Oaxaca, Mexico: An Expatriate Life

A Glossary of Terms, People, and Organizations

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PRI: the Institutional Revolutionary Party. An outgrowth of the National Revolutionary Party machine that was created after the revolution of 1910 - 1919, it inherited the same "national socialist" (fascist) structure, set up to put a united face on all decisions. In theory, the party exists to give equal influence to all the elements which make it up, such as labor, social services, military, business, industry, etc. In actual fact, the PRI has been the servant of the ruling families who control the decision making process. The increasing inequity in Mexican society has caused increasingly bitter rifts among the elected representatives in the party, as their constituency becomes harder and harder to placate. The election of PRD founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, defector from the PRI, to the mayoralty of Mexico City in 1996, and the loss of the Presidency and some governorships in 1998 and 2000, removed the PRI from absolute power for the first time in 71 years. Now (July, 2007), they have only a plurality of congressional seats; and are governed by a second PAN president, having overwhelmingly lost the 2006 presidential elections. While the PRI does appear to be slowly coming back in the north of the country, it is still a weak, divided shell of its former self.

PRD: the Democratic Revolutionary Party. A split from the PRI, the PRD is organized in a slightly more democratic and chaotic fashion. Founded by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, son of socialist-minded ex president Lazaro Cardenas, the PRD is believed by many to have won the 1988 presidential elections, only to have the victory stolen at the vote-counting house. Subsequently, the party suffered numerous defeats, most notably the extremely poor showing that Cárdenas made in the 2000 election. In 2006, new party leader Andres Manuel Lopéz Obrador, won the election only to have it stolen once again, this time by the PAN. It is the most "progressive" of the three major parties (and the most divided and acrimonious), and remains in control of the very powerful mayoralty of Mexico City.

PAN: a right-of-center businessman's and small landholder's party with close ties to the more conservative elements of the Catholic church, the National Action Party is enjoying a recent increase in popularity, due largely to well-organized and orchestrated presidential election campaigns in 1994 and 2000. Their 1994 candidate, Diego Fernandez Ceballos, employed a US packaging firm to help him develop an appropriate image (president Vicente Fox employed two in 2,000). After he was forced to defend himself against fraud and influence peddling charges in 1996/97, Diego dropped out of public life for the most part, contenting himself with an "elder statesman" role within the party. A charismatic figure with "fire in the belly" for politics, he was replaced by the younger, more charismatic Vicente Fox, who had no intention of rehabilitating Diego. Nonetheless, Diego ran for and won a Senate seat, and currently stalks the halls of Congress wheeling and dealing. PAN has, like our Republicans, shifted tothe right - particularly the religious right - with the accession of Felipe Calderón to the presidency.

VICENTE FOX: Ex-governor of Guanajuato, and with a personal fortune from ranching and leather industries, and his stint as Mexico boss for Coca Cola. With a resemblance to revered martyr Luis Donaldo Colosio, and a populist image, Fox won despite sure-loser Cárdenas' refusal to throw in with him. Elected President of Mexico in 2006, Fox tried to make former president Ernesto Zedillo's positions on the economy and the social services net look like socialism, but failed because he simply didn't know how to function outside a corporate atmosphere. Plagued by campaign scandals, attacked for supporting his wife Marta Sahagun in her desire to be the next PAN candidate for President (nepotism) and for protecting her sons who were probably guilty of influence peddling, unable to pass any of his major reform programs and suspect for his close ties to George W. Bush, his presidency was lackluster, weak, and stagnant. In 2007, retired from the presidency, Fox re-invented himself as a hemispheric champion of "democracy" and nemesis of Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, Evo Morales, and other Latin American leaders that he sees as "obstructing progress".

ERNESTO ZEDILLO PONCE de LEON: ex-President of the Republic. U.S. educated economist whose previous career included various planning and management positions in the Federal government, and managing the campaign of Luis Donaldo Colosio. By nature and training, Zedillo disapproves of politicians. He once said that the country would be better off if the politicians would go away and let the technocrats run it: faint hope. In the later years of his administration, under pressure from the "pros", including his own staff, he started looking more and more like his predecessor, Carlos Salinas de Gortari: a power broker and wheeler dealer. Ill suited to such a role, he plunged in to make the election process more transparent, and by term's end he was the most hated politician in the PRI: many believe his reforms were responsible for the party's loss of control of the country after 71 years. So far, he has survived many attempts to probe major corruption scandals tied to his administration.

