February 16, 2001


New Rules: New Game

By Enrique Davis-Mazlum

When the Spaniards arrived to Yucatan the Mayan civilization was at its downfall. The firsts Spaniards to arrive were the castaway of the expedition of Pedro de Valdivia which had left Panama in 1511 towards Santo Domingo. On June 26, 1513 Juan Ponce de Leon discovered the coast of Yucatan. Three hundred and eight (308) years later (1821) Governor Juan Maria Echeverri called a meeting to order in which the yucatecos expressed their feelings in which they wanted independence from Spain and their desire to be part of Mexico. On November 21, 1824 Yucatan was accepted as part of the republic and the local legislature swore to follow the Federal Constitution.

In 1835 Yucatan lost its sovereignty as a state and became a department, this lead to a revolution against the Mexican Government in 1840 and established the Federal Government of Yucatan which broke all relations with the Mexican Government. Yucatan reestablished relations with the Mexican Government in 1844, but it only lasted two years. These conflicts in Yucatan lead to the Guerra de las Castas (War of Castes) which lasted for 55 years (1847-1902). One of the consequences of War of Castes was the separation of the state into three states: Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatan.

Since 1924 Yucatan has had three major conflicts: 1940, 1953 and February 14, 1984 when Governor Graciliano Alpuche Pinzon left the governorship and Victor Cervera Pachecho was named substitute Governor between 1984-1988. Cervera has had several elected positions throughout his political career: Local Congressman (1968-1979); Mayor of Merida (1971-1972); Federal Congressman (1973-1975), Senator (1976-1981), Federal Congressman (1982-1984). In 1995 he was elected as governor for a second term. Between 1988 and 2001 Yucatan has had as governors Victor Manzanilla Schaffer (1988-1990; Dulce Maria Sauri Riancho (1990-1994) who is currently the National President of the PRI (Revolutionary Institutional Party); Federico Granja Ricalde who was elected for an 18 month term (1994-1995) and Governor Cervera who assumed the office of governor on August 1, 1995 and steps down on July 31, 2001.

The PRI since its foundation under the name of PNR (National Revolutionary Party) had as one of its purpose the consolidation of Mexico, what is ironic is that the PRI of Yucatan _the party that united all Mexicans under one solid Republic- is threatening to break the Federal Pact which makes Yucatan a part of Mexico. These statements by PRI members can be attribute to the weakening of the PRI since 1988; in 1994 Governor Federico Granja was elected with a difference 122,000 votes and a year and half later Governor Cervera won with only a difference of 22,000 votes from his opponent Luis Correa Mena of PAN (National Action Party).

Since December 2000 Yucatan is facing a pre electoral dispute, this conflict emerged because of changes in the way Local Electoral Councils are chosen. It was tradition that the Local Congress of each state would name local representatives to the Local Electoral Council which oversees and runs local elections, but the TEPJF (Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation) ruled that the representatives that the Local Congress of Yucatan choose were not impartial and appointed nonpartisan representatives to the Local Electoral Council. Governor Cervera, Myrna Hoyos (Local Congresswomen of the PRI), other elected officials of the PRI and the PRI of Yucatan decided to continue with their appointments and disregard the TEPJF decision.

The PRI did not allow the Local Electoral Council appointed by the TEPJF to take over the offices where they must work and prepare the election. As a consequence the Local Electoral Council was sworn in a park. On Wednesday February 7, 2001 the TEPJF informed Governor Cervera, Local Congressmen and members of the PRI that they had to turn over the offices were the Local Electoral Council should be established. The use of legitimate force by the Federal Government is a possibility in order to reestablish law and order in Yucatan. Governor Cervera and members of the PRI did not followed orders and Secretary of State Santiago Creel has to intervene and has two options: a) negotiate a way out of the conflict or b) use legitimate force - which will only be used if the TEPJF decides that this is the course of action. Secretary Creel sent members of the PFP (Federal Prevention Police: similar to the National Guard) to Yucatan and gave Governor Cervera until Saturday February 10, 2001 to comply with the ruling, but they are still negotiating.

The registration of candidates to the governorship of Yucatan will take place February 16, 2001 and the elections will be held on May 27, 2001. Similar to the situation in Tabasco, what is at stake is the power of the PRI. If the PRI looses the office of governor in Yucatan it will be weakend and it will be much harder for this party to keep the seats it has in the Federal Congress after the elections in 2003.

It is said that Governor Cervera is hoping that an agreement between all parties involved will not take place before February 16, 2001 and as a result an intern governor will be named for a year and that will give him lea way on what to do with his personal life after his term ends and avoid any possibility of law suits. Secretary of State Santiago Creel laid down all the alternatives that will end the conflict on the table, it is up to Governor Cervera to decide how this controversy will end. This 64 year old man needs to understand that Mexico has changed and that the old ways of doing politics in Mexico have ended and that there are new rules in the game and those that don't play by them will be left out or will loose -it is a newer version of Monopoly.

Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studying for his Masters in Public Policy and is the Assistant Director of Vortice: Analysis and Proposals of Public Policy Journal. www.loscandidatos.com; davismazlum@hotmail.com

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