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War Weariness From The Drug Wars Paves The Way For PRI's Return

The ghastly toll in Mexico's war on the drug cartels will most likely lead to the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 6/27/2012, 6:16 AM

Obrador campaigns
Obrador campaigns
Reuters

The Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico (PRI) ruled Mexico for 71 consecutive years until it was finally ousted in the historic 2000 elections. That event was compared to the fall of the Berlin wall.

In Eastern Europe, doctrinaire Communists have not made it back to power, but all the polls in Mexico predict that the PRI will return to power by capturing the presidency on July 1. This represents a remarkable comeback by the party once dismissed as a dinosaus. PRI also enjoys a legislative majority and controls most local governments.

During its years in power, the party ran an effective patronage machine that rewarded all sectors of the economy-- unions, businessmen etc. It was conservative, but it irritated its large neighbor to the north every now and then - for example, on relations with Castro's Cuba to maintain a link with its revolutionary past.

It also participated in third world events to show that Mexico had its heart in the right place.

Way before the Chinese Communists came up with the idea, PRI instituted a regular transfer of power to a new president after one term, h preventing the leadership from turning into a golden age club as in Eastern Europe.

When Mexico needed an IMF rescue during the 90s, this effectively broke the prestige of the PRI and made it vulnerable for ouster.

The victors, up to this year's election, were members of the National Action Party (PAN). Now the the PAN candidate and the first female candidate for the presidency in Mexican history, Josefina Vazquez Mota, is lagging behind in third place.

PAN has not boosted living standards nor has it made Mexico more democratic.

PAN's real problem is war weariness. Mexico is not involved in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, but has lost 60,000 dead to the war against the drug cartels.

Under the PRI, the drug cartels were part of the system and Mexican states - under PRI rule - were known as bastions of the cartels. Mexicans, however, long for the days of "organized crime"- meaning the days that crime was actually organized and did not threaten the physical safety of civilians, but only players in the drug game.

The party is running the 45-year-old Enrique Pena Nieto as its candidate and Nieto is movie star handsome. Given the past history of the PRI, Nieto is taking pains to assure foreign and domestic audiences that Mexico is not going to revert to a narco state. Some have charged that Nieto is just a pretty face and a lightweight, but voters are gravitating nostalgically to the PRI brand as a party that knows how to wield power.

In second place is the leftwing Party of the Democratic Revolution, with its candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Obrador did not accept the results of the 2006 elections and tied up Mexico City with encampments of his followers.

AMLO, as he is known, has tried to shake off the leftist image and charges that he is the Mexican version of Hugo Chavez, but still trails Peña Nieto.