God save the PRI?
Álvaro Delgado posted late yesterday in Proceso about a meeting between Enrique Peña Nieto and the Catholic Bishops of the State of Mexico, where the PRI is likely to lose the governorship for the first time ever. More troubling for the President, and his party, is that the leading candidate in Mexico’s most populous (and politically important) state is not from one of the old traditional opposition parties, but from the upstart MORENA party, which in four years has gone from a “political association” to the third largest force in the Chamber of Deputies, and whose presumed presidential candidate (and party founder) Andres Manuel López Obrador, is leading in all preliminary polls for President in 2018. A win by Morena’s Delfina Gomez Álvarez … a grade school teacher and former municipal president of Texcoco… is widely seen as an omen of both AMLO becoming Mexico’s next President, and a repudiation of the neo-liberal “reforms” of the present, and recent administrations.
The PRI’s gubernatorial candidate is Peña Nieto’s first cousin, Alfredo del Mazo Maza, meaning a loss by the PRI would not only be a rejection of what was (and still barely is) the nation’s largest party, but of the president’s family, and political clan (the “Grupo Atlacomulco”… the PRI politicans connected mostly by family and marriage ties that have run the state since the 1950s).
This, of course, cannot stand. In anticipation of the campaign (which officially opened Monday), the Federal Administration has been calling in its big guns, to unveil new programs, “stimulus packages” and make promises … all with the (wink! wink! nudge! nudge!) understanding that it is the PRI that delivers the goods…. at election time… as needed.
While leading the voters into temptation has a long and successful history in Mexico (especially in the State of Mexico), help from the other direction is not seen as amiss… thus, Peña Nieto’s open appeal to their Eminences last Friday. Although the PRI claims to be the heir to the anti-clerical Revolutionary Party of the 1920s and 30s, and has always been quick to condemn clerical interference in politics, Peña Nieto either swallowed his principals, or at least broke long-standing protocol. He knelt before Cardinal Carlos Aguilar Retes of Tlanapantla, and kissing his ring (and the rings of the other attendent Bishops, as well). Cardinal Aguilar Retes, who has close ties to the Grupo Atlacomulco and is widely assumed to named successor to the retiring Norberto Rivera as Archbishop of Mexico City, and Bishop Francisco Javier Chavolla of Toluca are said to have been receptive to assisting Peña Nieto’s cousin. The others, less so.
While technically forbidden from publically taking part in politics, the clergy (and especially bishops) have been making their “druthers” known and passed down their druthers as commands on high. Although (and it’s hard to prove given the reluctance of the clergy to openly express an opinion on electoral matters), it appears the lower clergy — parish priests — lean more towards Morena, the Bishops might stay non-commital. Not because they support the leftist Gómez… or think that Josefina Vázquez Mota — from the conservative and Catholic PAN — has a prayer… but because Peña Nieto lost the support of the prelates when he came out in support of same-sex marriage last year, in another attempt to boost his own (and his party’s) flagging popularity.
Maybe prayers will work. If not, there’s always bribery: allegedly, the prelates’ “bling bag” was not the usual coozies, tee-shirts, and hats, but included “art objects, fine clothing, and religious articles”.