Documents on Mexican Politics.

                      JUNE 14, 1997

This report is produced by the Weekly News Update on the
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Current polls show Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano of the center-left
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) far ahead in the race to
become the first elected governor of Mexico's Federal District
(DF), the territory that includes Mexico City. Although Cardenas
has administrative experience from his 1980-86 term as governor of
Michoacan--when he was still a member of the ruling Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI)--there are many questions about his
ability to govern the DF if he wins on July 6. The eight-year old
PRD had never won a major city until it took the Mexico City suburb
of Nezahualcoyotl last November, and many Mexicans have asked over
the last few decades whether there is any force capable of managing
the huge, chaotic capital.

The following is a summary of Cardenas' plan for the DF, as posted
on his campaign's Web site (, with
some use of a critical analysis by Hector Aguilar Camin in the
Mexican daily La Jornada on June 2. General information on the city
is from John Ross's Mexico in Focus (Latin America Bureau, UK,

	* Biggest But Not Best

With about 20 million inhabitants, Mexico City's metropolitan area
is probably the most populous in the hemisphere; the DF itself
accounts for nine million of the total, and is probably the biggest
city in the Americas. Growing rapidly and with no master plan, the
DF's 16 boroughs (delegaciones) and numerous neighborhoods
(colonias) now hold everything from heavy industry to the federal
government's administrative offices, to forests and even farmland.
The city is headed by a governor (or mayor), who until this year
was appointed by the federal president. There is also a legislative
body, the DF Assembly of Representatives (ARDF). The DF is similar
to Washington, DC in its form of government: it has the appearance
of home rule, but the federal government retains tight control,
especially over finances.

If he is elected, Cardenas will face the problems all North
American big city mayors face, with several exacerbating features.
The World Health Organization, the United Nations Program for the
Environment and Greenpeace all agree that Mexico City has the worst
level of air pollution of any major urban area in the world. Adding
to the city's problems is the devastating recession that hit all of
Mexico after the December 1994 peso crisis, bringing the capital
massive poverty and an unprecedented urban crime wave. If a new PRD
government is to have any credibility, it would have to move
quickly to revive the DF's economy, control the environmental
problems and provide the social services demanded by Cardenas'
base--the urban poor and the lower middle classes. And the new
government couldn't count on either political or financial support
from a federal government still in the hands of the ruling PRI.

	* Statehood and Participation

Cardenas' strategy relies on making better use of limited
resources: bringing systematic planning to bear on the DF's
problems, cutting back the corruption which most Mexicans assume is
a major drain on the economy, and encouraging participation in the
program from as many of the city's social forces as possible.

The effort to mobilize participation is apparently behind one of
the program's most controversial proposals: a plan for turning the
DF into a state divided into several autonomous municipalities.
Named "Anahuac," the new state would have its own constitution,
providing for "referendums, plebiscites and grassroots initiatives
as forms of consultation by the government with the governed, and
of direct and autonomous participation..." It seems unlikely that
the federal government would allow statehood any time soon, but
Cardenas is probably more interested in using the proposal as a
bargaining position to win more autonomy for the city. The
statehood campaign would also mobilize support for participatory,
decentralized local bodies which could then be tapped to administer
the program's economic, planning and social service proposals.

	* Developing the Local Economy

The Cardenas program seeks to revive the local economy principally
by shifting existing government funding into areas that would
produce more employment and, hopefully, more tax revenues as
workers' incomes rise.

The government would review the privatizations of municipal
services and the various "megaprojects"--giant development plans
"for use by a minority"--carried out or planned by the current PRI
government. Some infrastructural work and social services would be
still contracted out to private enterprises, but Cardenas' program
would "give priority" to "community-based, cooperative, associative
and self-managed forms." The city government would also use its
"fiscal, financial and administrative mechanisms and incentives" to
"prioritize support for micro and small manufacturing and industry,
a major generator of employment," and the "microbusinesses and
cooperatives" engaged in farming. The program calls for
representatives of microbusinesses and the academic community to
develop "a system of information, promotion and training to bring
micro and small business together in production networks..."

