Last Sunday, Mexicans in twelve states voted in gubernatorial and city council elections. As predicted, voter turnout was poor, which many take as a sign of the resurgence of the once-omnipotent Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The PRI is not what it once was – the party had controlled Mexico’s politics for 71 years — but it is quickly regaining popularity in Mexico. President Calderon’s drug war has left over 23,000 dead, and the unpopular crusade has cost his National Action Party more than a few seats.
The Washington Post described the PRI as “as a soft dictatorship of crony capitalism, vote-stealing and political patronage.” That may explain why these elections will prove to be either highly instrumental or detrimental to Calderon’s drug wars.
Though the PRI virtually traded with the PAN-PRD coalition in governor’s races, the PRI swept five city halls (Tijuana, Mexicali, Ensenada, Tecate, Rosarito), all of which are border states.
While crime has grown exponentially under Calderon and was much less of an issue under PRI authoritarian-like rule, some are now asking why.
A PAN candidate accused Hector “Teto” Murguía, one of the PRI’s newly elected governors, of having ties to drug cartels. If the PRI really is being influenced and funded by local drug cartels, the U.S. and Mexican-led war against drugs could be terminated if and when the PRI takes over the presidency in 2012.
The PRI, during its seventy-one-year reign over Mexico, was notorious for corruption and self-enrichment. A prime example of political corruption was Mexico’s former President López Portillo’s acceptance of a $2,000,000 house as a “gift” from the oil workers’ union in the early 1980s.
Also under Portillo’s regime, the government gained unprecedented revenues from newly-found oil fields in Chiapas and Bahía de Campeche, while it simultaneously raised gas prices.
As Mexico continues to struggle with drug trafficking, drug production has increased within our neighbor’s borders, which experts predict will strengthen the cartels’ business and make them more independent from Colombia’s cartels.
While the reign of the PRI was believed to be over when the majority of Mexicans voted in the PAN in the late 20th century, it seems that the time has come for the PRI powerhouse to regain its lost territory.
If the PRI win the 2012 election — as some have predicted — it might destroy the joint efforts of U.S. and Mexican governments against drugs, observers warn. As the drug war body count continues to grow, Mexicans are voting for security.