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A Political Schism in Peña Nieto’s PRI


Former PRI President Enrique Ochoa Reza. Photo: PRI

By RICARDO CASTILLO    

Last Sunday, May 6, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate José Antonio Meade Kuribreña made a second launching of his floundering campaign. The change came perhaps too late, just 50 days before Mexico’s July 1 election.

The fact is that until then, Meade – seen as an honest and indeed enthusiastic candidate – was one of a group of technocrats that lacked electioneering experience and had never run for office before.

The PRI is run and operated by President Enrique Peña Nieto but highly influenced by “the brain behind the presidential chair” – some claim — Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray, who imposed Meade as the candidate. And at the helm of the PRI, he placed Enrique Ochoa Reza as president, and former Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño as campaign leader.

Again, none of the above figures – except the president – ever ran for office before.

Before the change, however, there was an internal schism at the PRI. The previous, Tuesday when Ochoa Reza was notified that he was going to be removed from the PRI presidency, he is said to have gone into a raging tantrum. He finally accepted his fate becuaase it was an order, but he conditioned his departure by having PRI Secretary General Claudia Ruiz Massieu “resign” with him.

Unlike Videgaray and his clique – called the “ITAMites” because most of them are economists from the Mexican Institute of Technology, or ITAM – Ms. Ruiz Massieu stems out of a pedigreed family of PRI militants. In fact, she’s the beloved blood niece of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who has her as his representative within the PRI ranks.

In January of last year, Claudia Ruiz Massieu was forced out as Foreign Relations secretary to make room for diplomatic “greenhorn” Luis Videgaray, who’d been tucked into the closet after he arranged Donald Trump’s disastrous visit (for Peña Nieto) to the presidential residence of Los Pinos during the U.S. electoral campaign on Aug. 31, 2016. Then-Treasury Secretary Videgaray was not fired as such, just removed from public sight for some time until people forgot his blunder. But his personal friendship with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner got him the Foreign Relations secretary job.

At that time, Claudia Ruiz Massieu, who is the heir of a political dynasty within the nation’s oldest and still powerful political party, the PRI, admitted she had no direct access to the White House and she gave up the Foreign Relations post, perhaps unwillingly, but silently – with “discipline” as is said within the PRI. On March, 2017, she was appointed the PRI’s secretary general – the second-ranking post in the monolith party.

But this time, when Ochoa Reza said she had to resign that post too in order to make room for other people to run the flogging Meade electoral campaign Ruiz Massieu did the unspeakable: She said no to the president and told him she would not resign.

Sources have it that she rang up Peña Nieto and called Ochoa Reza’s call for her resignation outright “blackmail.” The  Mexican president did not take her call directly, but she left him a message that if he was ordering her removal, she’d accept it but if not, she was not going to take responsibility “for the errors, omissions and carelessness” Ochoa Reza had committed leading Meade’s campaign into the boondocks. She was not going to be a fall girl along with Ochoa Reza.

Incidentally, it is said that it was Meade who told Ochoa Reza he was being fired. Maybe that is so, maybe it not, since within PRI regulations only the president has the authority to fire the party’s leadership. Senator Emilio Gamboa, who leads the PRI in the Mexican Senate, was among those believed to have masterminded Ochoa Reza’s fall. Gamboa said there was a national rebellion against Ochoa Reza by old PRI militants because he made a lot of mistakes appointing candidates. In fact, eight of the nine candidates for governor he picked are way behind the polls and apparently heading the PRI towards political bankruptcy.

On Wednesday, May 3, it became clear that the old guard within the PRI had moved fast to “provisionally” replace Ochoa Reza with Guerrero State Senator and former Governor René Juárez, an experienced veteran “mapache” (raccoon) who could maybe do something to salvage Meade’s disastrous presidential campaign. Juárez is experienced in party electioneering, but for Meade, pundits both national and international claim, that the removal of Ochoa Reza was a case of too little, too late.

In any case, on Thursday, May 4, Ruiz Massieu got ratified as the party’s secretary general nullifying the mess Videgaray and his group of “PRITAMites” have done to carry the president’s party into apparent disaster.

Just how much damage was done by Enrique Ochoa Reza to the president’s political alma matter will be known on July 1, election day, but in the end, everyone knows that in a PRI administration, such as in this case, the cause and source of the apparently inevitable political disaster coming up for the PRI is the making of the president himself.

Note: Part of this information was sourced by and from syndicated columnist Salvador García Soto.

 

 

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