Morena’s Growing Dissident Faction

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MORELIA, Michoacán — Despite its short existence in Mexican politics, the country’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, founded in 2011 by the current president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has successfully positioned itself as the country’s leading political force in all levels of government.

Its popularity over the course of the last decade has marked a milestone in the political life of Mexico, since a leftist party had never before reached the country’s executive seat, and Morena managed to accomplish this in just seven years.

The party not only unseated its opponents in the elections, but also partially dismantled the militancy of old parties such as the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), from which it was nurtured many of its current members.

This reality generated criticism and accusations, not only from opposite parties, but also from the Morena party members themselves, who considered this assimilation of other party members as a lack of coherence in Morena’s ideology and a contradiction to its declared aversion against old school Mexican politics, referring specifically to the PRI as “the mafia of power.”

Notwithstanding, many Morena members today are former PRI militants.

The Morena-ists who were initially pillars behind the popularity and credibility of López Obrador’s political movement within his so-called Fourth Transformation, such as politicians Tatiana Clouthier, Marcelo Ebrard and Yeidckol Polevnsky, left their positions within the party’s leadership as soon as Morena reached the presidential seat in 2018, to join the AMLO administration.

The new Morena leadership was later made up of lesser-known players in Mexican politics, such as Mario Delgado Carrillo and Ricardo Monreal Ávila, who from the beginning did not receive great acceptance among the party’s militants and founding members.

These differences became more accentuated as of Mexico’s last elections in June 2021, when Morena’s internal elections to select the party’s local candidates were carried out. The results of these elections generated great controversy among the party’s members since some of them claimed that the internal selection processes weren’t fair to all the aspirants. These members openly accused the party’s leadership of corruption against its own members.

An example of that was what happened with the politician Félix Salgado Macedonio, who was promoted and supported by Morena as an elected candidate for the governorship of the southern state of Guerrero, despite the accusations against him for alleged sexual crimes and corruption.

This situation infuriated other local Morena politicians who were contending for that candidacy, such as Amílcar Sandoval Ballesteros, who was leading the polls in Guerrero and who also happened to be the brother of then-Public Function Secretary Irma Eréndira Sandoval Ballesteros.

A similar scenario took place in Oaxaca, where Senator Susana Harp Iturribarría reported the intervention of the party’s national leadership in the local internal elections in that state, leaving her at a disadvantage in comparison to her opponent Salomón Jara, who became the party’s official candidate.

The same situation was seen in the Mexican state of Aguascalientes last month, when Delgado Carrillo was attacked by fellow Morena members who did not hesitate to insult him verbally during his speech and to later throw eggs at his vehicle at the end of the presentation in which he announced politician Nora Ruvalcaba as a candidate for the Aguascalientes governorship in the upcoming elections, slated for June of this year.

According to the protesters, the party’s leadership did not carry out transparent or democratic internal elections, instead acting with authoritarianism against the party’s militants.

Likewise, the lack of organization and coordination of the local Morena militancy in this state provoked power struggles and clashes between the members of the party. According to irate militants, Eulogio Monreal, who used to be the party’s local leader, is now performing other functions unrelated to his position. The local party does not have an official leader as of today.

This same scenario occurred in the state of Durango a couple of weeks ago, when some Morena militants demonstrated against Delgado Carrillo, while he was presenting politician Alma Marina Vitela Rodríguez as a candidate for the governorship. According to the demonstrators, the internal election was not carried out legally and democratically, but rather there was an imposition by the Morena leadership.

All these political clashes culminated in the formation of a dissident group of Morena militants, headed by well-known former figures from López Obrador’s cabinet, such as Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Irma Eréndira Sandoval Ballesteros, along with other former officials, such as Víctor Toledo and Jaime Cárdenas.

This Morena faction held its first congress this month, in which its members expressed their concern about Morena’s future and called on all Morena members to rebuild the party. They made their disagreement with the party’s current leadership blatant, criticizing the way in which Morena carried out internal elections, putting personal interests first.

Sandoval Ballesteros and her husband, the U.S.-born political scientist John Ackerman, expressed their discontent against Delgado Carrillo’s administration while also expressing concern about a possible infiltration of neoliberalism into the party.

The situation that Morena is currently facing, along with a growing list of scandals related to the president and his family, could soon pose a very real threat to the stability of the party.

This evident division of its militants into contrasting blocs is taking place just four months before the midterm elections in which governors will be elected in the states of Aguascalientes, Durango, Hidalgo, Oaxaca, Quintana Roo and Tamaulipas.

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