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Cuauhtemoc Ccirdenas Alan Pogue Cardenas is going to begin to govern while the same opposition parties obstruct his efforts to do so. The taciturn Cardenas is clearly lacking in charisma and has always had a communication problem, but the siege of City Hall has only made it worse. The Cardenas administration almost refuses to take credit for the small victories it does achieve. When Cardenas staffers ignored President Zedillo’s 14 percent wage-increase cap and ordered an 18 percent raise for city workers, which resulted in similar wage increases for hundreds of thousands of workers outside the city system, the mayor refused to take credit for it. The 18 percent raise was a peace offering to Cardenas’ most dangerous adversary the 112,000-member city workers’ ruling party that affiliation with the PRI is a condition for union membership. The union controls every aspect of government, from the treasury to garbage collection, and during decades of PRI rule, union leaders have reaped fortunes by selling licenses and permits under the counter. The power of the union to hold Cardenas hostage was recently illustrated by SUTGDF leader Rail Quintana’s warning that Mexico City would drown in a flood of sewage if his union members shut down critical pumping stations for a single eight-hour shift. To add to the Mayor’s troubles, the PRD majority in the Mexico City Legislative Assembly often undermines Cardenas’ attempts to govern. Recently, it allowed five of the sixteen delegation chiefs the Mayor proposed to fail, because party members did not vote in their own party’s favor. Divided into diverse political currents, the PRD delegation, which won thirty-eight of sixty-six seats in the July election, is often openly critical of Cardenas appointees. And while public insecurity is the most acute anxiety of Mexico City residents, Cardenas has not been well served by his hand-picked district attorney, Samuel del Villar. The D.A.’s choice of a Judicial Police director with a drugs-and-torture background was an early problem, when the appointee was forced to resign shortly after he was appointed. Del Villar’s competence was again called into question when a U.S. real estate executive was murdered during a taxi hold-up, by a gang that came to be celebrated as “la banda de Chucky.” Alfonso “Chucky” Gonzalez probably shot John Peter Zarate on December 15. But after Del Villar’s agents apparently tried to beat confessions out of gang members, a judge overturned the confessions and released Chucky and his banda securing the Cardenas administration another week’s bad coverage in Mexico City’s dailies. Cardenas is a hands-on mayor, a former civil engineer who loves putting on a hard hat and visiting worksites. But he also behaves like an oldstyle caudillo, with an authoritarian style that discourages grassroots participation. With a thousand days remaining in his three-year term, the “moral authority of the left” must begin opening doors at City Hall if Cardenas is to create the “city for everyone” that his campaign promised. One place to begin with is the system of block captains and neighborhood presidents, which although tarnished by years of PRI control, provides a base for house-byhouse involvement in changing and democratizing the city. Despite his disclaimers, Cardenas governs with an eye to the future, and plans to run for the presidency of Mexico in 2000. Elected officials cannot succeed themselves in Mexico, and Cardenas will go nowhere if he fails in the capital. What happens in Mexico City during the next thirty-three months is crucial to the democratic transformation of the nation. Eli John Ross, author of the recently released The Annexation of Mexico: From the Aztecs to the IMF, recently celebrated his sixtieth birthday and is growing weary of listening to lies. APRIL 10, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19