This "reporting" out of today's New York Times, appears to be part of
building the spin necessary for the smooth transition to Mexican
"democracy", which the US wants to negociate.

There have been growing signs for months, that an alliance of rich
Mexican businessmen, the Catholic Church, the US govermnent, and
elements within the PRI itself are preparing the road ahead to jettison
the world's oldest dictatorship.

Continuing to accept the amount of dry rot within the PRI for another 6
years, is believed to be the sure road to Mexican disintegration from
social disarray.     Something that the Clinton Administration hopes to
head off.      It would also be the crown to crow about in the Clinton
foreign policy, if right before the US elections it could deliver this
"success" to the Gore campaign.

Still, the PRI element is a lot like the Cuban  Miami Mafia, that also
at times is able to vear off on its own course and sabotage delicate US
operations.      The next months are going to be extremely important for
future US foreign policy in Latin America.      Can Clinton pull off the
con, of establishing a two party "democracy" within Mexico?     It's
going to be a difficult, but a very do-able project.

Tony Abdo
March 12, 2000
In Mexico's Election, the Race Is Real
MEXICO CITY, March 11 -- For months, Mexico's presidential race seemed
headed inexorably toward a 14th consecutive victory by the governing
party. Suddenly, it has turned into a real race because Vicente Fox
Quesada has made advances that give him a better chance at the
presidency than any other opposition figure since the Mexican

Mr. Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive who usually wears cowboy boots,
has considerably narrowed the once-overwhelming lead in public opinion
held since last fall by Francisco Labastida Ochoa, the nominee of the
president's party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, recent
polls indicat
A bankers' convention in Acapulco this month showed just how clearly
some members of an elite that has always supported the governing party
unconditionally now believe it is time to end its long monopoly over the

At the convention on March 4, hundreds of financial executives leaped
into a standing ovation the moment Mr. Fox strode onto the convention
floor, cowboy boots freshly -- and personally -- polished on the plane
ride up. Several times, the bankers punctuated his speech with applause,
even when he said that "after 70 years, we Mexicans have finally
understood that there are better political alternatives." 
"We're one step away from changing governments," Mr. Fox said. 
The bankers gave Mr. Labastida a lukewarm reception. 

The third major candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, a former
Mexico City mayor, is so far behind that some in his camp are urging him
to withdraw from the race so the opposition can unite behind Mr. Fox.
That is unlikely. 
"But what's important is that some of Cárdenas's backers have
concluded that Fox is the only candidate who can beat the PRI," said
Jorge Castañeda, a political scientist who knows both opposition
candidates well. 

Since the early 1980's, voters have elected thousands of opposition
mayors, a dozen opposition state governors and an opposition majority in
Congress. But Mr. Fox's current strength is extraordinary because in
presidential politics Mexico has been a one-party nation since the
Institutional Revolutionary Party was founded in 1929. 

No presidential nominee of the governing party has ever received less
than 50 percent, according to official results in a country with a
tradition of ballot stuffing and vote-buying. As recently as 1976,
José López Portillo was elected with 100 percent of the votes -- no
other name was on the ballot. 

The opposition's best presidential showing, officially, came when Mr.
Cárdenas garnered 32 percent in his first presidential bid in 1988.
But many Mexicans believe that many votes were stolen from him. 

All previous presidential elections were organized by agencies
controlled by the governing party. This year, the Federal Electoral
Institute is fully autonomous. 
Still, Mr. Fox said in an interview he is not convinced that the
governing party would relinquish the presidency if an opposition
candidate won by a margin smaller than 5 percent. 

Factors that may decide the outcome of the July 2 elections include
several planned presidential debates and how voters finally react to the
economy, one of Latin America's most robust. 
Some analysts say Mexicans, crediting President Ernesto Zedillo's
stewardship for lowering inflation and producing steady growth, will
elect the governing party once more. Others argue that stability favors
Mr. Fox because even conservative voters may be more willing to risk
political change. 

"Fox is an outsider," the candidate said of himself one recent day,
climbing into the Chevrolet Suburban that ferried him between rallies in
villages around the western state of Michoacán. 
"He's the citizen worried about his country who gave up his business
life to work for change." 

"Very few Mexicans believed you could beat the PRI," he said. "So they
wanted to see an aggressive guy, a rough guy with boots and his sleeves
rolled up, who wouldn't shrink from a fight for social justice, a Lech
Walesa, a Nelson Mandela, a challenger, a guy who's a winner, a guy with
guts. That's something I've tried to reflect." 

"We're fighting a monster and people had lost hope of victory," Mr. Fox
said, alluding in particular to the failure of Mexico's opposition
parties to unite behind one candidate. "But now that we're getting close
to the election, people are realizing I can win. And now they want to
see a statesman. So now I'm trying to build up that presidential image." 

