By RICARDO CASTILLO
A great majority of observers claim that the registration of candidates for the presidency of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is more than a dismal farce: It is the rise of the living dead.
Several candidates registered to contend for the post, but among all of them, the governor-on-leave of the southeastern state of Campeche, Alejandro Moreno Cárdenas, a.k.a “Alito,” swept with the opposition. Or at least it looks that way.
In an event on Saturday, June 22, at the PRI headquarters on Insurgentes Avenue in Mexico City, Alito registered his candidacy before the National Committee for Internal Affairs, along with letters of support from the leaders of three of the four main organizations which make up the core of members of the old political party.
The internal election is slated for Aug. 11, but Alito is already hawking victory, and, not only that, claiming the revival of the old electioneering “steamroller” that ruled the nation during 70 straight years through rigged elections. Upon registration, Alito issued a warning to the current opposition, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party.
“I’m saying it clear so that it heard far and wide,” he said. “Beware all political parties; the PRI is making a return and we will be beat you again.” Alito devoted a special mention to Morena, a party formed in 2014 that wiped the PRI out during the 2018 presidential elections.
“Morena is a fly-by-night bird,” he said. “It was born yesterday, it rules today and it will be gone tomorrow.”
Anyone even slightly familiar with Mexican politics knows Alito is bluffing. The phenomenal thrashing the PRI got last year – for many an observer – was nothing less than a death sentence for the party, and whatever the PRI does from now on is nothing other than the return of the living dead. As some put it, it’s RIP (rest in peace) for the PRI.
But still, hopefuls to lead the once-ruling party were a total of seven, backed by busloads of people coming from their own states. Several hundred militants were bused to the registration ceremony, among them once-shining politicos such as Yvonne Ortega, a former Yucatan governor, who complained about Alito’s old style political custom of busing fake followers to the PRI headquarters. She managed to garner the signatures of 10 state PRI representations. Another candidate, former Oaxaca Governor Ulises Ruiz, managed to present the support of four state organizations.
Other candidates turned in accreditation documents, but were turned down for not fulfilling the needed quota of back-up organizations. So for the final run, surely Alito, Yvonne and Ulises will be the top contenders, unless something extraordinary happens between now and election day.
There would have been a fourth contender, former National Autonomous University of Mexico Dean as well as former Health Secretary José Narro Robles, but he dropped out from the race on Thursday, June 20, when he decided that Alito was playing dirty politics. Narro Robles was so disgusted with the way Alito flexing his clout that he not only withdrew his candidacy, but also renounced his 46-year-old PRI membership.
Narro Robles resigned in a tweet, claiming “it’s deeply worrying the course the election procedure has taken because it is evident that a favorite for the top PRI leadership exists, preferred by the governors and the person who was, until recently, the political head of the party.” This last comment is a direct reference to former President Enrique Peña Nieto.
In the eyes of many, Narro Robles’ dual resignation caved a sinkhole into the PRI because he was seen as an honest man who claimed it is no longer possible to manipulate elections from within and that, under the current leadership of president Claudia Ruiz Massieu, “the dice are obviously loaded” and a corrupt system prevails in the PRI.
That’s a view of the inner workings of the PRI. On the outside, the party is indeed in dire straits after the Peña Nieto administration pushed it into an abyss from which it may never return.
Many of the elected officials who backed Peña Nieto during the 2012 presidential election in which he beat Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) by a 6 percent margin (38 to 32 percent of the vote) received support from now-former governors who have been indicted for theft. Former Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte is in jail, as is Roberto Borge of Quintana Roo, and on the lam is César Duarte of Chihuahua.
Also, as time goes by the former president himself is being linked closer and closer to allegations of not just turning a blind eye to massive corruption, but also of getting personal kickbacks. In short, Peña Nieto’s “new PRI,” as it was touted, turned out to be more corrupt than the old PRI.
And it is under these circumstances that the now-blatant minority PRI holds in the Chambers of Senators and Deputies that the party may just carrying out a worthless scam. The party leaders’ nice try may be seen in future elections as an attempt to revive the old glories of power and corruption, this time followed by a horde of paid voters who definitely resemble their likes from horror movies of thriving living dead.