28 November 2009

Former Chamber speaker resigns from PRD

Ruth Zavaleta

Ruth Zavaleta, the former speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, who jumped into politics and activism after the 1985 earthquake destroyed her Mexico City home, resigned Friday from the left-wing party she helped to found 20 years ago.

In her resignation letter, Zavelta spoke of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) - which was reduced to third-place status in the Chamber after the July 5 midterm elections - as a lost cause. She also mentioned "intolerance" toward the factions that wanted the PRD to move beyond its self-imposed isolation in the legislature and its anti-establishment posturing. Zavaleta instead wanted the PRD to become part of the political establishment and broker deals with rival parties and the federal government - a federal government that loyalists of 2006 PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador consider to be "illegitimate" and refuse to recognize.

"At this time and since the July 5 election, I don't share the way of doing politics in the PRD," Zavaleta said in her letter.

Zavaleta didn't mention López Obrador by name in her letter, but one long-time enemy of the self-declared "legitimate president," former PRD director of political formation, Fernando Belaunzarán, told the newspaper La Razón that she had tired of the "Stalinist intolerance against her," and, "she was attacked in a hypocritical way."

La Razón columnist Adrián Rueda, meanwhile, suggested on Friday that Zavaleta was disappointed that PRD president Jesús Ortega refused to endorse her aspirations for the 2011 gubernatorial race in her birth state of Guerrero - a move that "accelerated" her resignation.

The decision surprised many, but mostly due to the timing of Zavaleta's departure. The PRD holds a "refoundation" forum Dec. 3 - Dec. 6 that has been organized in response to the party's scandalous 2008 leadership race - that Ortega won by barely 16,000 votes and was settled by the federal electoral tribunal - and could result in disaffected factions and members heading for the exits.

Zavaleta expressed pessimism that the forum would produce results.

"I'm not willing to participate in the supposed discussion on the refounding of the PRD because I don't believe that discussion will be had," she said in her letter.

Her departure reflects the ongoing divisions in the PRD as the New Left, a faction loyal to Ortega that favors dialogue with other parties and the federal government, continues to clash with the factions loyal to López Obrador.

Zavaleta - a former New Left member - favored dialogue with the federal government and reflected that posture during her September 2007 - August 2008 tenure as Chamber speaker.

During her tenure, she said that she had a duty to act in an "institutional manner," which meant dealing with the executive branch of government and allowing debate on legislation that might offend the López Obrador faction - such as energy reform. She became the darling of the PAN and Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), however. Then PAN Chamber leader Hector Larios called her, "A star." But Zavaleta enraged parts of her own PRD, whose members so disliked her that on one occasion they failed to vigorously condemn death threats against her.

López Obrador, meanwhile, leveled misogynistic insults after she met with then interior minister Juan Camilo Mouriño - who López Obrador was trying to scalp for allegations that the Campeche native steered Pemex contracts to family businesses. Then-PRD spokesman Gerardo Noroña Fernández also uttered threats against her after she was seen exchanging pleasantries with First Lady Margarita Zavala at a forum on addictions. (Zavaleta responded to López Obrador by calling him, "A man looking for a fight.")

In some ways, though, Zavaleta was a media creation: She had long been a PRD militant and previously served as borough chief in Venustiano Carranaza, but she held a low political profile prior to her becoming speaker.

Her time as speaker was marked by turbulence; the Chamber approved sweeping reforms to the electoral and criminal justice systems, but was shutdown for 16 days by López Obrador loyalists to prevent the introduction of a bill that would reform the petroleum sector. (The bill was eventually passed in October 2008.) Zavaleta became even less popular among the PRD during the shutdown by presiding over sessions convened in an alternate location that allowed the PAN and PRI to approve legislation that weakened the PRD hammerlock on the Mexico City Assembly.

Her tenure ended with a gala departure, but her career since then has been somewhat quiet. Sources say that she had wanted to replace Javier "El Guero" González Garza as PRD leader in the Chamber, but the internal opposition was too strong. Her aspirations to run as PRD gubernatorial candidate in Guerrero also apparently floundered.

Even though Zavaleta has left the PRD, her fortunes, ironically, may be tied to what transpires in the PRD's refoundation forum next month. Rueda - whose daily column in La Razón is required reading for understanding local politics - wrote Friday that Sen. René Arce, the New Left political boss in Mexico City, has a "political association" registered in the capital that might be converted into a new local party before the 2012 elections.

"They will look to consolidate the new party by negotiating in 2012 with whoever has to gain and seek power in Mexico City," Rueda wrote. That might well be the PRI, which is gaining strength nationally, but is weak in the capital.

Zavaleta has said that she won't join another political party, although the PAN has already come calling with César Nava saying that the doors are open for "distinguished citizen" like her. (Zavaleta is reportedly friends with several senior Panístas, including Zavala and Social Development Secretary, Ernesto Cordero - the latter being a member of President Felipe Calderón's inner circle.) But with her media savvy and a cache of good will from former rivals for her work as speaker, her political future remains bright - and most likely lies with a non-left-wing party.

No comments: