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If the Institutional Revolutionary Party returns to power at the national level next year, it won't be the return of the old PRI, but rather the arrival of the PRI of the 21st century, the party's leader said Thursday night.
Beatriz Paredes (right) told the Institute of the Americas in San Diego that such a victory would harken the arrival of a party engaged in dialogue.
She said some are frightened about the PRI's vertiginous resurgence, particularly as many thought the party's loss of the presidency in 2000 to the National Action Party's Vicente Fox was the preamble to the end of her political organization.
Paredes said the PRI instead has learned some hard lessons, particularly after the defeat of Roberto Madrazo in 2006, the first time the party had finished third in a presidential election.
She said the PRI, after that election, began a new phase as the responsible, or loyal, opposition. She said the party rejected the polarization surrounding the close results of the hotly contested 2006 election and attended the inauguration of President Felipe Calderón, also of the PAN. She said the PRI decided to follow what she called the legitimate, institutional path — unlike Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose declaration that he was the legitimate president of Mexico "put the political stability of the country at risk."
She said she thought Mexico's left was going to collapse in the next elections because it has taken decisions that go against its historic nature. Those include its alliance with Calderón's conservative National Action Party in recent state elections to fend off the resurgent PRI.
Paredes, a former governor of Tlaxcala state, steps down as party leader March 4 after serving in the position for four years; the new leader of the PRI will be Humberto Moreira, who stepped down as governor of Coahuila state after being elected to the party post.
She said all indications are that the PRI will win next year's elections. The PRI has a wide lead in polls and has a majority of the nation's governorships. Its coalition with the Green Ecology Party gives the PRI-Green Ecology Party coalition a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. As examples of the PRI's comeback, she cited its victories in Guadalajara and surrounding localities in Jalisco state and that for the first time in 21 years, the PRI won all five municipalities in Baja California states. She met with the five PRI mayors in Baja California the day before her IOA talk. Story, Frontera. Paredes addresses Ensenada mayor's attempt to shutdown Sempra plant in San Diego Union-Tribune article (mentioned in fifth and sixth paragraphs from bottom of story)
Paredes said candidates often can make or break elections, especially if they have a lot of negatives, but "it is not always just the candidate" who wins or loses elections.
She said the party had a "luminous candidate" in this month's Baja California Sur election who gained 20 points in the polls in two months. Still, she said she had tried to persuade Ricardo Barroso not to run, saying the conditions against him were too great.
And they were — a PAN candidate who defected from the PRD, Marcos Covarrubias, won.
She said the most damaging thing for a political party is arrogance, which many people say is why López Obrador — and Madrazo — lost in 2006.
She said Mexico's political system leaves a lot to be desired, and wondered whether independent candidacies could be part of the solution, although noting that in Latin America, independent candidacies have in general not been successful.
She said campaigns cost too much in Mexico — a process put into place to prevent the PRI from dominating, or stealing, elections. Still, she said, "As costly as it is, a democratic process is much less costly than not having democracy."
* and coalition parties; PRI had no partner in 2000; PAN had none in 2006
She said the PAN, which long campaigned to provide more power to localities, has in many ways centralized yet more power.
The centralization of the Mexican education system is devastating, she said. Unfortunately, she said, the powerful teachers union shifted to back the PAN as its sensed the political winds shifting and bought itself influence. That union may be shifting back to the PRI now.
She said what little taxing powers localities have gained have been the virtual equivalent of plucking a hair from the Cheshire cat in Alice in Wonderland.
To combat organized crime, the federal government is seeking to replace many local police with federal police, another shift away from decentralization. Paredes did say, however, that some states have instituted oral trials and introduced other changes in the legal system.
She said she thought it was simplistic to blame the PRI for creating the conditions that led to Mexico's current crime situation. She said conditions are radically different today from when the PRI was in power.
Paredes has an article in this month's Voz y Voto magazine. It makes many of the same points she spoke about Thursday night. It also mentions that the PRI has passed a rule that half of the PRI's national committee be composed of women. Asked about this Thursday night, Paredes indicated that this rule might be helping the PRI get more female candidates and ideally more votes. She said the PRI has many female candidates competing for municipal posts. She also said three strategic positions have been occupied by women: the presidency, the secretary of electoral action and the head of the PRI's training academy.
She said part of the strategy of the PRI has been that the president of the party not use the position as a springboard to the PRI's nomination for the presidency of the country, as Madrazo did.
Paredes, who is a deputy in the Congress, was asked what she was going to do once she was out of her PRI leadership role on March 4. She said she would sing, play chess, be a good deputy, work with the Institute of the Americas, spend more time on immigration issue, do work on climate change and just live life.
"I am a person of causes, not posts," she said.
Paredes ran for mayor of Mexico City in 2009, but lost to the PRD candidate, Marcelo Ebrard, who may run for president in 2012. Her campaign paraphernalia included an album in which she sings. In the first song, she talks about providing empleo (employment) and fighting narcomenudeo (small-scale, local drug trafficking. To listen to the CD
Paredes trademark is to wear the garb of
the indigenous peoples of Mexico. On
Thursday, she was wearing an outfit from
the Amuzgo region along the Guerrero-Oaxaca border.