Americas

Mexico

Endangered Species

Vicente Fox’s inauguration in December as Mexico’s president may have shattered 71 years of uninterrupted hegemony by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in federal government, but recent electoral disputes in two southeastern states underscore that democracy remains an endangered species in the land of the PRI “dinosaurs.”

An unprecedented decision by a federal electoral tribunal to annul October election results that had shown a narrow PRI gubernatorial victory in oil-rich Tabasco state ignited a two-week crisis in January. It briefly produced rival claimants as interim governor, a brawl in legislative chambers, and a flurry of threats to challenge the legitimacy of the state government. While mediation by the Interior Ministry and national leaders of Mexico’s three major parties yielded a compromise confirming a caretaker PRI governor and a timetable for new elections in November, columnist Julio Hernandez Lopez in Mexico City’s leftist La Jornada (Jan. 11) expressed concern that “President Fox has chosen to organize negotiations [to reach a political settlement in Tabasco] rather than to enforce the law.”

Alberto Aziz Nassif wrote in La Jornada (Jan. 9) that the annulment decision dealt a blow to the so-called “dinosaur faction” of the PRI epitomized by outgoing Tabasco Governor Roberto Madrazo, who made an unsuccessful bid for the PRI presidential nomination in 1999 and had sought to position himself for leadership of the national party by engineering the election of his handpicked gubernatorial successor.

“The blow to the Tabasco dinosaur put a stop to a style of exercising power, controlling the electoral organizations, and buying off the political players—to gubernatorial clout...that placed the entire state apparatus at the service” of keeping the PRI in power, he said.

Ironically, observed Adri-án Trejo in Mexico City’s business daily El Economista (Jan. 19), Madrazo’s political problems could thrust Yu catán state’s PRI governor Víctor Cervera Pacheco onto the national stage: “Criticism and all, Cervera seems to be emerging as the only PRI leader capable of bringing together the majority of PRI factions….If nothing else is decided, the iron hand and stubbornness of Cervera could end up leading the so-called ‘new PRI.’ How could that be?”

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