LUIS DONALDO COLOSIO: heir apparent to Carlos Salinas de Gortari until he was assassinated during a campaign stop in Tijuana, in March 1994. Generally regarded to be the leader of the "left" or "reformist" wing of the PRI, he had been the mayor of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Many believe that he was removed by party members he had threatened to expose for ties to drug lords. His case has never been solved.

LAZARO CARDENAS: The best-loved of all the modern presidents, he nationalized the banks, the railroads, petroleum, and other important industries; initiated broad sweeping social services programs and development aid organizations. Much of what he initiated has been gutted by subsequent administrations, and Zedillo, a confirmed "globalist", and Fox, the new president, were and are determined to finish the job by selling off the last remaining state monopolies.

CUAHTEMOC CARDENAS: Lazaro's son, and founder of the PRD, he is a brilliant ideologue with almost no personal appeal. His speeches are dull (if intelligent), his affect borders on the comatose, and his inability to compromise with other elements of his party after the 1994 election, forced the PRD to cast about for a new figurehead and caused a split with co-founder Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, who jumped onto the Fox bandwagon after Cardenas refused to allow the PRD to coalesce with the PAN during the 2000 presidential election. On the other hand, his political strategy captured MexCity in 1997, a victory which proved pyrrhic because no-one can govern the chaotic home of 1/5 of all Mexicans. His poor performance as Mayor probably contributed greatly to his poor showing in the 2000 elections, as did the recurring charges of cronyism and autocratic rule within the PRD. As of the summer of 2005, he appeared not to have gotten the message, planning to run against the overwhelmingly popular López Obrador. Later, he decided that to do so would have been political hari-kiri, opting instead to remain "aloof from the fray".

ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: Union leader in the oil-rich state of Tabasco, López lost a bitter gubernatorial election in 1994, by fraud. Afterward, he mounted a major effort to oust the winner, governor Roberto Medrazo, for buying the election by spending several times the legal limit. This claim was given some credibility when fugitive banker Cabal Peniche admitted to slipping an illegal US$5 million to the campaign under the counter. While unsuccessful in that ouster effort, his reputation as a crusading working-man's friend led him to his subsequent position as the titular leader of the PRD, a position he resigned to become the mayor of the D.F. (federal district of Mexico City). As mayor, Lopez was extremely popular among the citizenry and within the party, and in a great position to rise from the ashes of the political death duel between Cardenas and Munoz Ledo. López became the candidate in 2006, and by all accounts won the election only to have it stolen away. His strength has always been "in the streets", and AMLO took it there, staginga five-month "plantón" (occupation) of the Zócalo, and the Paseo Reforma (for 5 miles).

EMILIO CHAUYFFET: ex-head of Gobernacion (the interior secretariat), this right-wing hard liner controlled the Federal Judicial Police, and many key domestic ministries and departments. His failure to resolve the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas without escalating violence against innocent civilians, culminating in the Acteal massacre in the Christmas season of 1997, led to his resignation. He is part of the "dinosaur" wing of the PRI, and a close political associate of Carlos Hank Gonzalez. In 2003, fellow Dinosaur Roberto Madrazo, then head of the PRI, appointed him as legislative whip in order to put down a runaway faction within his own PRI.

FRANCISCO LABASTIDA OCHOA: The losing PRI candidate for president in 2000, ex-Minister of Agriculture and the head of Interior under Zedillo, and if anything more of a hardliner than his predecessor Chauyffet. Labastida is a young, career PRI wheelhorse, having been the (fraudulently elected) governor of Sinaloa during the period of the flowering and consolidation of the northern drug cartels (Sinaloa is a big poppy and pot growing and smuggling state). Small farmers say he did more to drive them out of business than anyone before him in Agriculture. When in Interior, he never once negotiated in good faith with the Zapatistas, instead building up the army presence. After his loss to Fox in 2000, he was implicated in siphoning over 100 million dollars from the national monopoly Petroleos de México (PEMEX) for his campaign. He ran for president of the party in 2002, and lost to even-bigger-thief Roberto Madrazo (see #34, below), ex-governor of Tabasco state.

