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The Presidency

     WAIS is especially concerned about Mexico and has warned that there, as in many other countries, there is general disillusionment with the U.S. system. The new gross military-dominated regime in Venezuela was welcomed by the people weary of party wrangling.
     Mexico will hold presidential elections in 2000.The strongest candidate seems to be Manuel Bartlett Diaz, who has just finished his term as governor of Puebla state. I met him in Puebla in connection with my establishing the Stanford-Hoover ties with the University of the Americas. He is an impressive person who campaigns well. He has promoted Puebla as an attractive city, whereas Mexico City is a hellhole. He is an educated man, trained in Paris and London, and served as Secretary of Education.
     He has critics. He is accused as Secretary of the Interior of rigging the presidential elections of 1988, thus ensuring the election of Carlos Salinas de Gortari of the official PRI. It is surmised that Cuauhtemoc Cardenas of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution would have won. Cardenas plans to run again, but he has had an impossible job as governor of Mexico City. That he is desperate is evident from the fact that he proposed to the right-wing PAN that they present a single opposition candidate against the PRI one (Bartlett?). PAN turned down this odd suggestion.
     He has uneasy relations with the United States, which suspects that he had ties with the drug trade, something he vigorously denies. Above all, he does not accept the economic liberalism which the U.S. promotes and which the PRI had adopted without much success.
     Mexican Americans have acquired dual citizenship and can vote in Mexican presidential elections. However, he does not plan to campaign among them, which could mean either that he thinks they may have been contaminated with American ideas, or because he wants to keep his distance from the United States.
     All this should be viewed against the background of the meeting next year in Havana of the Iberian heads of state. A group of freedom-loving Cuban dissidents have just been tried there, condemned by Fidel Castro of being virtually U.S. agents.The Spanish government, clearly embarrassed, has not said that King Juan Carlos will attend, simply that the exact dates have not been fixed.
     Brazil is the most important country in "Iberoamerica," and the U.S.-style economic system is in trouble there. The carnival extravaganza was a silly show. Behind it is stark misery. The infrastructure o Sao Paulo been neglected. The drainage system could not cope with torrential rains; slum districts were washed away. The main hospital, the Santa Casa, may close for lack of funds.
     Mexico's role in the Havana meeting will be crucial. It seems that some Peronista-style justicialism is being promoted with the blessing of the Catholic Church. The U.S. is increasingly concerned with developments in what it calls its back yard, an attitude which infuriates Latin Americans.

Ronald Hilton - 03/03/99

More on The Presidency

     The Mexican presidential elections are enormously important for the United States . David Crow, who lives in Mexico, questions my remarks about Manuel Bartlett. He says:
     "Other possible PRI candidates for the Presidency are current Interior Secretary and former Governor of Sinaloa Francisco Labastida Ochoa and Secretary of Social Development Esteban Moctezuma Barragan. While Moctezuma is linked to the technocratic school and is Zedillo's personal protege, it is far from clear that he will be able to rebuff challenges from hard-line "dinosaurs", including the so-called Southern Syndicate of Governors (Bartlett, Roberto Madrazo in Tabasco, Mario Villanueva in Quintana Roo). The PRI is deeply divided between technocrats, old-style politicians and reformists. President Zedillo has pledged not to designate his successor, the traditional "right" of outgoing presidents, but his promise may have as much to do with his inability to do so as with democratic vocation.
     The chief problem for Bartlett is his shady history: vox populi identifies him as the architect of the massive 1988 fraud that brought Salinas de Gortari to power (including the "fall" of the computer system when early returns had Cuauhtemoc Cardenas ahead), and Bartlett faces a subpeona in the United States for questioning about supposed connections with drug trafficking. The smart money seems to be on Labastida Ochoa. Keep a watch on the PRI party convention to be held this weekend, which will define new party statutes --including the requisites and method of selection for the party's candidate in 2000."
     My comment: As a former Kremnologist. I have been carefully watching TV reports on the PRI convention to guess the pecking order. TV pictures of Yeltsin stumbling in public; that is the kind of sign we are looking for.
     David Crow's report from Mexico suggests that I was a victim of Bartlett propaganda. He writes:
     "Two polls taken by Mexico City daily "Reforma" shed further light on possible PRI candidates for the 2000 presidential elections. On Thursday, March 4, a stratified sample of "chilangos" (Mexico City inhabitants) revealed the following preferences among the general electorate:

     Miguel Aleman: 15%
     Francisco Labastida Ochoa: 12%
     Roberto Madrazo: 10%
     Manuel Bartlett: 6%
     Esteban Moctezuma: 5%
     (Aleman, son of former president Miguel Aleman Velasco (1946-1952), is a former Televisa executive and current governor of Veracruz, elected last year; Labastida, former governor of Sinaloa and now Interior Secretary; Madrazo, governor of Tabasco elected in 1994 amidst allegations of campaign expenditures well in excess of legally permitted amounts; Bartlett, governor of Puebla and, together with Madrazo, part of the "Southern Syndicate" of governors; Moctezuma, Secretary of Social Development and Zedillo's protege.)
     Interestingly, a survey of 151 party leaders carried out at the PRI's 70th Anniversary celebration showed different preferences:
     Labastida: 20%
     Aleman: 9%
     Madrazo: 8%
     Bartlett: 6%
     Undecided: 45%
     Finally, the same poll had 42% in favor of choosing the PRI candidate via primaries open to all PRI members, with 25% favoring primaries open to the entire electorate.
     This leads to several impotant conclusions: 1) At present, internal PRI preferences differ widely from those of the general electorate. 2) Even if he wanted to, Zedillo would probably be unable to impose his favorite (or "rooster", in Mexican political parlance), Moctezuma. 3) While Bartlett would be able to unite PRI hard-liners, he doesn't curry favor with other sectors in the party, and apparently, even less so with voters. "
     My comment: Polls are notoriously fallible, and polls of Mexico City and of PRI members may not reflect the whole country. Because of its great importance to the U.S., we must follow this election carefully.
     Bruno Lopez, a Knight Fellow from Mexico, writes: "I read the polls that David Crow sent, and I don't necessarily think we should view them as flawed. The newspaper "Reforma" has a good reputation for its polls. It is true that the first poll takes the preferences of those living in Mexico City, but, since we are talking of the preference for a candidate within one party, the ruling PRI, we might not find big differences in the rest of the country unless we went to those states from where the candidates come from (Labastida=Sinaloa, Aleman=Veracruz, Bartlett=Puebla, Madrazo=Tabasco).
     The second poll, the one taken among the leadership of the party itself, is a little more tricky, but it could also be useful, because, although again last week President Zedillo said he would not intervene in selecting a candidate for his party, it is hard to believe that at this stage the process is completely free from his control. This poll would be useful to the party's top bosses as a way of letting Zedillo know who they like, and in that way of constraining the president's own preferences. According to the private secretary of former President Jose Lopez Portillo that is the way the system has actually worked. The executive tries to get a good sense of who are the most viable candidates within the party and then from there he makes a choice."

Ronald Hilton - 03/05/99