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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Return to authoritarianism if Peña Nieto wins?

Denise Dresser says yes, but Leo Zuckerman says Mexico has matured far too much for that to happen

Denise Dresser, in her visit to the University of San Diego earlier this month, raised the specter of the Putinization of Mexico if Enrique Peña Nieto returns the Institutional Revolutionary Party to the presidency.

On Monday, her column, the second half of which was given up to a student who participated in a protest against Peña Nieto's visit to Córdoba, Veracruz, on May 15, seemed to back up her theory that Mexico could see a return to authoritarianism if the PRI wins July 1. The student noted how goons, said to be paid 200 pesos each by a worker in PRI Gov. Javier Duarte's government, worked in concert with police to beat up protesters and steal their cameras so the goons' and police actions could not be recorded. Not all cameras were taken, however, and videos have been posted on YouTube. Vehicles also were towed away so that buses could park and drop off people trucked in to fill up the main plaza for Peña Nieto. Authorities hauled off some protesters, at least until after Peña Nieto's event was over. Other protesters were blocked off so they could not arrive at the plaza. The student said a protest leader was called on his cellphone and threatened; after police told his mother they were looking for him, the protester decided to stay home, where someone in a car appeared to be spying on him. Column in Frontera (PDF).

But Excélsior's Leo Zuckermann, in a column entitled "Return to authoritarianism if Peña wins?," said the answer is a definitive no. He also said, however, that his position is no recommendation to vote for the PRI. He said it is far too simplistic and much too fearful to think that Peña Nieto's election could reverse the gains Mexicans have made over the years in terms of liberal democracy. Zuckermann said that through gradual, fundamentally peaceful change, Mexico has transformed itself into a democracy with a growing pluralistic, more participative public now accustomed to its freedoms. He said he cannot see the youths who are protesting against Peña Nieto, much less all Mexicans who are in favor of democratic liberalism, letting the country return to an authoritarian regime. Mexico and the world has changed, and there is no going back, he said. He noted that the Supreme Court and the Bank of Mexico are now independent bodies, as is the Federal Electoral Institute, the National Human Rights Commission and the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information. He noted that the media has dramatically changed.

Zuckermann said he does not have confidence in the PRI, and said it still has authoritarian tendencies, as seen in the recent actions against protesters. But he said he does have confidence in Mexican society, institutions and democratic media that have been built with much effort over the years, and believes they will deliver Mexico from the worst that the PRI has to offer.
Zuckermann's column (PDF).

Update: Peña Nieto issues a manifesto entitled "Una Presidencia Democrática" (A Democratic Presidency") in which he promises not to return to the PRI's darker past. He does so in front of a group that includes former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda. Story, El Mexicano (PDF). Jump. Milenio.
Update: National Action Party's Javier Lozano says the PRI has put politicians opposed to labor reforms into many candidacies that are likely to be elected to the next Congress. Lozano, the former labor minister now running for the Senate, said Peña Nieto had acted as Deputy No. 501 to prevent labor reform in the current Congress. Peña Nieto is said to have wielded major influence in the Chamber of Deputies, which has 500 legislators. The PRI remains strongly dependent on organized labor. Story in Frontera (PDF).