Amalia Garcia Medina, the twentieth-century ended on July
2, 2000. Garcia, the president of Mexico's Democratic
Revolution Party (PRD), echoes millions of Mexicans
who believe that the election of Vicente Fox last summer
the end of one political era and the start of a more authentic
democracy in the next.
the ousted Institutional
Revolutionary Party (PRI) is far from dead, Garcia warned
the crowd who came to hear her speak at McCone Hall at UC
Berkley on October 18. If the PRD and Fox's National
Action Party (PAN) fail to work together to plan Mexico's
political future, she said, it would be business as usual
for the party that controlled the government for 71 years.
PRI is in a terrible crisis," she said. "But if we don't
come to an agreement soon the old regime will do a great
deal of damage to the country."
sees Vicente Fox, the charismatic president-elect, as the
key player in Mexico's transition to a new form of government.
When the Mexican people flocked to the voting booths last
summer, they were voting not only for Fox, Garcia said, but
for change itself. But despite promises of sweeping institutional
reforms, Fox has yet to prove himself as a leader capable
of making those changes happen.
to Garcia, the odds are stacked against him. Fox must confront
Mexico's long history of electoral fraud and corruption at
every level of the country's bureaucratic infrastructure.
She said that because most of the federal budget is already
tied up in ongoing expenditures, Fox will have to find other
economic resources to fund his proposals.
will also be the first time a president does not have an
absolute majority in either the House or the Senate. Federal
representatives are split evenly between the three major
parties, Garcia said, which means that Fox will have to negotiate
with all in order to get any of his initiatives approved.
job will be further complicated by the lasting presence of
PRI, which Garcia said has engaged in questionable campaign
strategies to win power in several states. She was particularly
concerned about the hotly contested gubernatorial elections
in oil-rich Tabasco state, where PRI candidate Manuel Andrade
recently edged out the PRD's candidate Cesar Oveda by a narrow
CLAS Director Harley Shaiken remarked at the beginning of
the talk, Garcia made a "great personal sacrifice" to speak
at Berkeley just a few hours before she had to fly back to
Tabasco for a recount of votes from the October 15 elections.
She and her party believe that the current Tabasco governor,
Roberto Madrazo (of the PRI), may have used his influence
to cheat Ovedo out of a victory that rightly belonged to
the PRD. The elections hold large national implications in
a country where electoral fraud has been common and the political
stakes are high.
governor [Roberto Madrazo] is one of the most important figures
in the PRI and he belongs to that part of his party that
wants the past to return," Garcia said. "They will not give
up until they have done everything possible to get back into
congress in two years."
far, Vicente Fox has remained silent about the election results.
Garcia attributed this to his desire to consolidate his power
in a state where his party, PAN, is weak. But he will have
to aggressively push for institutional reform despite his
party's interests, Garcia warned.
with change, he [Fox] needs to prove his ability to govern," she
said. "He wants to look for common ground politically." She
predicted a increase in political tension during this time
of transition, when the PRI is riddled with internal conflict
and risks falling apart when Ernesto Zedillo leaves office
to Garcia, the PRD is uniquely positioned to mediate those
tensions and to pressure Fox to overhaul the status quo-despite
a poor showing in the presidential elections.
party was formed to fight for democracy and to challenge
the PRI," she said. "We have to ask ourselves: what are our
the last half of her talk, Garcia spelled out some of PRD's
main priorities. The largest source of instability in Mexico,
she said, is the inequality that has spawned armed resistance
movements in the poorest states of the country, such as Chiapas
new government and all political forces have the challenge
of making sure that change centers not only around Vicente
Fox and the parties, but also around rebuilding the country," she
said, indicating that conflict will continue as long as the
majority of the population lives in conditions of extreme
also proposed forming a truth commission to investigate corruption
and crimes against humanity that have so far gone unpunished--such
as the killings of indigenous farmers in Acteal, Chiapas
in 1997 and the student massacre in Mexico City in 1968.
When a woman in the audience questioned the wisdom of uncovering
the past during this time of tension and change, Garcia replied
that while she recognized the need to focus on the future,
some form of punishment for past wrongdoings is necessary.
the clearest cases, we should show that we will never again
allow such gross violations of human rights." She added that
Mexico "shouldn't ignore the obvious links" between the government
and the drug trade in the country.
work that lies ahead for her and her party will not be easy,
Garcia admitted, but she remains optimistic. She said that
for the past four months she has met with representatives
of all the parties to build the foundation for the future.
was a torture for me because everyone smoked cigars except
for me," she said with a smile. "But we have almost reached
who is the first woman to ever head a major political party
in Mexico, said that she won't feel at peace until the day
arrives when an indigenous girl from Chiapas may be guaranteed
a decent life.
then can we say that things have really changed in Mexico."