Mexico’s Labor Party, a Coalition of Leftist Movements
By JESSICA GUERRERO
The leftist faction is relatively new in modern Mexican politics. It was not until after almost 70 years of hegemony of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the 20th century, that the left began to take shape as the first citizen counterweights appeared.
The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) saw the light of day in 1989, and was considered the first leftwing party in modern Mexican history. The following year, a new leftist political force began to form in the north and east of the country, after the conjunction of several local political organizations such as the Popular Defenses of Chihuahua and Durango, the Popular Front of Struggle of Zacatecas, the Popular and Independent Peasant Organization of the Huasteca Veracruzana, the Popular Front Land and Freedom of Monterrey, the Plan de Ayala National Coordinator and a fraction of the independent teachers’ union, among others. This somewhat disjointed political bloc was named by its founders the Labor Party (PT).
Despite the fact that some Mexican political scientists maintain that the PT was founded at the request of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (PRI) with the purpose of subtracting votes from the left-leaning PRD, these accusations have never been confirmed or verified.
With just a few thousand affiliated members, the PT first obtained its registration in 1990 as a political party. However, in the federal elections of 1991, the results obtained by the PT were insufficient for the party to maintain its registration.
The following year, after numerous internal campaigns and assemblies among its affiliates, the PT again requested its registration as a political party to the then-Federal Electoral Institute (IFE, which later evolved into the current National Electoral Institute, or INE), obtaining it in early 1993.
But it wasn’t until 1994 that the PT made its first prominent appearance in Mexico’s political life during the elections of that year, when it obtained almost a million votes. This did not only allowed the PT to maintain its registration with the IFE, but also allowed it to position itself within the internal politics of the country by winning 10 seats in the federal Chamber of Deputies.
During the following midterm elections in 1997, the number of PT supporters decreased in relation to those obtained by the party in previous elections. However, the party managed to stay afloat.
In the presidential elections of 2000, the PT changed its strategy. It put aside its brave and ambitious aspirations to place itself in the political elite of Mexico on its own and instead decided to join the bloc called Alliance for Mexico, composed of the PRD, the Convergence for Democracy (CD), the Social Alliance Party (PAS) and the Nationalist Society Party (PSN). That alliance captured almost 7 million votes, which represented 18 percent of the total ballots in that election.
These results for the PT had very positive implications since the party obtained 15 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, which, although only proportional, allowed the party to start to see the fruits of its recently implemented strategy.
From that moment on, the PT began to make the formation of political coalitions its main strategy. For decades, its main ally was the also leftist PRD. However, the PT also participated in alliances with other parties of opposing ideologies, such as the centralists PRI and the conservative National Action Party (PAN), in order to remain current in the Mexican electorate.
In the following presidential elections in 2006, the PT maintained its alliance with the PRD in the coalition named Coalition for the Good of All, supporting then-candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who lost the election to the PAN’s Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.
The same situation occurred in 2012, when the PT, together with the PRD, took part in the coalition named the Progressive Movement, supporting López Obrador for a second time. In this election, López Obrador lost to the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto.
However, this scenario was not repeated in 2018, when the PT once again supported candidate López Obrador, who participated (for the third time) in the presidential election. And this time, López Obrador was not running for president with the PRD as he had in the past. Now he was representing his own newly created party, the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) in the coalition known as Together We Will Make History. And, more importantly, this tme, he won.
AMLO’s victory represented a milestone for the PT, primarily because it showed the evident rupture with the PRD despite a longstanding alliance. On the other hand, as a result of the victory of the leftist coalition, the PT became an important political force in the country, not only because of López Obrador’s victory, but also because the leftist coalition obtained a majority in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Today, the PT defines itself as a democratic, popular, independent and anti-imperialist party. It also claims to be a pillar of support for promoting the mobilization of the Mexican people and the transformation of the political situation in the country. The PT’s slogans on radio and television talks about an empowerment of the country’s working class. The party also claims to seek social justice and the wellbeing of the Mexican people.
Despite its 31-year history in the political life of the country, the PT is considered to be a small party that has kept a low profile since its members haven’t managed to win any important position within the country’s politics, such as a governorship.
However, the maintenance of this party just between 1992 and 2015 cost Mexico 5 billion pesos. This fact has caused the party to be singled out by larger parties and political figures for living off the public payroll without making any significant contributions to the country’s democracy. In short, the PT has been called a parasite party by its detractors.
However, the disappearance of the PT would not represent any significant savings for the country either, but rather more resources for the remaining parties, since the budget for political parties is generally assigned to all registered parties as a whole by the National Electoral Institute (INE).
In addition, the leader of the PT, Alberto Anaya, was accused earlier this year of an alleged diversion of funds for approximately 60 million pesos that the government of the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León was suppose to allocate to Child Development Centers (Cendis) and that inexplicably ended up in the accounts of Anaya’s wife, María Guadalupe Rodríguez Martínez, and the PT’s local leader, Héctor García Quiroz.
Given this fact and once the investigations were completed, in recent days, the Electoral Court confirmed the fine that the INE had imposed on the Labor Party for 119.8 million pesos, after it was verified that, with the help of Rodríguez Martínez and García Quiroz, the PT had created a simulation scheme to divert public resources from Nuevo León to the party.
This act of presumed corruption shows the severe incongruence of the PT with his proclaimed ideals of social equality, austerity and governance for the people by presumably hurting the country’s finances.
The future of the PT is certainly predictable. Its subsistence formula through coalitions and alliances with different parties in the last 21 years has proven successful for the party and has allowed it, with the least possible effort, to enjoy the benefits that electoral victory provides.
The party that once took its first steps into Mexican politics with daring and tenacity, today is one of Mexico’s so-called chiquilladas (small-time parties), a minority entit whose only real function is to serve as an accessory to other bigger parties for promotional and marketing purposes.