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Mexico elections: Left and right consider more alliances against PRI in Mexico

Cesar nava terra

The two ends of Mexico's mainstream political spectrum -- represented by the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) -- are hinting at a willingness to team up in gubernatorial elections set for 2011 (link in Spanish), after similar coalitions performed surprisingly well against the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Sunday in several places where it has long ruled.

Ideologically awkward alliances appear to be the only way to beat back a resurgent PRI as it aims for the presidency in 2012. The PRI is eager to capitalize on Mexicans' weariness with two successive PAN presidents. Yet at the same time, a national ticket between the PAN and PRD in 2012 would be "unthinkable," said the PAN party president, Cesar Nava, pictured above.

The chief target of a left-right alliance in gubernatorial races 2011 would be the populous state of Mexico, much of which is largely an extension of Mexico City. Along with the states of Guerrero, Michoacan, Nayarit and Baja California Sur, the state of Mexico elects a new governor next year. The current governor, Enrique Pena Nieto, is a star in the PRI and considered the early front-runner for president in 2012. Unseating Pena Nieto's party in his home state before nationwide elections would deal a serious blow to the telegenic governor's presidential aspirations.

All the parties were doing their best to claim bragging rights this week after Sunday's voting in 14 states, where voters chose 12 governors. The PRI emerged with nine wins but lost three key states with significant populations: Oaxaca, Puebla, and Sinaloa.

With those tough losses, PAN Sen. Gustavo Madero noted in a tweet that the PRI emerged from the election governing fewer Mexicans than before. Governorships are crucial to build political bases in Mexico because of the state chiefs' powerful influence at home -- as the PRI well knows, having ruled Mexico as a one-party state for decades.

"It leaves everybody in pretty much the same place," pollster Daniel Lund told The Times. "The PAN is a weak government. They found a way not to be completely humiliated in this election."

The other factor to keep in mind, of course, is the role of Mexico's powerful drug-trafficking cartels in future elections. Weeks before the Sunday elections, the PRD candidate in Quintana Roo, which includes the resort city of Cancun, was arrested and thrown into federal prison on allegations of narco ties.

As The Times's Tracy Wilkinson and Ken Ellingwood reported from the drug-soaked cities of Culiacan and Ciudad Juarez, narco groups appear to be infiltrating and influencing political networks in alarming ways.

The PRI candidate for governor in Sinaloa, Jesus Vizcarra (who lost on Sunday), was dogged by numerous alleged links to Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, a capo in the Sinaloa cartel. Similiar allegations of narco ties surrounded another figure profiled by Wilkinson and Ellingwood, the candidate for mayor of Ciudad Juarez, Hector Murguia. The candidate, also running with the PRI, declared victory on Sunday in the violence-plagued border city.

During the campaign, The Times asked one voter in Sinaloa whether she cared if Vizcarra had ties to the Sinaloa cartel. "Oh, there's no reason to get in to that," the woman tsk-tsked. "No, no, no. It is not important."

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: PAN President Cesar Nava. Credit: Terra.com

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Dear Mexico: Unfortunately, here we only hear the sad news. There is always hope. And I hope the hope can happen without the PRI.


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Ken Ellingwood
Daniel Hernandez
Efrain Hernandez Jr.
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Richard Marosi
Tracy Wilkinson