Ruth Zavaleta Salgado
Global Leadership Awards
Some politicians use periods of upheaval to pursue their own political interests. When Mexico’s democracy was in danger, Ruth Zavaleta Salgado, one of the founders of Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), did the opposite. She supported of the rule of law, risking her political career for the good of her country.
In 2006, Felipe Calderón and Andrés Manuel López Obrador were running for president. National Action Party (PAN) candidate Calderón was eventually declared the winner. Obrador supporters protested in Mexico City. The election drove a wedge through Mexico’s government institutions.
Ruth was elected to the position of President of the Chamber of Deputies when Calderón was set to give his first address as president in September 2007. PRD members expected Ruth to keep Calderón from speaking and hinder his government.
But Ruth had a different view. “In my opinion, institutions had to be functional in order to strengthen democracy,” she says. She felt that benefitting her party over the country went counter to the long-term interests of Mexico’s democracy. Ruth was determined to improve the legislature’s stature and standing.
“From the moment I got in, I worked towards Congress demonstrating that it was a dignified place, that it was an institution that was going to strengthen democracy,” she says. “It was better to make decisions alone and to favor society as a whole rather than to submit to what the party was asking of me.”
For working with Calderón, Ruth was viewed a traitor by the PRD. Due to harassment and intimidation, she resigned from her position in 2009. Ruth took a position overseeing women’s access to the vote with Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary.
Ruth has always supported women and indigenous communities. Her political career stemmed from her work as a housing advocate for those displaced after the 1985 Mexico City earthquake.
Ruth is also a member of Mujeres en Plural, a group of former female politicians who aim to elevate more women to political leadership in Mexico. She is running for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies in Mexico’s July 1, 2012 election as well.
Ruth is proud that her actions and example have inspired others. “It was the best thing that could have happened in my life,” she says, “that I could be a role model for colleagues in the other [Mexican] states — not only women, [but] also for men.”