PGR: The National Police, more or less corresponding to our FBI, answerable to the Attorney General. With broad investigatory and arrest powers, this department has been responsible for revealing - and then, many would say, obscuring and blocking prosecutions of - a great many recent scandals. Like most ministries in Mexico, PGR has its own police force. Until the summer of 1999, it was the pre-eminent law enforcement body. Revelations of corruption and drug connections at all levels resulted in the creation of a new "super cop" organization, the PFP or Policia Preventiva, also under the aegis of the attorney general. Fox intended to eliminate the entire office and structure of the PFP force, and bring the remaining personnel under the umbrella of a new public security ministry, but only succeeded in muddling the whole affair: now there is the PGR, the PFP, and the AFI (the new agency that failed to integrate the forces, instead taking on a life of its own).

CARLOS SALINAS de GORTARI: President from 1988 to 1994, an election that he stole from Cardenas by reprogramming the computers, and perhaps the biggest of a long line of very big thieves. US educated and committed to globalization of the Mexican economy, he precipitated the worst economic collapse in modern history, and fled to no-extradition Ireland to avoid being brought back for questioning and possible criminal charges. Since, under an unannounced deal, he was allowed back in the country, allegedly for a niece's wedding, but more likely to continue negotiating with Zedillo's group as to the conditions under which he could return. These negotiations started in earnest after Raul's conviction. Fox was expected to go after him with a vengeance, but neither Fox nor Calderón has made a move against him, and he now resides in splendiforous comfort just outside the capital.

RAOUL SALINAS: Carlos' brother, who during his nepotistic public service managed to salt away hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign bank accounts. Convicted in 1995 for ordering the assassination of José Francisco Ruiz Massieu, and still under investigation for various economic crimes, he was really a pawn in the game being played out by his brother against Zedillo's people and other opponents within the PRI, the outcome of which was to determine what if any role the Salinas machine would be allowed to play in the future of the PRI. There is little doubt he is guilty as charged, but in Mexico guilt and innocence are a matter of who you know. Salted away for the last several years in the high security Almoloya prison, there have been several attempts on his life and in 2000 there appeared to be a falling out between him and brother Carlos as each accused the other of being the real "intellectual author" of their looting of the Mexican treasury. While this was later publicly resolved, some bitterness is said to remain. Raoul was released from prison in 2005.

JOSE RUIZ MASSIEU: Chairman of the PRI, he was assassinated in 1994, allegedly by the Gulf Drug Cartel. Some say it had more to do with his brother's investigation of the Colosio killing, and that Raul Salinas had him killed because Mario was close to accusing Carlos Salinas of being the real Mr. Big in the drug trade, as well as the man that ordered Colosio's death, and Carlos wanted to send brother Mario a message. Also mentioned is a family feud (he was married to a de Gortari sister) over his public philandering.

MARIO RUIZ MASSIEU: Attorney General when brother José was killed, he was later accused of plotting with Raul and the Gulf cartel to suppress evidence. Detained in the US for attempting to leave Newark with more than ten thousand dollars, the legal limit, he survived several attempts at extradition and deportation, and had almost 8 million of his 9 million dollar Houston bank account confiscated, before he died in what is officially described as a suicide, in New Jersey.

GENERAL ENRIQUE CERVANTES: Minister of Defense, and head of the Army, Cervantes was the most politically powerful military man in recent decades. He appeared often at Zedillo's side, and in April of 1996 went to the US to meet with the US Secretary of Defense, coming away with scores of helicopters. In exchange, he agreed to increased presence of US "advisors" in the "war against drugs", as well as an unprecedented level of joint troop maneuvers on Mexican soil. The helicopters are being used to harass Zapatista-sympathetic villages in Chiapas. Rumors kept surfacing that he was in the pocket of the drug lords. Eventually, he was tried and convicted for his services to "the lord of the skies", Amado Carrillo Fuentes, head of the Gulf drug cartel. Fox replaced him with the head of the military college, who was considered more moderate and intellectual.

