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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06MEXICO2460
2006-05-09 14:47:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Mexico
Cable title:  

WHAT AILS THE PRI?

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  PINR  MX 
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R 091447Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
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2006-05-09 14:47:00
06MEXICO2460
Embassy Mexico
CONFIDENTIAL
06MEXICO1963|06MEXICO2240|06MEXICO2409
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RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1175
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TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR MX
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 002460

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR MX
SUBJECT: WHAT AILS THE PRI?
REF: A. A) MEXICO 1963

B. B) MEXICO 2409

C. C) MEXICO 2240

Classified By: POLITICAL MINISTER-COUNSELOR LESLIE A. BASSETT, REASONS:
1.4(B/D).



1. (C) Summary: After its considerable successes in the
2003 midterm elections and in state and local races since
then, many in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)
expected that 2006 would be the year of its restoration,
particularly given the public's disappointment with the Fox
Administration. Yet despite the party's high expectations
going into this electoral cycle, polls taken since January
have consistently shown PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo in an
often distant third place, and a Madrazo victory appears
increasingly out of reach. What accounts for this dramatic
reversal of fortunes? First among the factors is the
candidate himself; even many PRI insiders now privately
concede that Roberto Madrazo is a deeply flawed candidate.
By all accounts, his campaign has been chaotic, based on a
strategy more suited to the days of PRI hegemony than to
Mexico's current multiparty democracy. The party's
relationship with the mass media has been less than smooth,
possibly because it continues to owe major media outlets
considerable debts from past campaigns. To compound
problems, the PRI never fully adapted to its status as an
opposition party; lacking an all-powerful arbitrator in Los
Pinos, party discipline has broken down, and routine disputes
quickly devolve into feuds and even defections. In the face
of these fault lines, unless the PRI's electoral fortunes
reverse before July 2, it is difficult to see how it can
avoid a major post-election bloodletting, which may well
determine its future. End summary.

A Flawed Candidate...


--------------------------





2. (C) Outside observers -- and an increasing number of PRI
loyalists -- concur that the greatest disadvantage the party
faces in this campaign is the candidate himself. Polls
consistently show that Roberto Madrazo has far higher
negative ratings than either of his main rivals; the most
recent Mitofsky poll revealed that 43% of Mexicans held an
unfavorable impression of Madrazo, as opposed to 26% for PRD
candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) and only 19% for
PAN candidate Felipe Calderon. As a national figure for over
10 years, Madrazo's reputation for authoritarianism and
treachery have proven difficult to shake, and indeed, his
conduct during the campaign has only reinforced it.



3. (C) In fact, Madrazo seems congenitally incapable of
projecting an image of principle and probity, missing every
opportunity to take a principled stand. For example, when
former PRI presidential candidate and Mexico state Governor
Arturo Montiel was battling allegations of having illicitly
enriched himself while in office, Madrazo was quick to rush

to his defense. When the scandal broke over the alleged
abuse of power by Puebla Governor Mario Marin, Madrazo again
rushed to the defense of the alleged wrongdoer, focusing not
on the Governor's role in the illegal detention (and
threatened rape) of a journalist, but rather on the
possibility that the recordings incriminating the Governor
may have been illegally obtained. Only when public outrage
over the scandal persisted did he back away from his support.
More recently, when New Alliance presidential candidate
Roberto Campa alleged that Madrazo had not paid federal taxes
in recent years (ref C), Madrazo's first response was not to
seek to disprove the allegation, but rather to accuse Campa
of illegally releasing privileged information, reinforcing
the impression that he had something to hide.

...Running a Campaign in Disarray...


--------------------------





4. (C) Aside from Madrazo's weakness as a candidate,
contacts tell us that his campaign is in deep disarray,
reflecting a poor structure and the candidate's own
managerial failings. At the root of the problem may be that
the campaign lacks a formal manager, with too many of the
decisions falling to Madrazo himself. According to party
insider Simon Vargas, Madrazo's inability to say "no" to his
subordinates and allies compounds the problem. For example,
Madrazo initially tasked his closest political operative,
Chamber of Deputies leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones, with
organizing a committee to produce campaign policy papers;
party president Mariano Palacios later offered to set up a
policy committee of his own, an offer which Madrazo accepted.
The PRI whip in the Chamber of Deputies, Emilio Chuayfett,
later offered to set up yet a third policy committee, an
offer which Madrazo again accepted. To a large extent, these

MEXICO 00002460 002 OF 003


committees drew on many of the same experts, leading many to
believe that their service on the committees was little more
than a political exercise benefiting the committee head. We
also understand that key campaign staffers occupy redundant
positions; there are, for example, several different
spokespersons with indistinct lines of authority and a
tendency to issue conflicting statements. Although Madrazo
has attempted on several occasions to restructure the
campaign, the internal flaws appear to remain and the
operational problems clearly persist.