A poll in mid-February by the newspaper Reforma gave Mr. Labastida 39
percent and Mr. Fox 32 percent. Several other surveys have shown Mr.
Labastida's lead to be smaller and declining. 

"The question answered by all the recent surveys was, 'Can the PRI lose
the presidency?' " said Rafael Giménez, the pollster for a nationwide
newspaper group. "And the answer was, 'Yes, the PRI could lose.' " 

In a meeting with reporters, Esteban Moctezuma, Mr. Labastida's campaign
manager, denied that the recent polls indicated any significant turn in
the campaign. Mr. Labastida simply had not bought as many television or
radio commercials as Mr. Fox for weeks before the surveys, he said. In
recent days, Mr. Labastida has begun an advertising blitz. 
Mr. Fox is 57. At 6 feet 6 inches, he towers over most Mexicans. He
establishes a quick rapport with rural crowds, clutching a microphone in
huge, weathered hands and speaking a rustic slang he learned as a boy on
his father's vegetable farm. 

But when he talks politics, he reasons like a marketing strategist, the
career he pursued at Coca-Cola, where he rose from route supervisor to
chief executive in 15 years. Later he helped manage his family's
footwear factories before a successful 1988 run for Congress. 

He says the governing party cheated him out of victory in his first run
for governor of Guanajuato State, in 1991. But four years later he won
the statehouse. As governor, he has attracted major foreign investments,
but the state remains poor. 
Mr. Fox's National Action Party, founded in the 1930's by conservative
Catholics whose forebears fought a guerrilla war against anticlerical
generals, has grown over the decades into Mexico's largest opposition
party. But it remains a pygmy compared with the governing party. 

Mr. Fox joined National Action shortly before he ran for Congress, at a
time when scores of other northern businessmen, disgruntled by repeated
devaluations of the peso, were also signing up. Some leaders who
previously controlled the party have never completely accepted these

Mr. Fox began his presidential bid in 1997 without asking his party's
permission. The party nominated him last year, but some leaders do
little to hide their dislike for him. Sidestepping conflict, Mr. Fox has
forged a campaign organization that operates independently of the party. 
He has attracted support with his outspoken discussion of topics more
timid politicians fear to broach. 

"The narcos took over the PRI long ago," Mr. Fox told a television
interviewer at a Morelia studio, pointing to narcotics accusations
lodged against the brother of Mexico's former president and other
governing party figures. "No president from the PRI can solve this
because their governments have participated in the drug trade." 

The reactions of Mexicans when Mr. Fox passes in his campaign convoy
suggest some voters are reluctant to back him openly. His slogan is the
single word Ya! (Enough Already!), which Mexicans understand as a call
to oust the governing party. His logo is a hand with two fingers raised,
superimposed on the letter Y, transforming the V-for-victory into a
Y-for-Ya signal. It is a slightly subversive gesture of defiance to the
governing party. 
One recent evening, as Mr. Fox's Suburban rolled slowly into Morelia,
the Michoacán capital, he leaned out the window, waving his two-finger
Enough Already! gesture to sidewalk crowds. Many cheering pedestrians
raised two fingers back. Others hesitated, glancing sideways before
flashing it back surreptitiously. 

In recent speeches, Mr. Fox has promised to channel new loans to
small-business owners, modernize agriculture, decentralize the
bureaucracy, and attract billions in new foreign investment. Those
measures, he said, would allow economic growth, 3.7 percent last year,
to reach 7 percent by the third year of a Fox presidency. Experts doubt
Mexico can grow that fast any time soon. 
He promises what he calls an "educational revolution," based on new
scholarships, raises for teachers, and other broad new investments in
schools, which he says will be financed with oil revenues. 

"I've driven cows, I've planted corn, I know country life, getting up
before dawn, the dreams that come crashing down every harvest," Mr. Fox
said in a rally in the cobblestone plaza of Santa Clara del Cobre, a
town in hills south of Morelia. 
Jaime Farias, an out-of-work electrician, watched local residents
surround Mr. Fox after the speech, mobbing him with the frenzy aroused
among humble people who believe they may be in the presence of a future

"He knows what it's like to work for a living," Mr. Farias said.
"Cárdenas is a spent cartridge. Fox is the only choice left." 

At Mr. Fox's invitation to share the microphone at a rally in the Indian
village of Tarecuato, a teacher complained that his school had no desks.
On a nearby college campus, an economics student reported that hundreds
of recent graduates had left Mexico for lack of jobs. Later, when Mr.
Fox visited the lakeshore village of Pátzcuaro, fishermen said
deforestation had turned their pristine lake into a fetid swamp. 

"We don't have to keep eating this bitter soup forever," Mr. Fox said.
"The PRI's time is passed."  


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