REUBEN FIGUEROA ALCOCER: Dynastic heir of his despotic father, Reuben ruled Guerrero with an iron fist. After a particularly nasty massacre in Aguas Blancas in 1995, his own party forced him to resign his governorship. In exchange, he was guaranteed that he would not stand trial for ordering the killings.

GENERAL CHAPPORO: A shadowy figure whose paramilitary units operate in Guerrero, Chapporo was responsible for killing and torturing hundreds of rebels and rebel sympathizers who rose up to protest the brutally repressive regime of Figueroa I. His role in the rule of Figueroa 2, was, as usual, obscure and Machiavellian. Currently, he is serving a lengthy prison term for narco-corruption.

FERNANDO ANTONIO LOZANO GRACIA: One-time Attorney General of Mexico, and a PANista. Unpopular on all sides, and under constant criticism because he had not managed to solve any of the major political crimes committed on his watch, starting with the Colosio killing and ending with the weak attempt to get Mario Ruiz Massieu extradited. Forced by public opinion and political expediency to hand the Jose Ruiz Massieu killing over to an "independent counsel", he appointed Chapa.

PABLO CHAPA BEZANILLA: A special prosecutor appointed by Lozano to look into the Ruiz killing, Chapa distinguished himself by paying a million pesos to a spiritualist to locate the body of a missing politician said to have been the bagman between Raul and Colosio's killers. With great flourishes, she turned up a corpse buried in Raul's garden. The corpse later turned out to be the remains of her daughter-in-law's father, dug up from the family plot and relocated for the occasion. Chapa fled to Chile, and was subsequently extradited. Incarcerated somewhere in Mexico, or perhaps under house arrest, he has not issued any substantive statements about what he knows. The spiritualist, and a few of her accomplices, are languishing in durance vile.

FIDEL VELAZQUEZ: the Jessie Helms of the Mexican labor movement. No longer able to walk unassisted, going deaf and blind, and unable to speak clearly, the great dinosaur of the PRI headed the largest and most powerful union confederation in Latin America. Having been humiliated by the wildcat demos by dissident union members on Labor Day 1996, and the prolonged and crippling teachers' march on Mexico City in May 1996, Fidel was an embarrassment to everyone. Finally, well into his 90s, he did the decent thing in 1997 and died. Since then, infighting over the spoils has split his organization, and made way for the possible emergence of a progressive and honestly pro-labor grouping.

JAVIER ELORRIAGA BERDEGUE: A journalist and film-maker, Elorriaga was arrested in 1995 along with a peasant Zapatista leader named Sebastian Entzin. They were charged with treason, sedition, and other political crimes. After languishing in the Chiapas state prison for over a year, Elorriaga was sentenced to 13 years in prison (Entzin to 9). As far as anyone could tell, his only "crime" was to have filmed the documentary "A Gathering In The Jungle" (sic?), about the international meeting the Zapatistas convoked in 1994. After the EZLN threatened to boycott the then-ongoing peace talks, and the head of the commission overseeing the talks resigned, both calling the sham trial a "provocation", the sentences were set aside and the prisoners released. He is now a major spokesperson for the EZLN's political wing, the Zapatista National Liberation Front.

SUBCOMANDANTE MARCOS: A poet, philosopher, media manipulator, and spokesperson for the Clandestine Central Committee of the communities in rebellion in Chiapas. Thought by many to be a mestizo Jesuit turned revolutionary theorist from the a northern state, and by others to be one of the cadre of revolutionary students who occupied the UNAM (independent university of Mexico) in 1968. Communicates to the world by modem and fax while carrying an "old fashioned" rifle. Marcos is not the "leader" of the EZLN. The Central Committee has made that clear on those occasions when it has "disappeared" him for a while to let the "Marcos cult" chill out. Nonetheless, he is clearly a person of significance in the Zapatistas, and probably their chief military strategist.

