Monday, June 26, 2006
Mussings on the Mexican Election
With less than one week before the presidential election in Mexico, the dust begins to settle as the candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has sent his first conciliatory message. His message of conciliation and willingness to prevent post-electoral conflict comes as some kind of surprise as the media campaigns in Mexico reached a new low in the relatively short history of open electoral competition.
The message reflects, on the other hand, the fact that López holds a small but consistent lead in almost all the polls taken before the poll-curfew enforced by the federal electoral authority in Mexico, the Instituto Federal Electoral.
Despite this change, it is necessary to emphasize that the Mexican election confronts unexpected challenges. The most important of them come from the Southern state of Oaxaca, where Elba Esther Gordillo, the leader of the Teachers’ Union, the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, decided to support long-time critics of her within the union itself as a way to “get even” with the presidential candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institutional, Roberto Madrazo.
Ms. Gordillo is still, nominally, a member of the PRI. Moreover, she was elected as General Secretary of the PRI at the same time that Madrazo was elected president of that party.
However, differences in the relation with the Mexican Federal government, and more specifically with Vicente Fox, broke the feeble alliance between Madrazo and Gordillo. Since then, Mrs. Gordillo has launched a series of attacks on Madrazo that included the creation of a new party, the Partido Nueva Alianza, who was expected to capture at least 1 million votes, as that is the number of members of the Teachers’ Union.
Despite such assumption, Nueva Alianza appears in most polls as unable to gather the minimum 1% of the overall vote to keep its registration.
The conflict in Oaxaca has deep roots as often times the local section of the Union has confronted on several issues the leadership of Mrs. Gordillo, however, at this point they found themselves in a situation in which both Mrs. Gordillo, the raucous local 22 of the Teachers’ Union in Oaxaca, and several former governors of the state hold—for different reasons—grudges against the current governor, Ulises Ruiz, and Mr. Madrazo.
This is more important, as Oaxaca is a vital reservoir of votes for Madrazo and the PRI, so preventing a relatively smooth evolution of the election in this state means trouble for Madrazo and the PRI at large, as they really need the votes from Oaxaca to boost their performance.
The key problem for Mrs. Gordillo, however, is that his election is showing how fragile is the hold that the old union leaders in Mexico have over their members and grass-roots organizations.
In recent days, as an example, the leader of the Confederación Revolucionaria de Obreros y Campesinos, decided to publicly express his support to López Obrador, a rather shocking development as the CROC has been a union relatively loyal to the PRI. So loyal, that the leader of the CROC in the Southern state of Yucatán rejected his national leader’s commitment, committing his own support to Mr. Madrazo.
As it is frequently the case in Mexico, the intensity of the conflict in Oaxaca has been overstated by the Mexican national media and by the international media paying attention to it, as both follow their own strategies of “news building.” However, it will be foolish to assume that there is no potential in the current conflict in Oaxaca to go out of control, specially now that the local 22 of the Teachers’ Union has increased its visibility, as it was able to force the creation of a commission seeking to establish some form of dialog between the state government and the union’s leaders.
It is interesting to stress the role that one of Mexico’s few representatives of the Liberation Theology, Bishop Arturo Lona will have, as his involvement in the solution of this issue appears as a sequel of that of the Catholic bishops during the conflict and talks in the neighboring state of Chiapas.
The risk, of course, in those kinds of scenarios is that, as in Chiapas, opportunistic "leaders" as Rafael Sebastián Guillén, aka Subcomandante Marcos, will try to seize control of the social movement to subordinate it to his larger agenda.
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