Monday, August 27, 2007
State of the Union Address Maneuvering in
By Allan Wall
On September 1st, as required by law and
custom, the president of Mexico delivers his “Informe Presidencial,” the Mexican State of the Union Address. Though
it hasn’t yet been held, this year’s Informe is already fraught with controversy.
In the old days, when the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary
Party) ran a one-party state government, the Informe was not complicated. Why would it have been? The same party
controlled the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.
In those days the president of Mexico would use the
Informe as a propaganda platform to announce policies. In 1982 President José Lopez Portillo, who had only 3
months to go as chief executive, utilized the Informe to announce the nationalization of Mexico’s banking system.
The nationalization turned out to be a disaster, but that’s another story….
A couple of decades ago, the Informe changed
from being a ritualized formality to being a bone of contention and a scene of conflict. After the acrimonious election of
1988, opposition politicians began to use the Informe as an opportunity to protest. Given the media attention
accorded to the annual ritual, that strategy was an effective manner of garnering attention. So from time to time there
were protests at the Informe. But no matter what happened, the speech itself continued to be delivered.
That changed last year when the PRD (Party of the
Democratic Revolution), still smarting over its narrow defeat in the 2006 election, took control of the dais in the legislative
chamber to prevent then President Vicente Fox from entering and speaking. So Fox showed up in the lobby, delivered the
written text of his speech and left. Technically speaking, this was legally acceptable. Article 69 of the Mexican Constitution,
the legal basis for the Informe, only requires the president to deliver a “written report.” So Fox had
discharged his constitutional duty.
The 2007 Informe is only days away, and once
again it’s a scene of political confrontation.
President Felipe Calderon had already agreed to modify
the Informe’s structure, changing it into more of a debate format.
Yet more recently, during its recent rather raucous
and divisive convention, the PRD promised to prevent Calderon from giving his speech.
At one point in the convention, the PRD voted
to continue not to recognize the government of Calderon (in office for almost 9 months) nor to negotiate with him.
The very next day, however, they voted again and
approved a new resolution. They did not vote to recognize the president of Mexico, of course, but they did vote to allow the
party’s congressmen to negotiate and deal in Congress.
The PRD also voted to prevent Felipe Calderon from
delivering his state of the union address on September 1st, by taking control of the platform at the front of the
legislative chamber and physically preventing President Calderon from ascending it to deliver his discourse.
If this happens, Calderon could do what Fox did last
year — arrive in the lobby and deliver the written text of his speech. That would comply with the Constitution.
But on August 25th, after a meeting in
the city of Morelia, Michoacan, PRD legislators announced that they would not block the president’s Informe after
all, and that they plan to negotiate an accord for the event to run smoothly without humiliating any party involved. That’s
a promising development.
Another promising development is that PRD legislators
are also willing to negotiate Calderon’s fiscal reform proposal, which is important for Mexico’s economic future.
Certainly the PAN (National Action Party) and PRI,
with a working majority in Congress, could pass the reform package without the PRD’s agreement. But it would be
much better for the PRD to be on board with its input. It would also make it easier to sell the reforms to the public.
It appears that the principal influence within the PRD
promoting intransigence is AMLO (Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador), who lost the 2006 election. AMLO is promoting his
new book, unsubtly entitled La Mafia Nos Robó La Presidencia (The Mafia Stole the Presidency from Us). AMLO is
stuck in July of 2006, and wants the PRD to be a foot-dragging impediment to anything the Calderon administration proposes.
But hopefully the PRD legislators will leave
AMLO behind, and work within the system for the good of Mexico’s future.
Allan Wall, a MexiData.info columnist, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. He currently
resides in Mexico, where he has lived since 1991. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.