Lázaro Cárdenas was a general of the Army, and became president around the time of the second great war to end all wars, not too long after I was born.
Lázaro’s son, Cuauhtémoc, rejected his father’s party, the PRI, when the party failed to promote him—although it must be said that his father’s socialist tendencies (he nationalized the oil industry, for example)—which the son inherited—did not endear him to the ruling class of which he was a member. He declared himself an independent candidate for president in 1988 and won—at the polls.
After Carlos Salinas almost certainly stole the election in 1988 through computer fraud, young Cárdenas, along with a few other dissident PRIistas, founded the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). The PRD turned to eating its young after losing a series of stolen elections, and is now an irrelevant force in almost all states. Among the surviving states, Oaxaca is perhaps the most vibrant, and at a poor third place, that´s not saying much.
In Oaxaca, the PRD is putting up a viable challenge to the PRI and the far-right National Action Party (PAN) in many of the cities and municipalities. However, they have their own internal battles over interests that are not always clear to this observer. At first glance, the PRD leadership seems to have abandoned its principles and become opportunists, grabbing any crumb the other parties care to share.
As if their own internal rivalries weren’t enough, the PRD also must contend with the emerging MORENA party, headed by Andres Manuel Obrador (AMLO), to which many PRDistas have switched their loyalties.
In the last gubernatorial election, the PRD and the PAN formed a shaky alliance to defeat the PRI despite a call for a general boycott by the teachers. It was a shotgun wedding, and not surprisingly the outcome has not proved to be very satisfactory.
As I write this, there are about two weeks left in this election cycle, and everybody’s looking at the teachers. The largest (70,000) trade union in the state, section 22 of the national union has a decision to make: Will it declare a boycott of the vote? How about an “any party but the PRI” strategy? Then again, perhaps (although by far least likely) support for MORENA?
The majority of the municipal governments in Oaxaca state are ruled by a system of popular assemblies known as “uses and customs,” which are theoretically non-partisan. Party designations are not allowed, but—as the money flows downhill from the federal government, through the state apparatus—towns with clout in the world of realpolitik tend to be the ones with improved drainage, cement roads, etc.
From now until election day, I will be following the developments as close as I can, being a foreigner with no official status. After election day, I will write to you again, with some reflections on who won, and what difference—if any—it will make to the average Juan. Stay tuned …
Stan Gotlieb has been living in, and writing about, Oaxaca and Mexico for over 20 years, ever since he moved there from south Minneapolis. Pretty much retired, he has agreed to write this two-part report exclusively for Southside Pride.