ABSTRACT In all developing countries facing economic reform there are political and economic obstacles to such a radical change. In the case of Mexico, however, during the Salinas administration (1988-94), a new economic crisis exploded after serious changes had taken place and the economy seemed to have stabilized and was prepared for continuous growth under a new development strategy. By the end of the six-year presidential period, the old cycle of boom and bust returned. This article seeks to understand why the Mexican economy has ended in two of the last three presidential periods with an overvalued exchange rate, high deficits of the current account, unsustainable short-term debt, and a financial crisis. The article focuses on the Salinas administration, but shows that a similar logic led to economic crisis in the Echeverría (1970-76) and López Portillo (1976-82) administrations. It is argued that the 1994 crisis is the result of three traps: an international context which allowed a massive entrance of capital flows, the ideology of the state elite, and the incentives provided by the institutional framework. These three traps were also present in the previous two crises.