But the party's ambitious political goals may prove difficult to achieve, as it gambles on PEMEX issues and faces strong dissent from the ultra left wing
Mexico's far left Democratic Revolution Party is 25 years old today, and will celebrate the milestone with musical performances this afternoon in Mexico City's enormous Zócalo, the spiritual heart of the sprawling national capital.
National PRD chair Jesús Zambrano said that his party's goal - and admitted challenge - is to "unite the Left, renew its political agenda and create a nation of opportunities for all citizens. PRD is determined to carry out real democratic change" in Mexico, Zambrano added.
"Today the party continues as strong as ever. With firm conviction that Mexico must be fundamentally remade, I hereby declare myself a radical reformist, a revolutionary reformist," said Zambrano in a prepared statement.
In 2014 Mexico's Left finds itself badly divided, despite impressive placings in the presidential contests of 2006 and 2012. Moreover, many Mexicans regard PRD and the other major leftist parties - all of which are far more radical in their proposals and platforms than the former - as anything but reformist oriented. Mexico's Left determined to shackle the nation to the past.
Part of the problem is one of dissident personalities. Leftist icon Andrés Manuel López Obrador almost captured the presidency in 2006 while carrying the PRD "Aztec Sun" banner. The election was the closest in Mexico's history, and to this day some insist that fraud and manipulation at the highest levels enabled the conservative, center right National Action Party (PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, to be declared the winner by a tiny fraction of the millions of ballots cast.
López Obrador delivered an encore on July 1, 2012, although with less convincing numbers. As the standard bearer of a leftist political coalition known as Movimiento Progresista (MP), AMLO won 32% of the popular vote in a four way contest. The surprise was not that López Obrador lost by about six percent to PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, but that he walloped PAN nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota, the first serious female presidential candidate in Mexican history. Many analysts predicted a horse race between Peña Nieto and Mota, but López Obrador unexpectedly changed the equation. Enrique Peña Nieto captures Mexican presidency, returns Los Pinos to PRI.
The Movimiento Progresista led by López Obrador in 2012 was a temporary alliance of PRD, the Partido del Trabajo, or Workers' Party; and Movimiento Ciudadano, the Citizens' Movement. All of those parties still exist, but López Obrador, ever the political prima donna, abandoned each and every one in September of that year to form a fourth leftist party, the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA), or National Regeneration Movement. López Obrador breaks with leftist coalition. AMLO's abrupt departure followed his characterization of the 2012 election as "very dirty, a national shame."
Known by its acronym, MORENA is easily the most radical of Mexico's leftist political organizations. It is now fully organized and able to compete in future elections. Mexico's far left MORENA achieves official recognition. Yesterday López Obrador issued a statement saying that his fellow leftists are "good people," but at the same time he accused PRD leaders of being "traitors" to the movement, and "on the same side as Peña Nieto." In recent months the two time presidential candidate has become increasingly strident in comments for which PRD stalwarts have shown little enthusiasm. On Constitution Day, far Left pol files criminal complaint against Enrique Peña Nieto for treason. But the lack of support from his old political colleagues bothers AMLO not in the least. "I have nothing to do with PRD anymore," he said over the weekend. "It's all MORENA." (PRD traiciona a los mexicanos).
In the meantime the Democratic Revolution Party - unquestionably Mexico's mainstream leftist voice - is focused on Mexico's next presidential campaign season, which is now less than 48 months away. But PRD may have some very steep political hills to climb, and clear opposition within leftist ranks.
PRD national chair Jesús Zambrano: "We're not going to just stand around with our arms crossed. We're going to keep working to throw out the energy reforms"
For better or worse PRD came out solidly against the PRI administration's energy reforms, calling the abolition of the PEMEX oil monopoly last year the theft of national property from its rightful owner, the Mexican people. PRD filed lawsuits, demanded a national referendum on the PEMEX issue and even turned its back on the so-called Pact for Mexico (the Pact Against Mexico, according to López Obrador), an agreement forged in December 2012 in which the three major political parties promised to put aside partisan bickering and focus on passing critical reform legislation. PRD continues to fight for a special repeal election in 2015, which it hopes will undo all of Peña Nieto's energy law changes.
If the PEMEX reforms do not deliver within the remainder of Enrique Peña Nieto's term the almost endless benefits he promised to every Mexican, PRD could reap the political benefits when Mexicans return to the polls on July 1, 2018. But if energy policy modernization does produce real change in the life of the nation - palpable economic improvements which ordinary people can feel in their wallets - PRD's bold bet against the reforms could prove disastrous for leftist candidates seeking the nation's highest office.
Marcelo Ebrard (left) and Manuel López Obrador, two leftists waiting in the wings for 2018
And there will almost certainly be more than one of those candidates. Marcelo Ebrard, the 55 year old former PRD governor of the Federal District (Mexico City), remains a very popular political figure with moderate Mexican leftists. Ebrard deferred to López Obrador in 2012, but he will not do so again. For his part the fiery leader of MORENA has already announced that he'll make an unprecedented third run for president in 2018, "if the citizens ask me to do so." Ebrard has said "it would be disastrous" if the Left fielded two presidential candidates in 2018, but that's exactly the way the stage is being set.
The specter of one prominent leftist calling another "a traitor to the movement, on the same side as Peña Nieto," is enough to make PRD strategists shiver as they plot the course of their approaching presidential campaign. But it will be music to the ears of the National Action Party, and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party of president Enrique Peña Nieto. A Mexican Left divided is a Left which cannot win.
Update: Late today Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a founder of PRD and the son of a former president who nationalized foreign oil interests in Mexico in March 1938 and created PEMEX, acknowledged that the party is being buffeted by "the winds of factionalization." In a clear reference to López Obrador, with whom Cárdenas shares political ideology, he added, "It is the duty of every member of PRD to not permit diverse points of view to lead to defeat at the polls." Cárdenas is insistent that the PEMEX reforms be repealed next year, and wants help from any quarter willing to offer it. "Let PRD be open to everyone," he urged, while urging party loyalists to return to PRD's founding principles and ideals.
Sept. 8, 2014 - Former Mexico City governor Marcelo Ebrard, a moderate leftist, loses bid to capture PRD helm
Sept. 4, 2014 - PRD official: "MORENA" is not our enemy"
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas and López Obrador at a 2013 political rally. Opposition to education and energy reforms supported by PRI and PAN unite them, as does anything to the right of very far left.
Sept. 4 - Mexico's National Electoral Institute gets 4 million signatures demanding referendum on PEMEX reforms
May 6 - MORENA opens campaign to repeal PEMEX reforms
Mar. 27 - Mexican high court tosses leftist lawsuit challenging PEMEX reforms
Feb. 19 - Leftist PRD senators ask Peña Nieto to renegotiate NAFTA
Dec. 12 - Exit Stage Left: PRD says "The Pact for Mexico is dead"
Dec. 10 - Mexican leftists go to court to stop PEMEX reforms
Nov. 30 - As energy reform vote approaches, PRD exits Pact for Mexico
Oct. 7 - López Obrador calls for campaign of protest and civil disobedience over PEMEX reforms
Sept. 21 - Andrés Manuel's vision for Mexico
Dec. 14 - Mexico already looking ahead to 2018 presidential election
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