NYT: Squabbling Mexican Left Sees Influence Wane, Aug 28

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Tue Aug 29 15:53:53 MDT 1995

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Date: Mon, 28 Aug 1995 22:02:22 -0400
From: Mauricio Banda <al155942 at al155942>
To: Multiple Recipients of List Mexico2000 <mexico2000 at mep-d.org>
Subject: (NYT) Squabbling Mexican Left Sees Influence Wane

Latin News from N.Y. Times, via Latinolink
source:  URL http://www.latinolink.com/

Squabbling Mexican Left Sees Influence Wane

   By: Tim Golden
   =A91995 N.Y. Times News Service

     OAXTEPEC, Mexico -- The economy is suffering through its worst
     crisis in a decade. Millions of Mexicans are out of work. The crime
     rate is soaring, tales of official corruption fill the newspapers,
     and rumors of a high-level hand in political assassinations hang
     over the Government like a stubborn, dark cloud.

     At the national congress of Mexico's main leftist political party in
     Oaxtepec, however, the big, bitter debate has been over whether to
     press for ``national salvation'' or a ``negotiated transition.''

     That people like the taco vendors working down the street from the
     meeting did not have the vaguest idea what those terms meant was
     probably the least of the left's problems.

     More damaging, it would seem, was the spectacle of the former party
     leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, calling for a campaign to force the
     government from power, while the current party leader repudiated
     that idea as improbable and unwise.

     If the party that has governed Mexico for the last 66 years is not
     quite conceding its demise in the face of widespread discontent, it
     owes some gratitude to the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party.

     Six years after Cardenas shocked the political establishment by
     nearly defeating Carlos Salinas de Gortari in a presidential
     election marred by fraud, his campaign -- hobbled by internal
     divisions, poor strategy and an image of violence played up by the
     government -- finished a distant third in the race last August.

     Since then, as President Ernesto Zedillo's government has careened
     between economic troubles and political turmoil, the left has
     offered little in the way of alternatives. The governing
     Institutional Revolutionary Party has lost three of the four state
     elections held this year. Each time, however, the winners have come
     from the right-of-center National Action Party.

     ``The electorate's eye, as we all know, is elsewhere,'' one leader
     of the party, Ricardo Pascoe, said as he listened to the debates in
     this resort town about 60 miles south of the capital.

     The PRD, as the leftist party is known, is hardly alone among
     Mexican political organizations in showing a taste for its own

     Even while winning more state elections this year than it did in the
     previous six decades, National Action has had to weather conflicts
     between a Catholic far-right and a more liberal center, between
     leaders who want to work with the government and those who would
     challenge it more aggressively.

      The governing PRI, so far as most Mexicans are concerned, is still
     harboring whoever ordered the assassination last year of its first
     presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio. The party's deputy
     leader, Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu, was subsequently killed and
     those implicated in his death were mostly PRI members as well -- the
     former president's elder brother, Raul Salinas, among them.

     Still, the PRD has tended to do more of its infighting out in the
     open and to let the struggles overshadow its plans for the country's

     From the small parties that banded together behind Cardenas in 1988,
     it has taken the Latin American left's penchant for prolonged,
     impassioned debate. In its transformation from a raggedy, insurgent
     political movement into an established national party, it has also
     grappled with a more daunting organizational challenge than its
     older rivals.

     The once-widespread view that the PRD's turmoil stemmed from a bad
     marriage between moderates who split from the PRI, like Cardenas,
     and radicals who came from parties of the left, like Heberto
     Castillo, explains relatively little of what is happening inside the
     party now.

     Yet the fight over the party's future has in some ways only

     Still stung by an election defeat that he has blamed mainly on
     unfair campaign conditions and largely unproven fraud at the polls,
     Cardenas, 61, has demanded that the Zedillo administration give way
     to a vaguely defined ``government of national salvation'' --
     presumably with himself or his allies among the saviors.

     The tactical ideas that have been attached to this strategy
     generally include the belief that, whatever its efforts to win
     elections, the PRD should lead protests to undermine the
     government's hold on power.

     In a similar vein, some party leaders have called for a formal
     alliance with the Zapatista National Liberation Army, the peasant
     rebel force that rose up against the government last year in the
     southern state of Chiapas.

     The PRD's president, Porfirio Munoz Ledo, has pushed a more moderate
     line, arguing that goals like more democratic election rules and the
     overhaul of economic policy can only be achieved through
     negotiations with the government and other parties. Last week, the
     strategy bore fruit in the first-ever agreement between National
     Action and the PRD on a 10-point agenda for political reform talks.

     But Munoz Ledo has sometimes had to buck not only the mistrust of
     the PRD's rank and file but also the open opposition of its most
     popular leader. When the party president signed on to a
     political-reform plan put forth by the government this year,
     Cardenas said he would have no part in it.

     Such differences finally came to a climax Friday night.

     Speaking to the 1,700 delegates to the congress, Cardenas said he
     was not necessarily demanding Zedillo's resignation, but he insisted
     that the party's official political line carry the demand for a
     government of ``national salvation.''

     Munoz Ledo's carefully worded objections from the podium were enough
     to raise the specter of an angry, open battle between the party's
     two leaders. ``Do we want to go out and face the country with a
     divided vote?'' he demanded.

     In an interview later, he said: ``There were two lines here: those
     who believe the government must fall to bring a deeper change, and
     those who believe in peaceful change, in democratic change.'' When
     Cardenas stepped up again to concede the point and shake Munoz
     Ledo's hand, it was enough to send the assembly into a feverish
     chant of ``Unity! Unity!'' Supporters of the president said they
     hoped it would also be enough to finally consolidate his authority
     -- at least until the election of a new leader next year _ but
     theirs was not a unanimous view.

     ``The solution they've come up with patches things over here and
     there, but they are still dealing with fundamentally different
     approaches to the future of the party,'' said a political analyst
     who served as the spokesman for Cardenas' presidential campaign,
     Adolfo Aguilar Zinser.

     Aguilar Zinser made only a brief appearance at the party congress.
     After winning election to congress on the PRD ticket, he shattered
     an old rule of Mexican politics by publishing a long, detailed
     memoir that tells of an idealistic but inept campaign, condemned to
     defeat by internal divisions and its leaders' failure to present a
     coherent, attractive message.

     The party congress, Aguilar Zinser said Sunday, had done little to
     change his views.

     ``They are losing elections left and right,'' he said. ``That is
     understood by the cadres of the party. But basically, the leaders
     are not being asked to face up to that situation.''

     Last change: Aug. 27, 1995.
     =A91995 LatinoLink Enterprises, Inc.

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