AMADO AVENDANO: The publisher of "Tiempo de Chiapas", a news magazine whose antigovernment stance has earned it destroyed presses, burned files and damaged offices. Currently under house arrest in San Cristobal de las Casas, Avendaño ran for governor of Chiapas as the PRD candidate, and in spite of an assassination attempt which killed others in his entourage and severely injured a close associate, is believed to have won -- except of course the ballot boxes were rigged... For several months in 1995, Avendaño lived in the Lacandon rain forest with the Zapatistas, as head of a "government in rebellion". He died in 2003, of old age and the aftereffects of injuries sustained when he was attacked.

BISHOP SAMUEL RUIZ: The so-called "red bishop", Ruiz is the Oscar Rivera (slain head of the church in El Salvador) of Mexico, and was thought likely to go the same way. Having survived several assassination attempts, he was no longer able to travel without a phalanx of body guards. In early 1998, the head of the Army in Chiapas accused him of being a clandestine organizer of the Zapatistas and cited as proof that his diocese had distributed to local indigenous groups, translated texts of new testament writings that are used to support "liberation theology" teachings. Now retired (seventy-five is mandatory) and relocated to the northern state of San Luis Potosi, Ruiz has survived to see the millenium in, sallying forth from his new home to accept a new peace prize or chair another peace conference (every other week, or so it seemed at first; now he is rarely heard from).

EL BARZON: Originally organized by farmers in Zacatecas and some other areas in the "breadbasket" of Mexico, El Barzón is a political force in Mexico to be reckoned with. A barzón is the yoke used too hitch oxen to the plow. Comprised of several debtor's groups, both urban and rural, Barzón was probably the most significant contributor to Cárdenas' win in MexCity, and is often found aligned electorally with PRD, although large elements of PAN and PRI exist within the umbrella. Barzóns power comes from its essentially middle class roots: it is bad press when cops club solid, middle aged citizens with short hair. Very much an "in your face" movement, Barzonistas love to occupy banks and stock exchanges, interfere with auctions of land and equipment confiscated from bankrupt members, and tie up MexCity traffic with hours-long demos.

DEODORO CARRASCO ALTAMIRANO: Appointed to replace Labastida when he stepped down from Interior, and known by many in his native Oaxaca where he was governor as "the butcher". Deodoro is the modern face of the PRI: urbane, smooth talking, facile with the buzzwords of human rights, while using the iron fist of torture, army repression and political deal-making. With the newly organized national police force under his direct control he had become -- at least -- the second most powerful politician in Mexico, and may emerge among the front runners for the PRI presidential candidacy in 2006. As to corruption, his chief of the State motorized police in Oaxaca when he was governor was indicted for myriad corruption charges when Diodoro's term ended. As soon as Diodoro became Interior minister, all charges were dropped... Diodoro is widely believed to be the power behind "Convergencia", a PRI breakaway group that won several important municipal and legislative elections in 2002, but faltered in 2003 and 2004.

JOSE MURAT CASAB: Ex- governor of Oaxaca, Murat, a wily and unforgiving machine politician from the isthmus of Tehuantepec, is a dinosaur of the old PRI school. In late 2000, he threw in his lot with Roberto Madrazo, ex-governor and undisputed warlord of Tabasco state, in the latter's bid to become the head of the PRI. A dedicated political enemy of Diódoro, Murat probably put his money on the wrong horse -- Madrazo won, but he is not well liked. Murát won a seat in the Senate in 2006, where he is serving with neither distinction nor much of a presence.

VICTOR CERVERA PACHECO: One of the old-time PRI caciques, he governed the Yucatan with an iron fist. A crony of ex-governor of Tabasco, Roberto Madrazo, he served for 10 years (four as "interim" governor, and six by fraudulent election). In 2001, in the early days of the presidency of Vicente Fox, he threatened secession when the federal election committee questioned his blatant packing of the state electoral commission. His name has come up more than once in connection with various notorious narcotraficantes.

ZAPATISTAS: The Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacionál (Zapatista Army of National Liberation, or EZLN) emerged from the Lacandon forest of southern Chiapas state on Janary 1, 1994. A rag-tag bunch wearing ski masks and bandanas to hide their identity from the Mexican government and its many informants, these peasant farmers quickly captured several regional capitals, including the city of San Cristobal de las Casas. Their bold action, executed on the very eve of the NAFTA accords, electrified the world, and much of Mexico.

