.5) for

* I would like to thank specially Adrián Gurza Lavalle children in the third year of primary school (no aid
and Peter Houtzager for their contribution and is granted for the first two years) to MXN$730
insights to developing the argument in this article. (US$66.4) for female students in the third year of
I want to thank too Yuriko Takahashi, Monika high school. In addition, each adult member of
Dowbor, Graziela Castello, Liza Serfim and the benefited families is granted MXN$250
Samana Vergara-Lope for their comments and (US$22.7). The maximum amount an individual
contributions. Any omissions or mistakes are mine. family can receive in scholarship is MXN$1,045
1 The programme started in the government of (US$95) for basic education and MXN$1,775
Ernesto Zedillo from the Partido Revolucionario (US$161.4) for higher levels (Oportunidades 2006).
Institucional (PRI) and has gone on throughout the Exchange rate MXN$10.5=US$1.
governments of Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, 4 The system for citizen complaints and suggestions
both from the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN). reported 1,003 allegations of proselytism in the
2 The PO has grown year after year both in period 2003–6, 586 of which (58.4%) referred to
coverage and budget. It started in 1997 with municipal liaisons/authorities and CPC members
300,000 benefited families and a budget of 367.3 (Oportunidades 2007)
million pesos. In 2000 the number of 5 Another investigation (Hevia 2007) takes into
beneficiaries rose to 2,746,430 families, while the analysis the incapacity of the system of citizen
yearly budget was at 9.518 billion pesos. In 2002, complaints to solve ‘hardcore’ faults related to
when its name changed to Oportunidades, it practices of abuse of authority: money extortion,
covered 4.24 million benefited families and had a forced community labour, bad treatment,
budget of 17 billion pesos. In 2005 it reached proselytism, etc.
5 million families and spent 32 billion pesos (Hevia 6 An investigation into the effectiveness of the
2007). The reference value of Mexican currency in system of citizen complaints revealed that only
2007 was 10.5 pesos per US dollar. 25 per cent of the 31 allegations of abuses of
3 An energy subsidy consists of cash aid for the power had the support of local authorities or
families aimed in principle to the payment of organisations (Hevia 2007).
electricity and gas bills. Each family is paid 7 The original idea was suggested by Yuriko
MXN$170 (US$15.5) as food aid, while Takahashi.

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IDS Bulletin Volume 38 Number 6 January 2008 71

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