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Principles? We’re the PRI, we don’t need no stinkin’ principles!

3 March 2007

Having gone from THE Party for so many years, to the third party has been kind of hard on the PRI. Heir to the Revolutionary Party (defined by Álvaro Obregón as “everyone who fought for the Revolution”) they never had to pick any specific ideology. Technically, they’re a Socialist party, but ever since the party was founded in 1948 (Vicente Fox did not “end 70 years of one party’s rule… he ended 70 years of the coalition that came out of the Mexican Revolution), it’s been decidedly capitalist friendly.

It was more like the U.S. Democrats than anything else… including the unions and the business executives and fostering national development. Since the 80s, it’s been “technocratic” and didn’t even bother to define an ideology. Just preserving the Revolutionary institutions seemed enough.

But, after 1988, when the PRD became the “real left” and PAN managed to carve out a democratic role for itself by playing down its fascist roots, it’s been adrift ideologically.

Losing to PAN in 2000 was a shock. Losing to PAN and the PRD in 2006 was more than they bargained for. While PRI still holds most governorships, their strength is local parties. Nationally, they’re a mess.

PRD took over the left and, not being the wild-eyed radicals their rivals tried to paint them as, have attracted much of the middle class. I expect the “Social Democratic” Alternativa will eventually join with the larger Social Democratic Convergencia and the “Maoist” (in the sense that some early party wonks had read the Little Red Book, or maybe Che Guevarra’s “Motocycle Diaries” in college) Workers Party (PT) in the PRD-led Broad Progressive Front (FAP, in Spanish).

PAN presents itself as center-right, and when it moves further right (like its doing now), it loses grass-roots support. But for now, it’s just about evenly split with FAP, making it the largest party in the Legislature, but not the majority. It needs the PRI (and the Greens) if its going to pass anything.

Right now, PAN can count on Esther Elba’s Nuevo Alianza, but that party is more a reflection of her ego, and attempt to hold on to the Teachers’ Union than anything else. As a Senator, she led the PRI bloc that backed PAN, but — like the Greens — I expect the party will go wherever they can cut the best deal for themselves… or eventually become irrelevant (as did the openly fascist Democratic Party, which eventually became part of PAN, or the Communist Party, which was absorbed by PRD).

This gives PRI a lot more relevance than it otherwise would have. No legislation can pass without their support. But, with the Party unsure of what they stand for (and you know the old saying… “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything), the legislature may break up into blocs supporting one or another of the two main forces (PAN and FAP)… the way normal legislations work in multi-party countries.

Beatriz Parades, the new PRI leader, says she’s on the left, and she’s an intriguing political figure. She was the first woman to be an elected governor, and is as skillful an infighter as any PRI leader… and — strangly enough — has a reputation for honesty, something you don’t find often in PRI leaders. Given PRD’s domination of Mexico City, she was the best candidte PRI could run for Jefa de Gobernacion in 2006, and did a credible job with a hopeless task. She seems to be like the Texas politicans who say “Ya gotta dance with them that brung ya.” Her task is figuring out who brung her.

 I’m sure there’s plenty of “spin” on what it all means (Kenneth Edmonds of the Mexico City Herald calls Parades “the most important politican in Mexico”), but natually, the Cuban press is looking at it from the left:

Mexico, Mar 2 (Prensa Latina)

The fear of seeming too leftist is keeping Mexico s PRI (Institutional Revolutionary) party on tenterhooks, following this major Mexican political party’s extraordinary assembly this week

Reluctant to accept they are a progressive organization, several delegates decided on Thursday to remain “ideologically undefined,” rather than including that concept in their declaration of principles.

Social democracy, revolutionary nationalism, social justice, and republican democracy were some of the suggestions in the debate, which confronted followers and detractors of the ideological turn proposed by Beatriz Paredes, who was elected PRI president.

Paredes told local press she supported the leftist proposal, which she considers a step forward beyond the initial central left formulation.

The Mexican political system has changed and become multiparty with competitive conditions, and it is necessary to act according to our principles, whether in power or not, she warned..

Paredes considered it very important that the governors participate with their own dynamics and personality, but insisted that she will accept neither apathy, nor self-satisfaction.

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