MEXICO CITY, Dec. 30 (UPI) -- When Roberto Madrazo Pintado, president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, stated on Nov. 18 that the proposal to modify a proposed tax law, presented by Elba Esther Gordillo's RIP faction, was "embedded in the electoral platform which we presented July 2," very few analysts could imagine that hardly a month later Madrazo would backpedal, saying, "it's not from the PRI, it's from the government."
Esther Gordillo is accused of supporting government reforms which contradict the PRI's electoral platform, like the proposed privatization energy plan and an initiative to tax medicines and foods.
That was the "line in the sand" which caused Esther Gordillo, PRI's secretary general and leader of Mexico's largest teachers' union, to be highlighted as President Vicente Fox's operative in attempting to push through fiscal reform. Roberto Madrazo has become the RIP's strong man, a natural contender for the presidency. He has been accused of hindering legislative fiscal reform to advance his own partisan interests.
The incident began a deep crisis for the once monolithic official party. After a 70-year rule, the PRI lost power in 2000, but the party showed its capacity for renewal and political survival with its triumphs in the country's interim elections, which left it strengthened, with a good chance of recovering the presidency.
The PRI is now divided, and the effects are beginning to corrode its structure as well as its control of the unions that gave it life and support for more than 70 years. The Federation of Unions of Workers in the Service of the state includes all federal government employees and is the traditional pillar of support for the PRI. The organization is declining as 20 associations with nearly two million members have resigned, first from the federation and consequently from the PRI. The federation, created in 1938, supported the PRI for decades with its "corporate" vote.
In addition to the National Union of Education Workers, other unions have withdrawn their support from the PRI. Among them are unions representing Mexico City's government workers, air controllers, Office of the Attorney General of the Republic and the Ministries of Property, Health, Communications and Transport, for a total of more than a million and a half workers.
The end result is a debilitated party where internal factions fight to attain power at all costs; the infighting in the past even led to political murders as in the cases of the RIP presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio and Ruiz Massieu nearly a decade ago.
While the RIP struggles in vain to find a way of solving its own internal problems, the cost is being transferred to Mexico's economic reform process. The PRI's discipline of the last seven decades has dissolved. Many are certain that the dinosaur is fatally wounded and wonder if this be its death rattle? HEADER:(Carlos Alberto Becerril is a writer with Tiempos del Mundo)