Jun 27, 2012

Summary: What the news is saying about a return of the PRI

With the Mexican presidential elections less than a week away, various news sources are reflecting on the possible return of the PRI, remembering the past and making predictions on what would happen were Pena Nieto to win, and moreover what to expect for Mexico. 

“The fear is that the PRI’s fundamental instincts remain the same: to shun openness in favour of media manipulation, to conflate public and private interests and to shield corrupt union bosses. Opponents fear a “restoration” of the old regime,” the Economist writes in “Back to the Future,” considering Pena Nieto the “least bad choice,” by highlighting his promises:

The positive possibilities: 
“He promises some welcome reforms, such as breaching Pemex’s energy monopoly by opening up petrochemicals, refining and some bits of the oil business to private investment. He would reduce the state’s dependence on oil revenue by abolishing tax breaks. On security, he wants a much bigger federal police, backed by a new rural gendarmerie. He would focus on curbing violence, kidnapping and extortion, rather than ending drug trafficking (an impossible task which he would be wise to leave mainly to America, which buys the stuff). When PRI allies have been accused of corruption, Mr Peña has quickly cut them loose,” writes the Economist.

The PRI is trying to dissociate itself with its corrupt past by presenting a different platform. In NPR’s “A Fresh Face For An Old Party,” Pena Nieto “insists his party has changed its old authoritarian ways, and he's promised a new approach in the drug war, while saying he will take care of the country's failing education system and boost the salaries of hard-working Mexicans. That's a much different tune than that of the old PRI, which had a reputation for widespread corruption, election rigging and colluding with drug traffickers.”

The situational context: 
In his Op-Ed for the LA Times, “Not fearing a PRI in Mexico,” Jorge Castaneda, a foreign minister under former President Vicente Fox, argues that the country has changed significantly in the last 12 years to become more democratic in its institutions, the civil society, the political parties and the international covenants. If the PRI to were to be reinstated in the presidency, the abuses once associated with the party would be less possible today.

“Mexico has changed immensely since 1994, the last time a PRI president was elected. If Peña Nieto wins, he will have to deal with a strong opposition bloc in Congress, and in all likelihood with minority status for the PRI, at least in the lower house. Moreover, more than 10 of Mexico's 32 state governors will belong to the opposition, while the center-left Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, will continue to control the country's second-most important elected position and budget: the mayor's office in Mexico City, which the PRD has held since 1997.

Meanwhile, Mexico's media are freer, better and stronger than ever, even if on occasion the quality of their output leaves much to be desired. The country's civil society has become more organized, more powerful and more vibrant. The government can no longer do what it wants, for better or worse.”
On the other hand, the columnist for the Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer, highlights in “Mexico’s election may resurrect authoritarian party” some of the critics views of the return to power: that the PRI government will not pass significant reforms against the labor unions’ interests and that Pena Nieto’s team includes many from the old PRI. He cites Julio Castellanos, a congressman of President Felipe Calderon’s PAN: “They would use the public budget to perpetuate themselves in power. They are not seeking to return to power for the next six years, but for the remainder of the 21st Century, creating a citizens’ dependence on government subsidies,” writes Castaneda.

Concerns for the future: 
In terms of what a return of the PRI implies for Mexico’s drug trafficking, Fernando Menéndez for Fox News Latino in “Is Mexico's Pena Nieto a Cartel Pinata?” recalls historic drug trafficking alliances with corrupt government and police officials: “Despite his refusal to give any specifics, Peña Nieto has provided a rather more serious impression that he plans to achieve a ceasefire with the cartels and restore stability through an accommodation. Peña Nieto has staked out the position that while they will continue to fight crime and violence, arresting the cartel bosses will no longer be his administration’s focus.”

As the presidential elections near, whether the PRI party has changed significantly or will is debatable. As the Economist notes in "Fresh Face, Old Party," the PRI’s “dinosaurs” as the old guard is known are still alive. “In conveniently timed investigations, federal prosecutors have recently accused several PRI leaders of serious crimes. Tomás Yarrington, a former governor of the border state of Tamaulipas, is accused of taking bribes from drug traffickers. Humberto Moreira resigned as the party’s president last year over a debt scandal. Both men deny wrongdoing."

While some have claimed that Pena Nieto is of a different generation, just a child when the PRI party was at its worst, the Guardian’s story "Mexican media scandal: secretive Televisa unit promoted PRI candidateabout secret dealings with the influential Televisa TV network for a pro-Pena Nieto campaign challenge this notion. 

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