15 November 2008

Yunque bogeyman won't die

The News

In the aftermath of Mouriño's untimely death in the Nov. 4 plane crash that killed Interior Secretary Juan Camilo Mouriño, amid conspiracy theories of sabotage and drug cartel involvement, reports have emerged that a shadowy faction within the governing National Action Party known as "El Yunque," or the Anvil, was just as anxious to topple Mouriño.

"The Yunque was going to do everything in its power to destabilize the president" – which meant attacking Mouriño has a proxy – said former Puebla mayor and admitted ex-Yunque member Luis Paredes. Paredes added that the group was still smarting from being deposed from the party leadership by Calderón and his tight inner circle. Meanwhile, one of those deposed, Manuel Espino, denied that there had been a campaign to discredit and bring down Mouriño, saying it was the drug cartels who were the enemy, not The Yunque.

This PAN feuding in the press this past week has not only highlighted the divisions in the governing party, but also revived one of the oldest bogeymen in Mexico politics: The Yunque, a group characterized by staunch Catholic and conservative beliefs that reportedly has wielded enormous influence over the party throughout the past few decades – especially in the PAN heartland of Jalisco and Guanajuato.

But whether or not the Yunque even exists is disputed by analysts and members of the PAN – even if they won't deny that some in the party bring deeply religious beliefs and tilt sharply to the right.

"There are people [in the PAN] who are much more conservative than others," PAN Deputy Gerardo Priego told The News. "But this idea that they meet and bathe themselves in goats' blood, and do other strange things, is exaggerated."

The label, he said, "Is a way to easily tag adversaries."

Others, like PAN Deputy Obdulio Ávila Mayo, said the Yunque "exists," but not necessarily as a PAN-only group.

"Not all of the Yunque is part of the PAN, and not all of the PAN is part of the Yunque," he told The News.

ITAM political science professor Jeffrey Weldon said the Yunque label persists as way to describe PAN factions. The party's internal conflicts frequently simmer beneath the surface, but seldom erupt into the full-blown wars over wide ideological rifts, he said, due to the fact that the PAN's members share relatively similar core values.

Priego, a former National Executive Committee member from Tabasco state, who does not identify with the conservative factions of the party, expressed some discomfort with the use of the Yunque label – many non-Catholics are members of the PAN, he said, and in some states, they constitute a near-majority.

"In Campeche, half of the membership is Mormon," he said.

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