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AMLO and the PRI

9 January 2018

Translated from “AMLO-PRIÍSTA” (La Cabaza de Villa, 8 January 2018) with the permission of author Pedro Salmerón.

 

“The director of the National Indian Institute has became a bit of a mythical figure in the region. Everyone knows that he can only be found in his office between seven and eight in the morning. After that, he’s out supervising field projects. I had the opportunity to observe his working method. He was sitting in his office in the middle of a crowd presenting him with written complaints. The director is 26 years old and acts as if there was no time to lose. The complaints were resolved with the greatest attention and the greatest possible respect. Efficiently, in a word “.

AMLO, ca. 1980

So wrote Polish anthropologist Irena Majchrzak in 1988 about her experience in Tabasco in 1979-1980, when Andrés Manuel López Obrador was a newly emerging regional leader of a nascent opposition movement that Majchrzak was apparently not aware of. The anthropologist talked about his work when there was not particular reason to make him look good, or praise the young bureaucrat. It is a disinterested and moving portrait.

The enemies of Andrés Manuel, who often resort to gross exaggerations, or simply repeat the cliché that he “was with PRI” ignore what type of PRI-ista the 23 year old was. Fresh out of the University, he joined the 1976 electoral campaign of the poet Carlos Pellicer [then running as an “external candidate for the Senate] , and from 1977 to 1982 served as regional director of the INI [National Indigenous Institute, for its initials in Spanish], working in the manner the Polish writer described. To simply say that AMLO was “with the PRI” also omits to mention that during this era (1946-1988) many of the best Mexicans, from scientists, artists and intellectuals to honest politicians (there were some), were PRI or worked for the PRI.

AMLO’s enemies also omit the reason he broke with the PRI, after serving as the Tabasco, state party president (1982-1983) at the beginning of the governorship of his former professor, Enrique González Pedrero. When a documented attempt to democratize the PRI was blocked by the “machine”, González Pedrero relocated him to a less political position, “officio mayor” [basically civil service director] in which AMLO served exactly one day (August 15 to 16, 1983) before sending a resignation letter outlining his principles.

He focused on self-searching and finishing outstanding tasks, only nominally a PRI member until he joined with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in 1987-1988.

That is history. You can look it up: Héctor Alejandro Quintanar, “Las raíces del movimiento regeneración nacional”, Ítaca, 2017. Originally masters’ thesis, FCPyS-UNAM.

 

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