...While Pursuing a Dubious Strategy...


--------------------------





5. (C) Party contacts have shared with us their criticism of
Madrazo's campaign strategy, which appears more suited to the
old days of PRI hegemony than to Mexico's current multiparty
democracy. PRI insider Simon Vargas notes that a
disproportionate number of Madrazo's campaign events have
been small, private events targeting the elite; until
recently, he has eschewed the mass gatherings favored by AMLO
and, increasingly, Calderon. Vargas concluded that Madrazo
does not seem to understand that in Mexico's new, multiparty
political system, presidents are no longer annointed.

...at the Head of a Dysfunctional Party...


--------------------------





6. (C) One of the most significant problems faced by the PRI
is its inability to adapt to its status as an opposition
party. Having lost the presidency, it lacks a single
authoritative figure to impose his or her will on, and
mediate disputes between, rival factions and strongmen. In
the absence of such a supreme arbitrator, internal party
rivalries have flourished, as faction leaders freely pursue
their own agendas without regard for broader party interests.
PRI Deputies Angel Buendia and Jose Alberto Aquilar told
poloff that without the check of an authoritative figure such
as the President, PRI state governors have wrested
considerable power from the party hierarchy. Buendia notes
that PRI governors -- whom he calls "little emperors" -- have
felt free to challenge party leaders for the right to select
legislative candidates from their states, a privilege
formerly reserved to the party hierarchy. Given the
increased autonomy PRI governors now enjoy, Buendia asserts
that many see a Madrazo victory as undesirable, fearing that
a PRI President would seek to rein them in (ref B).

...that Remains at Odds with the Press


--------------------------





7. (C) To top off the PRI's troubles, the party appears to
have had difficult relations with some national media
outlets. Arturo de las Fuentes, a protege of PRI President
Mariano Palacios, complained to us that the national press
accords Madrazo campaign events considerably less coverage
than equivalent events held by the AMLO or Calderon
campaigns, while taking pleasure in giving front page
coverage to the first hint of scandal within the PRI. De las
Fuentes attributes this allegedly unfair treatment -- not
necessarily convincingly -- to the large debts that the PRI
still owes major media outlets from past campaigns. It has
had difficulty paying these debts due to the $100 million
fine levied against it for campaign finance violations in


2000. De las Fuentes noted that while the party is
attempting to pay down the debts, doing so leaves less cash
on hand for the current campaign.



8. (C) Senate Vice President Carlos Chaurand concurred that
the press is according Madrazo less favorable coverage,
although he attributed it to a somewhat different monetary
motive: he noted that the Fox Administration spends vast
sums of money on public service advertising and publicity for
its programs and achievements. He argued that Reforma and
other major outlets accord Calderon more favorable treatment
than Madrazo because they do not want to jeopardize their
richest source of advertising revenue.

Comment: Can the PRI Survive a Third Place Finish?


--------------------------



--------------------------





9. (C) Madrazo's biggest problem may simply be that he
reminds Mexicans of all that they disliked most about the PRI
during the days of its hegemony. Having diagnosed several of
the PRI's most serious ailments, the question remains whether
these ailments may prove terminal. The present campaign has
revealed the party in its current state to be an artificial
construct, serving largely as a vehicle for the personal
ambitions of its members, rather than to unite ideological
fellow travelers. As the party confronts the possibility of
a third place finish, its internal fault lines appear ever

MEXICO 00002460 003 OF 003


more apparent. These fault lines divide rival cliques; they
also divide party reformers from party dinosaurs. Unless the
PRI's electoral fortunes quickly reverse, these internal
conflicts are liable to intensify after the election. The
outcome of the resulting bloodletting may well determine
whether the PRI can adapt and survive as a modern, centrist
party or whether it will wither as a vestige of Mexico's
authoritarian past.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

GARZA