When the Army responded to this audacious maneuver, the Zapatistas faded back into the jungle, where they have been surviving ever since.

Eschewing state power, they have consistently demanded recognition and limited autonomy for otherwise marginalized native populations, in Chiapas and elsewhere.

COCOPA is the acronym for a commission taken from congressional ranks that many credit with bringing about an agreement between the Zapatistas and the hand-picked negotiators sent by President Ernesto Zedillo to negotiate a peace in Chiapas. After years of sometimes rancorous interaction, they did manage to forge an agreement, known as the San Larrainzar Accords (San Larrainzar was the village where the table was located). Zedillo, finding the accords not to his liking, simply ignored the recommendation of his own nominees, and buried the Accords at the bottom of his darkest desk drawer.

FRANCISCO GIL DIAZ, Vicente Fox's first Secretary of the Treasury, is a long-time Globalist, who rose during the presidency of Ernesto Zedillo. Gil, a PRIista, was educated in the U.S. and has earned a great deal of credibility among the solons of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund by advocating strict austerity programs.

ROBERTO MEDRAZO, ex-governor of Tabasco (who reputedly spent ten times the legal limit to win that post), has been connected to the 250 million dollar slush fund amassed by fugitive banker Cabal Peniche which was used in large part to elect Ernesto Zedillo as well as himself. A prime example of how the PRI ruled by money and political immunity, Madrazo, a member of the "dinosaur" right wing of the PRI headed informally by Carlos Hank Gonzales, one of the wealthiest men in Mexico, had been depending on a "southern strategy" of old guard PRIista political machines in the poorest and most backward states -Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche and Quinatana Roo - to elevate him to head of the PRI. He got there, and went on to be the PRI's presidential candidate in 2006, leading the party to the most humiliating defeat in its history.

LOXICHA: a municipio (county) in the southern mountains of Oaxaca state. In 1997, the citizens of two of Loxicha's main villages, in reaction to a long history of extortion, rape and murder of their loved ones by elements of the State Motorized Police, set up armed barricades on the entry roads and declared Loxicha to be a police-free zone. This standoff went on for some time, until elements of the People's Liberation Army (EPR), which originally appeared in Guerrero state, staged a raid on police headquarters in the coastal resort community of Huatulco. In the resulting gun battle, a few EPR were killed. When the mayor and the treasurer of one of the villages in Loxicha were identified among the dead wearing EPR uniforms, the then-Governor, Diodoro Carrasco Altamirano, called in the Army, and the roundups began. Many villagers simply disappeared. Others showed up in a ditch, mutilated and dead. Still others were subjected to show trials and sent to far-away prisons, thus denying them family support, an essential ingredient in Mexican prisons, where prisoners are furnished nothing except what they can pay for: not a bed, not a mattress, nothing.

When all resistance had been crushed and "order" restored, Diodoro appointed a mayor, a clear violation of customs and procedures, as well as constitutional law. For over four years, the mothers and wives of many of the disappeared and imprisoned maintained a vigil in front of the state government building. In late 2002 and early 2003, most of the prisoners were released by order of governor Murát. The rest are still imprisoned.

SANTIAGO CREEL: a stalwart of the PAN party, he comes from an extremely wealthy family of land barons in Chihuahua, who amassed their fortune by stripping the Tarahumara Sierra (mountains) of lumber and minerals. As Minister of the Interior in the Fox administration, Creel held the second most important political position in Mexico. Ideologically, he is close to Fox, but his naked ambition for the 2006 presidential nomination was probably a source of discomfort fore Fox, and for the candidacy of Fox's wife. Creel resigned as interior minister in June of 2005, to run full time for his party's (PAN) nomination. Later that month, he found himself embroiled in a scandal regarding his grantng of betting parlor concessions to companies owned by the Televisa network just before he left office, a move tht many in his own party believed was an attempt to buy favorable coverage.

JORGE CASTANEDA: a liberal with a long history of writing and teaching critically about the U.S. and the world globalist agenda. When, in the run-up to the presidential election of 2000, he abandoned the foundering campaign of long-time ally Cuauhtemoc Cardenas to support PANista Vicente Fox, it was quite a shock. There is no doubt that his cachet with the foreign press and the liberal establishment was a big help. Since he was rewarded with the Foreign Ministry, he has been a loyal and vocal supporter of policies which, previously, he would have probably denounced. In fact, he became such a slavish sycophant to U.S. policies abhored by most Mexicans, including denouncing Castro and supporting the Iraq invasion, that Fox was forced to get rid of him in early 2003.

