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Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico 0 N THIS particularly cold December morning women queue up in front of an old colonial home less than three blocks from the building that served as the seat of government when this city was the capital of Texas. Dressed in the mixand-match fashion of the poor polyesters, frazzled sweaters, worn jackets these are women old in their thirties and forties. Each waits for one of the blankets to be distributed when the office opens. Most are accompanied by at least one child. Blankets, low-priced staple foods, free medical services, this is the patronage of a party removed from power: the Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores. one of several parties of the Mexican left to come out of the closet as a direct result of the apertura or electoral reform conceded by the dominant Institutional ago. Party :members, or militantes, have maneuvered to take advantage of the concessions that PM has allowed minority parties, but electoral results have not been spectacular: 16 of 100 speciallydesignated minority, or plurinominal, seats in the national chamber of deputies, and a handful of similar positions in state legislatures. In Coahuila, the PST has secured two of four plurinominal positions in the 16member state chamber of deputies and municipal council seats in Saltillo and Torreon, two of the state’s largest cities. Inside the party’s Allende street office, the lower third of the walls are painted the drab brown which must serve as the universal bureaucratic motif. Scattered posters proclaim party solidarity with insurgent movements in El Salvador and Guatemala; one Louis Dubose is a special education teacher in Austin. prominently-displayed hand-painted poster reads: Yankis Fuera de Grenada. Hanging above what was once the living room of a fashionable colonial home is the standard grim photo-portrait of Lenin. A Christmas tree, scattered wreaths, and a gold garland framing Lenin’s portrait remind one that this is, after all, Mexico. Although the legislature is out for Christmas and the nearest elections are scheduled for December of 1984, activity in the office suggests a political campaign in full march. A secretaryreceptionist divides her time between an Olivetti Electric and a telephone. Militantes come and go, blankets are distributed, and a score of constituents sit waiting for a word with one of the two diputados. Francisco Navarro Montenegro, an industrial engineer, and Dario Hernandez, a physician, are the first socialist deputies to serve in this state legislature, which, like each of the state legislatures in this republic, has for 55 years been dominated by one party. A young party worker who identifies himself as Luis leads the way to a conference room. A huge mural of Marx covers one wall. Diputados Hernandez and Navarro will arrive soon. Luis has worked, without documents, in the U.S. and Canada. He is concerned about my president’s foreign policy. We have something in common. When will the PST throw in with the coalition of leftist , parties that have united behind the Mexican Communist Party? Luis tells me that it won’t happen; too many differences in interpretation of ideology and too many leaders of utopian tendency in the communist party. “This is the Partido Socialista de Trabajadores,” Luis says. He places heavy emphasis on the socialista. More of the same factionalism that has divided the Mexican left for more than 60 years. The PST itself was founded by Rafael Aguilar Talamantes, who left the hierarchy of the Mexican 70s to form the Socialist Workers Party. But, as far as minority parties go. Coahuila is a PST strong hold. Luis insists that the party will realize big gains in the election in December of this year. “We are working to win places on the municipal councils in each of the 38 strategic municipalities in the state this year, not only plurinominal seats but municipal presidents; we are assured of a municipal presidency in Arteaga I! Hernandez enters; Navarro Montenegro will follow. Dario Hernandez is a physician from nearby Arteaga and a former PM activist. In a conservative, dark-brown business suit, he is no one’s stereotype of a Latin-American proletariat leader. He is followed by a young militante. “We are optimists,” he interjects, concerning next year’s elections. “This is an important year for the Socialist Workers. We are going to win some places in municipalities and we have established a goal of .30,000 militantes for the state.” \(Current party literature By the time Navarro Montenegro enters, followed by an aide or party member, it is obvious that instead of an interview with two deputies this will be a collective affair. Party members come and go, each of the deputies will field phone calls, and almost everyone will have something to say. Who to quote? A Mexican idiom comes to mind: hablan la raza it goes. Francisco Navarro Montenegro, from Saltillo, is a large imposing man, who wears an unruly beard and thick hornrim glasses. He had a hand in the extension of plurinominal electoral reform to municipalities with populations under 300,000, cities where the party hopes to make big gains in 1984. “What we hope to achieve,” Navarro explains, “is to dislodge PAN [the conservative Party of National Action] from their position of second electoral force. We are working, or will have committees working, in all of the strategic municipalities in the state. And much of our mission is educational.” Part of that education will consist of reminding voters of the socialist worker’s position on American activity in Central America and the Caribbean. “American intervention in Central America, the Reagan government’s aggression in Grenada, these actions are not only offensive to the members of the socialist workers party. We have An Opening Political Pluralism South of the Rio Grande By Louis Dubose 12 JANUARY 27, 1984