16 December 2009

PRD kingpin quits party


A PRD senator on the losing end of a power struggle in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa has quit the left-wing party.

Sen. René Arce - PRD power boss in Iztapalapa, one of the biggest local-level jurisdictions in Mexico and one of the party's most populous bastions of support - announced his departure Dec. 15 in a move that had been expected, but underscored the ongoing disunity and disarray in the Mexican left. In an open letter to PRD president Jesús Ortega, Arce expressed dismay with the refusal of the party's hardline factions to negotiate with political rivals - such as the PAN and PRI, parties that former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador brands, "The mafia" - or advance structural reforms in areas such as taxation and the petroleum sector.

"Our country requires a left, that, without fear of the taboos of the old marxist left or of the anachronistic revolutionary nationalism, is willing to reach broad national agreements, including [agreements] with those in all sectors of society and with our political adversaries," Arce said.

The comments were pointed directly at López Obrador, who has admonished PRD members to avoid all dealings with the PAN and PRI and crusaded tirelessly - and unsuccessfully - last year against plans to allow greater private sector participation in the state-controlled petroleum sector.

Arce had crossed swords with López Obrador over the years, but the feuding between the two intensified after the latter narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election.

The senator had been a key organizer in a PRD faction known as the New Left, which is loyal to Ortega and narrowly prevented López Obrador's preferred candidate, Alejandro Encinas, from winning the 2008 internal election. (The electoral tribunal [Trife] overturned the annulled internal election and awarded the PRD presidency to Ortega.)

López Obrador, aided by ace Mexico City organizer René Bejarano and the PRD's IDN faction, took revenge on the New Left and Arce in the March 2009 primary election for PRD borough chief candidate in Iztapalapa, however. (Arce and his brother, Víctor Hugo Cirigo, were previously borough chiefs in Iztapalapa and Arce's ex-wife Silvia Oliva competed in the 2009 PRD primary.)

The former Mexico City mayor later ousted the Arce clan from Iztapalapa. He promoted the successful primary candidacy of Clara Brugada, although she was disqualified in June by the Trife due to irregularities at some of the polling stations in the primary election. The Trife decision set in motion the "Juanito" saga in which López Obrador co-opted the PT campaign of Rafael Acosta and had Acosta promise to step aside for Brugada if the PT won the election. Juanito won on July 5, held office briefly, but took leave so that Brugada could take his place. (Read about the Juanito saga here and here.)

López Obrador's Iztapalapa coup severely weakened the New Left. Ortega also appeared to be weakened as party president and unable or unwilling to intervene in Iztapalapa on Arce's behalf. According to some columnists, Ortega has stayed out of Iztapalapa in an attempt to make peace with the López Obrador factions so that he could launch a bid for the Mexico City mayor's office in 2012.

Arce is reportedly trying to form a new local party with former Chamber of Deputies speaker Ruth Zavaleta - who also resigned from the PRD - that would most likely align itself with the PRI.

Already, Adrián Rueda wrote in his La Razón newspaper column that Arce has a political association that could be converted into a political party. But even before any party is formed, Rueda reported Dec. 16 that Arce was creating headaches for the local PRD in the Mexico City Assembly, where three Arce loyalists also quit the PRD. Their departures deprive the PRD of a majority in the Assembly and thus means that the leadership in the Assembly will be rotated among the represented parties - the PRD had been in position to hold the Assembly leadership for the next three years.

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