The DF government would also encourage the development of unique
local resources. A Cardenas government would continue the PRI's
promotion of the city's historic sites as a tourist draw, but it
would also emphasize the DF's role as the country's cultural
capital, a victim of the constant "Americanization" of the last
decade. The program envisions a DF Cultural Secretariat, which
would encourage outdoor concerts and art fairs, a revival of the
city's film making industry, a culture channel on local television,
and "a system for broadcasting the DF's cultural offerings that
uses the most diverse media, from the Internet to billboards." In
contrast to the "family values" arts policy of several conservative
National Action Party (PAN) city governments, Cardenas promises "to
eliminate all moralistic or political censorship of cultural

* Housing, Urban Planning and the Environment
While promoting decentralization in some areas, Cardenas' program
tries to bring a halt to the anarchy that characterizes the
development of the DF's communities and transportation systems.

For decades the DF's urban planning has consisted basically of
squatters seizing land on the city's outskirts, building homes and
then making deals with local PRI bosses to have the new community
declared legal and provided with electricity and a water system.
The lack of community planning is a major cause both of the
contamination of the water supply and of the disorganized
transportation system. This situation forces many low-income
residents to spend hours getting to their jobs from distant
colonias, often in the private vehicles which are now the major
source of the city's lethal smog. To add to the transportation
problem, in the last few years the city has raised subway fares and
eliminated a major public bus line, Route 100, leaving the way open
for a group of PRI politicians to get concessions for profitable
but environmentally unsound minibus fleets.

Cardenas calls for regional urban planning--with "social
participation in the planning process"--for community development,
transportation and the environment. The focus would be on low and
middle income public housing in the "privileged zone" at the center
of the city, "the most accessible area and the one with the most
infrastructure and facilities." The construction itself would
provide employment and would "support community-based businesses
that produce materials and components for housing." At the same
time, public housing would discourage squatting on the outskirts
and help protect the remaining forests and farmland.

In conjunction with the rest of the metropolitan area (which is
mostly in Mexico state), the DF would "give priority to public over
private transportation, bringing together a system with many
different types of transport, rescuing the organizing role of the
subway as the central core of the system, fed by efficient trolleys
and buses able to carry many passengers." The plan would continue
current emissions standards for private vehicles but would
eliminate inspection fees "and the corrupt practices associated
with these and other programs."

	* Social Services, Law and Order

In Mexico health care and education are largely the responsibility
of the federal government. The Cardenas health care proposal
provides for expanding low-cost programs--community health centers
and educational programs on preventive care, for example--but the
emphasis seems to be on building popular pressure for more federal
action, especially for "the elderly, women, children, indigenous
people and youths." The DF government would direct a media campaign
to let these more vulnerable groups "know their rights and the
penalties for violating their rights." The health care proposal
also stresses "strictly applying the law to businesses that

The DF's indigenous population--mostly recent arrivals from other
parts of Mexico--is a special concern. The plan calls for
evaluating the need in some areas of the city for "bilingual
educational programs that favor an appropriate integration into
urban life, with respect for [the indigenous population's] own
identity and culture."

Cardenas' program is vague about costs. Despite the effort to
maximize existing resources, the proposals would require some new
funding from the DF government, which presumably would expect new
taxes revenues if it succeeds in reviving the local economy.

But the program sees no need for new funding to fight the rising
crime wave. In contrast to US mayoral candidates, who routinely
call for more police in the streets, Cardenas seems less interested
in expanding the DF's police force than in controlling it. A
Cardenas government would guarantee a "decent and adequate" level
of pay and "urge" the agents to "professionalize and get training."
At the same time, it would "create citizen groups, elected by
colonia or delegacion, to establish a relationship of awareness,
information and monitoring about the activities of the security
forces," and would promote a plan for having the police
commissioner (the head of the Public Security Secretariat, SSP)
elected "by direct vote of the citizens." With a record of solving
about 10% of reported crimes, the DF police are generally
considered incompetent and corrupt; many have been caught in
criminal activities.


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