By RICARDO CASTILLO
Keen insider observers consider that the first gathering of the disperse National Action Party (PAN) at its headquarters in Colonia Del Valle in Mexico City on Saturday, Aug. 10, looked more like a witches’ black sabbath than a political reunion.
It became clear that “the spells” to bring “party unity” came from as many as six different sides, each with different agendas regarding their hopes for “the future of the party.” Still-Senator Ernesto Ruffo Appel of Baja California used the folksy musical term “onda grupera” (“grouper’s beat,” a term used for northern Mexican popular brass bands) to describe what was going inside the PAN after the notorious July 1 thrashing the party got at the voting polls. Too many groups have torn the party apart, he said.
And six of these groups are still fighting to grab the leadership of the party, which, in the next Congress, will be the “minority opposition” (if you can call it that). As of last count, the PAN will have 24 senators (out of 128) and 82 representatives or deputies out of 500. To put it bluntly, the PAN’s “opposition” to the upcoming overwhelming majority of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) will be meaningless.
There were angry reactions to the groups’ behavior and divisionism. Senator-on-leave Roberto Gil Zuarth was irritated because he said “they don’t seem to understand that we’ve just lost an election by a 30 percent difference in the vote count.” which has sent the PAN “20 years backwards” into time after having held Mexico’s presidency from 2000 through 2012.
It was a national meeting, however, in which everyone got to speak out, including the seven-member PAN Governors Association (made up of the governors of the states of Durango, Querétaro, Tamaulipas, Aguascalientes, South Baja California, Puebla and Quintana Roo), which, along with approximately 30 former deputies and senators, opted for “a new foundation” of the battered party and an outright rejection of proposals to have defeated presidential candidate Ricardo Anaya return as the party’s leader. Along with that of Anaya, the group also called for the resignation of current PAN president Damián Zepeda, both of whom have suffered from “natural exhaustion.”
Durango Gov. José Rosas Aispuro suggested that “what would be healthy now is to find someone that can bring us together and can talk to us all.”
At the end of the 10-hour long meeting, the participants opted to pay heed to Rosas Aispuro’s recommendation and bring back veteran legislator Cecilia Romero to take the temporary helm of the PAN and prepare the ground for a proposed convention next October.
But Rosas Aispuro also pointed out the real reasons that the PAN lost not only the presidential election hands-down but also any significant representation in both houses of Congress.
“The erosion (of the party) came from the conformation of the Front for Mexico in the coalition with the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement (MC) parties.” In fact, the once-mighty PRD was almost wiped off the face of Mexican politics while the MC barely held on to its political party status.
Ricardo Anaya showed up with his usual “nothing-big-happened” smile at the PAN meeting, but, in the end, he was targeted as the source of the “destruction” of a once-solid political party.
For nearly dismantling the PAN, both as party president and presidential candidate, the 40-year-old Anaya was the laughingstock of political pundits on Monday, Aug. 13. Here’s what Enrique Galván Ochoa said of Anaya in the influential leftwing daily “La Jornada,” in a paragraph headlined Young Attila:
“Ricardo Anaya deserves a site in the national politics anecdote book for the following reasons: He destroyed three political parties in record time. His alliance with the PRD nearly cost the business of Los Chuchos their license. His own party, the PAN, is immersed in such a profound division that it will be no surprise if it splits in two. Anaya also finished off the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and Prianismo (joint ventures of PRI and PAN). Every time he threatened (President) Enrique Peña Nieto with jail, he broke a link in the chain that has allowed Prianismo to thrive since the time of (Carlos) Salinas (de Gortari) (president 1988-1994). A reconciliation inside the PRI and the PAN looks like mission impossible, and perhaps isn’t even worth a try. The 13 senators the PRI was left with can be fit in a single selfie, which is a metaphor for Anaya’s spectacular defeat; Wonder Boy failed them.” (Note: “Los Chuchos” are Jesús Ortega and Jesús Zambrano, both of whom forced President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) from being the PRD candidate for the third time. He went on to form the now-majority party Morena. “Chucho” is a moniker for those named Jesús.”)
During the PAN gathering, Anaya’s campaign coordinator said that “even before the election, Ricardo announced to us (the election team) that if the results did not favor, him he would not seek the party leadership again.”
PAN regulations call for a change of president any time between now and next December, and it is significant that those nearest to Ricardo Anaya “will stay close,” but for sure they want to stay out of the public eye (which is on top of them) in order to lick their wounds.
The only thing that is clear now is that former Senator Cecilia Romero will be the president of the National Election of the PAN National Executive Committee Organizing Committee, who could not say much. except the obvious: “we’ll work so that all the internal organizations (groups) and all PAN members act in consonance.”
That may sound easy, but the truth be that Anaya wants to continue controlling the party. colliding head-on with former PAN and Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s group. But, of course, there are another four or five more groups vying for a power grab for what was once the mighty PAN.
The question is: Will these “onda grupera” bands of politicos ever be able to play a harmonious tune together?