Friday, July 14, 2006

Mexico politics: Gordillo and 1.3 million voters tossed out of the PRI

Elba Esther Gordillo, Secretary General of the SNTE, the national teachers union, and former secretary general of the PRI, formerly Mexico's largest and most powerful political party which had ruled Mexico for 71 years prior to 2000, has been thrown out of the party. Gordillo will take her union with her. The SNTE is the largest labor union in Latin America with somewhere between 1.3 and 1.5 million members.

Gordillo was stripped of her official position in the party several years ago when she supported president Fox in more than one of his initiatives. In Mexico, as in the United States, it doesn't matter how sound your proposals might be; if you belong to an opposition party, your ideas are all crap. And if you support any position of the opposition party, no matter how right and logical that position might be, you get the Leiberman treatment.

That internal battle was won by the PRI hierarchy but the war was lost. Gordillo became the sworn enemy of Roberto Madrazo, the PRI presidential candidate who finished an embarrassing third to the PAN and PRD in the July 2 election. She went so far as to form a fourth political party, the New Alliance Party (PANAL), which won 1 seat in the Senate and, I think, 10 seats in the Mexican House.

Sources close to Gordillo said that this was the beginning of the end for the PRI. The move by the PRI was immediately criticized by 3 PRIista governors with one going so far as to declare the expulsion "another stupid move" by the party. He also said the that he and others would fight from within to save the party from itself.

Now, before too many tears are shed for Sra. Gordillo, let me say that the SNTE is also one of the most corrupt labor unions in Latin America. You only need to know two things about the SNTE to drive that point home.

First, the union was formed under the auspices of and with money from Mexico's president Avila Camacho in 1943. The union's first president was hand picked by Avila Camacho. When a politician, especially a country's president, supports the formation of a giant union, he has only two things in mind: money and votes.

Second, after another rebellion by the union's membership over poor pay and terrible working conditions in the country's schools, President Carlos Salinas and his secretary of education, one Manuel Bartlett, replaced the union's president with Elba Esther Gordillo. You may remember that Bartlett, as secretary of the interior, is the guy who pulled the plug on the electronic vote counting in 1988 when PRD presidential candidate Cárdenas was leading and the PRI's Carlos Salinas was a badly beaten third. When the "malfunction" of the vote counting equipment was corrected and was plugged back in, Salinas had miraculously roared into first place.

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