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Who cares about Hillary Clinton? … Porfirio is the one to watch!

9 January 2008

Going through Google to see what is in the news about Mexico (something I try to do a couple of times a week), there isn’t much making the English-speaking news outside of some reports on inflation (its not going up as fast as expected) and the tiresome old “drug violence” stories. The only new thing there was that the latest bunch of gangsters included U.S. “residents” (probably citizens, but the story wasn’t clear on it).

No one seems to be reporting that even the United States Senate is FINALLY paying attention to the biggest cause of drug-export related violence in Mexico… U.S. guns and money. And that story wasn’t in the U.S. press, but in the Mexican papers.

Instead, all the U.S. papers (and political blogs) were fixated on the 9 Democratic Party Convention votes won by Hillary Clinton for an election not scheduled for another 11 months. And the meaning of those nine delegate votes. And, predictions on the future of the world based on those nine delegates. And…endless blathering about the meaning of the meaning of the people who talked about the meaning of the meaning of the votes in the 41st largest state of the Union. Or the ballyhoo over the candidates for a couple of delegates to the other corporate capitalist’s party’s nominating convention.

It’s really not worth my time… not only is the Presidential election a long way off, but if I bother to vote, I’ll have to vote in Texas, where our “electorial college” system will mean my vote will go to the state-wide winning candidate — which in Texas will be the Republican candidate, even if they have to steal the vote: Texas law makes it next to impossible to list candidates from any party other than the two that have controlled the United States since the 1860s, and, while I might vote for one of the Democrats, (none of the Republicans are even sane that I can see) it would be a meaningless gesture on my part.

Besides, Mexican politics, with its very real ideological, economic and philosophical differences between the parties, is much more interesting.

The big news (naturally, unreported by the media in Mexico’s largest trading partner — except for the startling news that Mexicans are organizing opposition to OUR push to make them open up their oil reserves to our investors) is the on-going disussions between the parties of the left to form a long-term common front. The “Wide Progressive Front” (Frente Amplio Progresista) — the PRD, PT and Convergencia bloc in Congress, against expectations, selected Porfirio Muñoz Ledo as their leader.


Muñoz Ledo has been around a long time. He’s been president of both the PRI and the PRD as well as a presidential candidate for the now-defunct PARM. And — PAN President Vicente Fox appointed him Ambassador to the European Union. He resigned that post to work for the Lopéz Obradór presidential campaign. Having switched parties a few times is no disgrace in Mexican politics — and, given that PRD was, in large part, the left-er wing of PRI joined with PARM, there’s nothing at all odd about Muñoz Ledo’s political resume.

What makes this interesting are two things. The Mexican left has always been weakened by their tendency to split hairs on ideological issues — PT has always claimed to be Maoist (well, more Ché-ists with ballots instead of bullets) and Convergencia seems to be more a left-leaning party of the rural middle-class (I admit I’m not up on the nuances of Convergencia’s ideological roots), while the PRD has several “currents” — all vaguely on the left, but ranging from social democrats to Communists. All the factions — and parties — with the FAP, however, have roots in socialism.

Having worked with several different parties, and having come out of the concensus-style politics of the PRI, I see Muñoz Ledo as a potentially effective leader — especially if, as there is movement to do — the FAP becomes a single party.

The second interesting point has to do with Muñoz Ledo’s background in the PRI. He was a cabinet officer under two of the “neo-liberal” presidents: Lopez Portillo and Carlos Salinas. With PAN and PRI often uniting to maintain the status quo (on the left, the two are known as “PRIAN”, much as in the U.S. people speak of the “Republocrats”), the PRI has been trying to re-invent itself to maintain relevence. While it is still Mexico’s largest political party, it seems hopelessly adrift, caught between a growing united left (PRI is technically a socialist party) and the “neo-liberal” PAN. At times, it seems to be a “liberal” party (as in their support for gay marriage in Cohuila), at times a loyal opposition to PAN (as in their support for expanded foreign capital in PEMEX) and at times, just the guys who SHOULD be in control (as in the on-going mess in Oaxaca). If FAP is able to form a party structure that can compete nationally with more than just a Lopez Obrador at the head of the ticket, the more left-leaning (or ambitious) PRI politicos are likely to change their membership… as did Muñoz Ledo (and, for that matter, Lopez Obrador and Cuauhtemoc Cardenas).

Even people who know something about Mexico assume the country has two parties — PAN and PRI. Nope: it may someday be a two-party state (though I don’t foresee it — multiple parties are probably here to stay) but the two parties are likely to have real differences, and offer Mexican voters real choices.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Joe permalink
    15 July 2008 1:31 am

    I found your site by chance and this article is in need of one serious correction. Muñoz Ledo served in the cabinet of Luis Echeverria first and Lopez Portillo second. These two presidents are widely known for their “populist” approach to government. Lopez Portillo wasn’t by any means a neo-liberal president. For instance during his tenure, all banks in Mexico were nationalized. Not exactly the neo-liberal thing to do. Neo-liberal economics were applied first during the tenure of Miguel de la Madrid, not Portillo. The rest of the comment is a great summary of mexican politics. Congrats.

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