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PAN win could open door to Mexican freedom

PAN win could open door to Mexican freedom
by Rodolpho Carrasco
June 24, 2000
in the San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Group
[ Rodolpho Carrasco is associate director of Harambee Christian Family Center in Pasadena. Email him at

In eight days Mexicans will go to the polls to vote for a new president. Unlike American politics, where the outcomes of Republican and Democratic policies at times seem indistinguishable, Mexico's presidential election is a true choice between alternative visions of 21st Century Mexico. The race is tight, with polls showing the candidates in a statistical dead heat.

On the one side stands Francisco Labastida, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The PRI has ruled Mexico for the last 70 years. According to a Newsweek International article, the PRI is to many Mexicans synonymous with everything wrong in the country: corruption, crime, poverty and dirty politics. To the PRI's credit, the last two presidents have ushered in a free market economy. But these freedoms have also weakened the PRI's political strength, which raises the question of the PRI's will to do the right thing for Mexico at its own expense.

On the other side, Vicente Fox of the National Action Party (PAN) promises to prosecute Mexico's past while accelerating Mexico's free market reforms.

In a televised interview, Fox's promised to go after official corruption and the drug cartels. These bold statements lead many Mexicans to expect attempts on Fox's life. Until then, his pro-U.S., pro-free market approach to Mexico's development is the best opportunity for Mexico's 97 million residents to improve their living circumstances. PAN's detractors express concerns about PAN's efforts promoting religion into schools and its pro-life position (Fox is an opponent of abortion).

In comparing the candidates, two things are clear. A vote for Labastida is a vote for the status quo. A vote for Fox is a vote for a new, hopeful, but unknown, future.

Political commentator Jorge Castañeda describes the Mexican status quo as a "seven-decade monopoly of power that created a rigid system of government and party control over every facet of the nation's life -- Congress, the labor movement, the business community, the church and armed forces."

A Fox/PAN victory on July 2 means a precedent for change at the highest level will have been established. For this reason many in Mexico's political left publicly support Fox, with whom they otherwise have little in common.

Hope in change, however, is not universally shared. Many Mexicans, especially the poor, are content to receive the PRI election-season handouts in exchange for votes. A Dow Jones newswire report this week stated: "Over the past few weeks Mexican candidates have given away televisions, tool sets and washing machines, and delighted crowds with pop concerts, circuses and strippers." Many voters know their votes are being bought, but are just glad that the PRI is delivering the goods, doubting that the PAN would be as generous.

Poverty has a Malthusian way of distorting one's priorities. Though many Mexicans must daily look for their bread, I hope they do not miss the fact that a Fox/PAN administration seeks reforms that would bring desperately needed structural changes to the way Mexico is governed.

The main reform PAN would bring is the end of one-party rule. Citing Spain, the Czech Republic, Poland and Argentina as countries where a one-party regime was dismantled in a short period of time, the PAN intimates it will work for systems designed with the individual, the entrepreneur and the honest industrialist in mind. The PRI's one-party dictatorship, says a PAN paper titled "Genuine Political Reform," belongs in the same chapter as "Suharto, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, Erich Honeker and Nicolae Ceausescu."

I quote from official PAN literature because these ideas about one-party rule align with a magnificent statement made by 19th Century British historian Lord Acton, who said,

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

As Americans we understand the "absolute power" part. Our nation was founded on separation of powers and the rule of law which holds all people and institutions accountable. The United States of America crawled out from under the aloof, tyrannical thumb of a Monarch who was unaccountable and perverted justice.

When we celebrate American independence in ten days we will be celebrating the end of a one-party rule.

The end of 70 years of one-party rule is only the start of what PAN hopes to accomplish. PAN aligns itself with ideas of democratic reform that are taking flight throughout the world, including freedom of the media, independent judiciary and legislative powers, strengthening of the rule of law, and an end to over-centralism.

I favor a Fox/PAN administration, but I don't know what PAN will do if it gains control of the presidential office. It may turn out that PAN officials will show themselves to be crooks and power-mongerers, who replicate the cronyism of the past. Only time will tell. But even if that should occur, the cat would be out of the bag, so to speak. Our own history shows that, once tasted, political and economic freedoms are things people will die to preserve.

Barring dramatic events -- violence against Fox or massive electoral fraud -- July 2 might mark a momentous transition in Mexico's history. It would not be a new chapter, but an entire new volume.



The copyright for these materials are owned by Rudy Carrasco.  These materials were use with permission by TechMission