Netflix is quickly garnering a reputation for producing excellent documentaries, especially crime series.
One of its latest productions revisits the year 1994 – a turbulent but watershed 12 months in Mexico’s history.
The five episode series, titled appropriately “1994”, focuses chiefly on the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio, the candidate for the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institutional (PRI), who was shot during a campaign rally in Tijuana in March of that year, three months prior to the general election.
The series takes the view that Colosio was destined to be a democratic breath of fresh air for Mexico – a young, charismatic politician determined to reform his autocratic party, tackle corruption and instigate major social change.
The series uses archival footage and interviews with key figures of the day and begins by outlining the political landscape of the final months of 1993, when sitting President Carlos Salinas de Gortari decided to name Colosio as PRI’s candidate, much to the annoyance of another of his closest confidantes, Manuel Camacho. Up until December 1993, Salinas had been a mostly popular president, pushing through major privatization reforms and getting the United States and Canada to agree on landmark trade treaty (Nafta), set to kick inJanuary 1, 1994.
On that day, however, an indigenous rebel army in the southern state of Chiapas declared war on the federal government, taking over town halls and demanding rights denied them for decades.
The rebellion sent shock waves throughout the country and abroad. Attention now focused on the deprivations endured by millions of Mexicans and Salinas’ boasts that the country was on the cusp of entering the “First World” were proven to be hollow.
Thanks to interviews with the major players of the period – Salinas, the Zapatista Army’s enigmatic Subcommandante Marcos, close allies of Colosio – the series exudes substance and manages to narrate events in a pacy, suspenseful manner.
Arguably the most gripping part of the series concentrates on the slaying of Colosio and its aftermath. All angles of the story – especially the ham-fisted investigative work – are covered in great detail and to fine effect. By the end, however, the key question remains: Was Mario Aburto a lone wolf or was he hired to kill Colosio, and by whom?
Although some may view Salinas’ interpretation of events to be a self-serving means to revindicate his presidency, the producers do include interviews with other figures of the day who believe he masterminded the assassination plot, having become disillusioned with the way Colosio’s campaign was going.
By December 1994, and with Colosio’s replacement Ernesto Zedillo sworn into office as president, Mexico’s economy went into meltdown and the peso crashed. The blame game began immediately, with Zedillo claiming he “inherited” the mess, while Salinas – who was now the nation’s black sheep – accused his successor and his advisors of major “errors.”
For anyone even slightly interested in Mexican politics, “1994” provides a engrossing account of a year that became the spark for the slew of democratic changes that would occur over the next 25 years and radically transform the country.
English subtitles are provided with the series “1994.”