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Column 072604 Luken

Monday, July 26, 2004

 

Mexican elections spark political melees

 

By Carlos Luken

 

With the approach of elections in three Mexican states on August 1, the nation’s political atmosphere is recharged and there has been a resurgence in partisan activities at every level.

 

In the absence of national elections, local races that are traditionally more contested and nasty have become the focus of media attention. Accordingly, most issues have taken on political meaning and all political matters have developed to prominence.

 

In Congress an unlikely coalition was recently formed between National Action Party (PAN) congressmen and their Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) majority rivals, in order to promote a special session to discuss needed changes in the nation’s social security pension system. The measure is strongly opposed by the social security worker’s union and by most Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) lawmakers.

 

The PAN, in order to get backing for its initiatives, faces the dubious prospect of supporting the candidacy of PRI dinosaur Manlio Fabio Beltrones for the Chamber of Deputies presidency. Should this take place there will be aggressive criticism from both inside and out of the party.

 

Simultaneously, the PRI hierarchy has urged its congressmen to stop collaborating with the Fox administration if charges are brought against former president Luis Echeverria, for his role in the 1971 massacre of student demonstrators in Mexico City.

 

With the PRD’s support, social security union boss Roberto Vega Galina has rallied workers to defend their union privileges, organizing protest marches in Mexico City and elsewhere. Leftist union members and student groups have also joined the workers. Taking advantage of the mood, supporters of Mexico City’s PRD mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, began a 100-hour protest march to the city’s main square in objection to possible abuse of authority regarding criminal charges being sought against the mayor.

 

During all of this the PRI has shrewdly taken a more populist course. It is mounting a comeback as witnessed by two recent gubernatorial victories in early July elections, whereas the PRD won another state and the PAN was shutout.

 

With more gubernatorial elections on the way this year, in Veracruz, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala and Puebla, the PRI’s early win predictions may be overly optimistic. While possibilities seem favorable in Tamaulipas and Puebla, the once powerful PRI bastions of Veracruz and Oaxaca are hesitant because of gubernatorial interference.

 

The aggressive press campaign of Fidel Herrera Beltrán in Veracruz has been marred by party infighting, brought on by imposed candidacies that have angered grass root organization. This has caused widespread divisiveness, and it even brought about the resignation of Miguel Angel Yunes, a prominent PRI congressman.

 

In an embarrassing response to charges by PAN candidate Gerardo Buganza, regarding Veracruz administration links to drug trafficking, Governor Miguel Aleman forced his principal officials to undergo drug testing. This only to have his newly appointed state prosecutor test positive for cocaine use. Jose Esquivel, the U.S. correspondent for Mexico’s Proceso magazine, also reports that DEA agents are in Veracruz investigating dirty money donations to Herrera’s campaign and possible links to traffickers.

 

The PRI hopeful in Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz, has faired no better in having to put up with the antics of Governor Jose Murat. The press and the state’s electorate ridicule Murat constantly, for a supposed assassination attempt that is being investigated as a hoax by federal prosecutors.

 

Meanwhile, PRD officials are trying to convince Tlaxcala Governor Alfonso Sánchez Anaya, whose wife (and present Senator) María del Carmen Ramírez won the PRD’s candidacy to succeed him, to request a leave of absence in order to avoid any conflicts of interests.

 

At municipal levels political problems are also appearing. In Cancun, Mexican Ecological Green Party Mayor Juan Ignacio Garcia Zalvidea was forcibly ousted by the Quintana Roo state, a move that was supported by Green Party members on his own city council.

 

The Tijuana race for mayor is in the national and international spotlight. It involves the PRI’s most unusual challenge to PAN’s 15 year uninterrupted city rule. Racetrack owner and party scion Jorge Hank Rohn is pouring huge amounts of money into his campaign, and he is supposedly within striking distance of winning over PAN’s Jorge Ramos. This victory alone would help to absorb other losses, and it could be a boost to PRI president Roberto Madrazo’s chances of winning the PRI presidential candidacy for 2006.

What makes all of this, in unprecedented times, even more perplexing is that rules are being made as the process advances. But in doing so will all concerned remember that the object is progressive democracy and not partisanship?

____________________

Carlos Luken (a www.mexidata.info columnist), a Mexicali, Baja California, based businessman, is the principal in I.L.C. Corporate Real Estate, a project development firm, and I.L.C. Corporate Services, a consulting practice that provides business management, consultancy and lobbying services to global corporations and government agencies. He can be reached via e-mail at ilcmex@yahoo.com.