Monday, March 21, 2005
Might Mexico’s PAN Self-destruct?
By Barnard R. Thompson
The March 5 election of Manuel Espino Barrientos,
as president of Mexico’s National Action Party, the PAN, got off to a far from auspicious start — largely due
to his immediate authoritarian air and show of arrogance. Espino began his tenure
more like a mouthy dogmatist than representative, a presumptuous attitude, approach and discourse that brought on an immediate
outcry from many of the party faithful.
Moreover, there were claims of a less than transparent
process that resulted in his victory. Exacerbating this internal debate, over
what are (publicly at least) unsubstantiated allegations, is the longtime PAN position and demand for democratic processes
and crystal clear voting.
By two weeks later however the clamor had died down
considerably, making the whole episode seem like a tempest in a teapot.
But was it?
Or might this be a sign of deeper difficulties within the PAN, of divisions in its ranks and
fissures in the party? And what might all this mean to the party for the 2006
Even during the National Council
meeting, following Espino’s election as PAN president and after the party’s National Executive Committee (CEN)
for 2005-2008 was ratified, dissident insiders protested the actions that had just taken place.
Among others, certain PAN senators
and deputies quickly expressed dissatisfaction with the Espino victory, plus many were troubled and annoyed with the Espino
imposed make-up of the new CEN. Dissenting PAN members of congress also questioned
“the manipulation of Council members in order to name a leader who will respond to the interests of electing the presidential
candidate and not to those of the party.”
Federal Deputy Tatiana Clouthier,
a daughter of legendary Manuel Clouthier — the neoteric PAN leader popularly known as “Maquío” (who died
in a 1989 car crash), subsequently resigned from the PAN. And for a Clouthier
to bolt from the party is meaningful.
In her letter of resignation, from the party but not her congressional seat, among other things
Tatiana noted that the PAN had always sought “to democratize Mexico, enfranchise citizens and reach power in order to
serve.” She added that in her view today’s party leaders are more
interested in power, with the end justifying the means. “We are changing,
without much effort, into a poor copy of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party),” she wrote.
Later minimizing the resignation of Tatiana, Espino said “at any rate, one goes but each
week between 1,000 and 1,200 Panistas arrive.” He also called it part of
a “generational renewal process.” The next day however he expressed
hope that Tatiana would rejoin the PAN.
As to a rebellion in congress, Espino
quickly named a new coordinator of the 150 member party bloc in the Chamber of Deputies.
That new congressional leader is José González Morfín, appointed more to get rid of provisional coordinator Germán
Martínez (who favors presidential hopeful Felipe Calderón) than to necessarily upgrade an ally. Still, one of the first acts by González was to prohibit PAN deputies from discussing the election of Espino
with the media.
Yet as Espino and his team were trying to calm vocal members of congress, calling for “cohesion,
order and discipline,” the party president received another slap in the face.
Luis H. Alvarez, a former PAN president and one of the most respected elder statesmen in Mexico,
told the media that he had seen a “tainted process,” one with “stacked cards,” in the closed door
election of Espino. The latter in apparent reference to supposed Fox family influence
favoring both Espino and the future presidential candidacy of Interior Minister Santiago Creel.
As time progresses Espino has become somewhat less pretentious and loud, obviously recognizing
that he has a problem. As to his critics, Espino has generally responded by saying
things like “I am not one of those who believes that the end justifies the means.”
He also insists that his election was clean, saying if anyone can verify wrongdoing he will submit his resignation.
And the PAN has since rallied around Espino, following any number of off-the-books talks and
meetings. Governors, congresspersons, presidential hopefuls, state committees,
grassroots members — nearly all have now come around for the good of the party.
Yet questions remain.
Has the PAN been harmed and if so how deeply? Have
sub rosa or ultra right factions subverted the party? Can it overcome internal
fractures? And what about 2006?
Too, as party president might Espino be but a flash in the pan?
is Editor of MexiData.info. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.