October 6, 2000
By Enrique Davis-Mazlum
Mexico City - The PRI (Institutionalized Revolutionary Party) dates back to 1928 when President Plutarco Elias Calles from Sonora invited all political parties, organizations, groups to form the PNR (National Revolutionary Party) which had a revolutionary ideology. On March 4th, 1929 the PNR was formed and all groups, organizations were joined under one name. The PNR put an end to the anarchy that Mexico was living at the time and in some way allowed political stability to emerge. President Lazaro Cardenas on March 4th, 1938 asked the National Assembly of the PNR to form the PRM (Mexican Revolutionary Party) which would substitute the PNR. That same year the PRM competed for the Presidency of Mexico with 60 registered parties and obtaining the presidency allowed the PRM to gain strength internally. The biggest change during the XX th Century was when the PRM was transformed to the PRI on January 18th, 1946. The PRI adopted as its pledge "Democracy and Social Justice".
What happened to the PRI? What happened to the pledge of "Democracy and Social Justice"? When did the internal fracture of the PRI start? These are questions that many of us ask ourselves every day. It is not easy to answer them and there are many opinions of what has happened in the PRI since its beginning. Since February 27th, 1968 the PRI has had a total of 21 Presidents of the Party (an average of 1.5 Presidents per year). The Mexican Presidential system was at its peak during 1968, during this time the Olympics would be celebrated in Mexico and social movements emerged. One of the most important dates in Mexico and it is one of the saddest is October 2nd, 1968 when thousands of students were killed in la Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Mexico City by the Mexican Army. President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz took full responsibility of the incident and said that it was a necessary to avoid a spread of anarchy and instability. This declaration opened the doors for Luis Echeverria Alvarez, Secretary of State to be the Presidential Candidate of the PRI in 1970. It is said that freedom of expression in Mexico did not exist, that those who spoke their mind disappeared and never heard of again. Mexico had a type of government known as Dictablanda (a thin type of dictatorship). The outgoing President of Mexico always picked the Presidential Candidate of the PRI, this practice was known as El Dedazo (even though the PRI did not accept this in public). President Luis Echeverria Alvarez picked Jose Lopez Portillo in 1976 to be the Presidential Candidate of the PRI, and he picked Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado in 1982.
It is during the administration of President Miguel de la Madrid that the PRI started going through major changes without changing names or making it public. A group of young men who studied in some of the best schools of the United States (such as: Harvard, Yale, MIT and others) were now in control of the Mexican Government. When it was time for President Miguel de la Madrid (Harvard Graduate) to pick his successor tension between the Old School of the PRI and the New school emerged. Jesus Silva Herzog, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano and Porfirio Muñoz Ledo were the biggest challenge for the New School of the PRI. The New School (also known as El Carro Compacto) won and Carlos Salinas de Gortari became the Presidential Candidate of the PRI and with this decision the PRI fractured. Cardenas and Muñoz Ledo left the PRI and formed a coalition, which had Cardenas as the Presidential Candidate against Salinas in 1988. The Presidential Elections of 1988 have been in question and many say that it was Cuahtemoc Cardenas that won.
Many Priistas started to loose faith in the PRI when they saw that internally the PRI had not changed, that the pledge of "Democracy and Social Justice" were only words that were not being followed. On November 28th, 1993 Luis Donaldo Colosio was picked as the Presidential Candidate of the PRI, but his dream of becoming President of Mexico did not last long. Political instability in Mexico started to escalate when the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) emerged on January 1st, 1994, but it was not until March 23rd, 1994 that the PRI started to go into serious trouble. Presidential Candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assassinated on March 23rd, 1994 in Lomas Taurinas, Tijuana, Baja California during a campaign act. Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon was picked as the Presidential Candidate and won.
The PRI decided to make several changes in the way they would pick the Presidential Candidate for the 2000 Presidential Elections. First of all they had an internal election to pick the President of the Party in which Jose Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez won. Under Jose Antonio Gonzalez Fernandez the PRI decided to have primary elections to pick their candidate and for the first time accepted that the famous Dedazo in the PRI did exist. There were a total of four candidates: Manuel Barlett, Humberto Roque Villanueva, Roberto Madrazo and Francisco Labastida Ochoa. The competition was between Madrazo and Labastida. At first many did not believe that the elections were serious and after months of campaign the question was "what would happen with the PRI after the primary elections?" Francisco Labastida won the elections that was based on a District System (similar to the US) and not direct votes.
The PRI after 71 years in power lost the Presidential Election to President Elect Vicente Fox of the PAN (National Action Party) on July 2nd, 2000 and was not prepared. Dulce Maria Sauri Riancho who was the Party President wanted to resign a couple of days after, but many Priistas voted against accepting her resignation. The PRI is will be a party who has to deal with the fact that they are orphans, no longer will their father be the President of Mexico, they have no idea of what steps to take. They know that they want to gain control, they just don't know how and for what purpose. I believe that the major problem of the PRI is not taking into consideration younger generations. There are many young Priistas who do believe that "Democracy and Social Justice" is the road that the PRI should take during the XXI st Century in order for Mexico to prosper. All of the discussions of the PRI have been among older generations of Priistas. If the PRI wants to win seats in Congress during the 2003 Federal Election major internal changes have to take place. The PRI needs to redefine its purpose, pick a leader who does not have as it is said in Mexico "cola que le pisen" (skeletons in the closet), and most important make younger generations part of the decision process. If the PRI does not start making these changes we will soon go to its funeral.
Enrique Davis-Mazlum, attends ITAM in Mexico City, studying for his Masters in Public Policy. www.loscandidatos.com email@example.com