by Vladimir Escalante Ramirez (email@example.com)
A short list of problems that have prevented the PRD from delivering a definitive blow to the PRI is presented. It is argued that the PRD is to a large extent a cathartic organization that has lacked the necessary organization to withstand the dirty political system. Furthermore internal problems due to a weak ideological basis, and lack of political involvement of the public has contributed to undermine PRD's electoral chances in an unfair competition with the ruling party.
The fury unleashed for the last six years against the personalities and ideas that currently form the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) has made objective criticism of this party nearly impossible. It is amazing that some predecessors of the PRD, like the PCM (Mexican Communist Party), and the PSUM (Mexican Unified Socialist Party) never took as much heat as Cardenas and his PRD despite the undeniable moderation of the PRD in its ideological postulates.
After the PRI-government lost its credibility in the 1988 elections by apparently stealing the victory of opposition candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, the PRD founded by Cardenas after that, has become the favorite target of attack by the media and business sectors that feel especially indebted to 65 years of PRI rule.
The PRD-bashing campaign waged by the media and business sectors has caused that sharp and intelligent criticisms of PRD actions and development are often ignored, dismissed, or misinterpreted even when they come from honest and trustworthy media sources. Nevertheless, if we want to go beyond complaints over ballots, special casillas and the like, and want to truly understand why the PRI always wins, it is important to analyze Mexican political opposition.
Here is a sketchy list of PRD blunders and miscalculations of six years of struggle that have been noticed by many, but rarely acknowledged by even its worst enemies:
The integrity of some PRD leaders is definitely questionable. This is a little known problem of the PRD because the very same government efforts to cover up anti-PRD tactics often seek to hide from the public efforts to buy off or corrupt PRD members. For example, there have been a number of defections of PRD leaders to the PRI. In many cases these defections were presented as reconciliations or even cases of government pluralism when in reality they were more likely plain sell outs. Although a few important PRD leaders defected in this way, the most damaging betrayals involved local leaders that were closer and more familiar to the constituency .
Another kind of problems has involved corruption of PRD members elected to public office. The PRD has managed to win local elections for municipal posts. Nevertheless the (world-wide) belief that government posts are a sure way to take advantage seems to have prevailed in some PRD members. They clearly did not understand that government corruption looked so normal in the hands of the PRI because the media and the legal system acted together to ignore it. Corrupt PRD governments experienced very different treatment from the establishment, lost the support of their party, and were easily dismantled by the PRI.
The left has left the PRD without a program. Besides the group of politicians that followed Cardenas in leaving the PRI, the PRD was formed by nearly all the left in Mexico in 1988. But after the destruction of the Soviet Union, the Mexican left has been unable to offer a single coherent theoretical alternative to neo-liberalism. This ideological disarray has contributed to costly internal fights among very heterogeneous and uncompromising groups within the PRD.
The main positions of the left in 1988 with respect to the external debt, open markets, privatizations, and other important reforms of the Salinas administration had been abandonded by 1991. In a desperate attempt to gain some support among Mexican capitalists and the private sector, Cardenas tried to distance himself from past positions in his 1994 campaign by saying that it was erroneous to attach leftist labels to the PRD. He also tried to court investors in what appeared to be a reconciliating attitude. The move of the PRD to the right was noticed by all. Subcomandante Marcos said: ''Yesterday they were on the left, today they are on the center, where will they be tomorrow?''
It is important to say that many of the above problems with the PRD are actually shared by many other opposition and independent groups of right and left in Mexico. Politicians selling out to the system and betraying their constituencies is perhaps one of the most suffered problems, and one that causes the most cynicism among people. The obvious antidote --getting more people committed on the issue to fend for themselves-- is the least common situation. It is precisely for this reason that Cardenas' and the PRD's refusal to compromise with the PRI is their most outstanding achievement to date, and one that has won them a lot of respect and support among Mexicans. All other existing Mexican opposition parties have sold out at one point or another in their history.
Vladimir Escalante Ramirez.
The Communist Party allowed candidates of COCEI to ride on its recently acquired legal status to run for office in the city of Juchitan in Oaxaca in 1980. A traditional electoral fraud was attempted by the PRI, but it was nullified when the highly politicized and militant people took over the city hall, and forced a second election that was won by COCEI. The COCEI government of Juchitan was accused of abuses of power by the PRI state government, and the army was sent to dislodge COCEI members from the government and reinstate a PRI government in this city of Oaxaca in 1982. You may be tempted to say: ''So, they lost after all''. Not quite. The PRI imposed government had to pour money over Juchitan to build schools, hospitals, streets, sewage, and other social developments, and also agreed to form a coalition government with COCEI in order to regain peace and order in the city.
The story of Juchitan, as the first city in which the PRI had lost in recent times, and the way the PRI recovered the city government, was so embarrassing to the PRI, that American ambassador Negroponte decided not to approve the visit of a Harvard Fulbright scholar to Mexico to study the case in 1988.