HERON ALEMAN/IMAGEN LATINA Porfirio Munoz Ledo and Cuauhtemoc Cardenas diseased autocracy of Mexico City an obstruction to economic progress. The North continued to prosper even after its last President, Calles, was exiled in 1936. Its growth outpaced that of the rest of the country. The Northwest saw great advances in agricultural production, and Monterrey became a third center of enormous economic and political importance alongside Mexico City and Guadalajara. The marriage of mutual convenience continued through the late seventies, as Lopez Portillo financed extraordinary expansion with borrowed money. When the falling price of oil ruined the economy, the relationship soured, and Lopez Portillo’s nationalization of the banks Behind the party struggle lies the tension between Central Mexico and Northern Mexico. drove many northern businessmen toward PAN. In 1976, PAN did not have a presidential candidate; in 1982, the candidate was a descendant of Francisco Madero. For 1988, PAN chose another wealthy northerner, Manuel Clouthier, whose French surname reminds Mexicans of PAN’s image as the party of the privileged. PRI’s left is also in disarray. The party has long been host to a reformist faction, which is presently organized as the Democratic Current, founded by Porfirio Munoz Ledo; a former ambassador to the United Nations and cabinet member and one of Lopez Portillo’s rivals for the presidential nomination in 1976. The Democratic Current proposed its own candidate for PRI’s nomination, and, when Carlos Salinas de Gortari was chosen, members of the reform faction left the party. Their candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, a former governor of the state of Michoacan is a publicist’s dream. Named for an Aztec chieftain who died resisting the Spanish, he is the son of former President Lazar Cardenas, who can only be described as Mexico’s Franklin Roosevelt. The elder Cardenas exiled his predecessor, Plutarco Calles, expropriated the oil fields, conducted the country’s most ambitious land redistribution, and, perhaps most importantly, defined the modern Mexican presidency. While the younger Cardenas will profit from his father’s huge popularity, especially in the countryside where PAN is weakest, he has no party organization and must rely on the media to transmit Democratic Current’s message of independence in foreign affairs, more democracy, and greater concern for consumers. Cardenas has gathered the endorsement of some independent unions and a number of minor parties. He will also have to distinguish his movement from the fratricidal group of small communist and socialist parties to his left while he competes with PRI which specializes in political posturing. PRI’s nominee, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, is already moving in that direction. The PRI candidate traditionally conducts a rigorous campaign all over the country, whether he has significant opposition or not. Night after night, on national network news, Salinas de Gortari will appear, conducting a shirtsleeve campaign and listening to the poor complain about price increases. At 39, a very young age for a presidential candidate, Salinas de Gortari, is a slight, balding, intelligent man with considerable presence. In the cabinet, he was the architect of de la Madrid’s economic program; while campaigning, he will articulate PRI’s vision of the continuing revolution while de la Madrid is forced to raise prices and sell off state enterprises. Blanco Moheno’s prediction of revolution is probably premature. Political violence in Mexico is less common than during the seventies, when guerrillas operated outside Acapulco and urban terrorists abducted the President’s father-in-law. The personal battle against inflation leaves little time for political activity; most of that which remains is directed toward the elections. There is little doubt that Salinas de Gortari, with weak opposition and 60 years of history on his side, will win. The real question is whether he can fix the economy and seal the widening cracks in the PRI coalition. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13 1.
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