Díaz Ordaz, Gustavo (Mexico)
Representing the dominant Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party; PRI), Gustavo Díaz Ordaz was president of Mexico from 1964 to 1970. His presidency aimed to promote economic development for Mexico, but any achievements were clouded by civil unrest and discontentment, and especially by the 1968 student massacre in Mexico City.
Díaz was born in Cuidad Serdánin in the state of Puebla on 12 March 1911. He was a relative of an associate of the nineteenth century Mexican president Benito Juárez (ruler between 1858–76), a Zapotec Indian from Oaxaca. A trained lawyer, Díaz’s political career began as a Supreme Court president in Puebla and in 1946 he was elected to the Mexican senate, becoming interior minister in 1958. Díaz was elected president on 1 Dec. 1964, succeeding his fellow PRI colleague Adolfo López Mateo.
During his presidency, Díaz aimed to implement economic developments in Mexico, but his government did little to change the image of its party as conservative, restrictive and undemocratic. As in many countries across Europe, a wave of civil unrest began in 1966 with anti-government student demonstrations. These culminated in 1968 with the student protest in Mexico City that resulted in the Tlaelolco Massacre. The principle complaints about the government were its single party rule, restricted freedom of speech and excessive government spending. In 1968, as Mexico prepared to be the first ‘third world’ country to host the Olympic Games, there was much criticism of the amount of public money spent on the preparations and the consequent neglect of social programmes. On 2 Oct. 1968, 5,000 students and workers gathered in Mexico City’s Plaza de las Tres Culturas to protest against the government. Their demands included the freeing of political prisoners and autonomy for the universities. The army surrounded the protesters and opened fire killing more than 250 people and injuring thousands, although the official death toll was much lower. The massacre led to a series of guerrilla movements that would disrupt Mexican society throughout the 1970s and blight the presidency of Díaz’s successor Luis Echeverría Álvarez who took over the presidency from 1970.
Díaz died in Mexico City on 15 July 1979.