A Princeton graduate with a PhD from Paris University, a lecturer at several universities on both sides of the border, and author of "Limits to Friendship: The United States and Mexico", Castañeda, like his ideological and political opponent Creel, had been running for the 2006 presidential election since he took office.

PABLO SALAZAR MENDIGUCHIA: elected governor of Chiapas in 2000. For 15 years, Salazar, a Protestant, worked as an attorney, specializing in getting unjustly accused indigenous Chiapanecos out of jail. In 1994, he was elected to the national Senate as a PRIista. In 1997, primarily because of what he saw as Zedillo's betrayal of a negotiated peace with the Zapatistas, he resigned the party and remained in the Senate as an independent.

In 2000, running without party designation, and with no promises to any of the eight parties that backed him, he became the first Protestant and the first non-PRI to win the governorship, in a state that was until then thought to be an invulnerable PRI bastion. By 2002, he was sounding like a PAN Foxista, blaming the Zapatistas for "blocking progress" in Chiapas' jungle.

JOHN ROSS: a reporter living in Mexico City who, for 35 years, has been telling it like it is. Ross' extensive list includes magazine articles, an internet Newsletter, and poetry, as well as a novel and several non-fiction books describing the roots and the actions of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas.

From his "Revolution From The Roots", detailing the first days of January 1994, to his "Annexation of Mexico", a sort of "People's History" approach to the special relationship between Mexico and the U.S., Ross' insights and passion make him perhaps the most important writer about Mexico today.

Many of Ross' books are available on Amazon.com, and if you order them through our book ordering page, we get a cut and it doesn't cost you a penny more..

ROSARIO ROBLES: PRD apparatchik appointed governor (mayor) of Mexico City by Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas when he left the office to run for the presidency in 2000. Her term was characterized by financial scandals (some money was said to have been funneled to Cardenas' campaign) and vacilation on the issue of the student occupation of the national autonomous university (UNAM). Widely believed to be Cardenas' creature, she ran for head of the PRD in March of 2002, against more-or-less independent candidate Jesus "Chucho" Ortega, and lost; then "won" the recount...

In August of 2003, still plagued by allegations of diversion of funds and cronyism, Robles resigned dramatically at a meeting of the party central committee, accusing un-named enemies of "poisoning the atmosphere". Later, it came out that Carlos Ahumada, a notorious "fixer" with many government construction contracts to his name, was Rosario's lover.

LEONEL GODOY: Ex-secretary of the interior for Cuauhtemoc Cardenas when he was governor of Mexico City, and later for Rosario Robles, CC's successor; then press secretary for López Obrador and later for Michoacán governor Lazaro Cardenas Batel, CC's son. Succeeded RR as head of the PRD, appointed by the party central committee after RR resigned suddenly.

A moderate, trying to appease all factions in the party, Godoy, clearly a Cardenista, nonetheless issued a statement claiming neutrality between various camps shortly after his appointment was announced. Leonel is running in as the PRD candidate in the 2007 Michoacan governor's race.

ELBA ESTHER GORDILLO: Appointed by party chairman Madrazo, PRI vice-chair and legislative whip Gordillo has a history within the national teachers' union where she is accused of cronyism, fraud, violence, and corruption: an average set of mis- and mal-feasance typical of politicians of her level within her Party.

In late 2003, with (she says) the urging of party chair Madrazo (he denies ever saying anything like that to here, she calls him a liar and claims she was set up), she led her forces to support the controvercial tax on groceries that Fox claimed he needed to save the economy.

As a consequence of this infighting, she was removed by the Party's central committee, controlled by Madrazo, and replaced by strong-man Emilio Chuayffet. For a time, her politicl future is unclear, especially as her base of support, the teachers' union, had itself experienced a lot of defections, particularly in the southern states where radical reformist elements have control of state organizaitons. Not one to go down gracefully, she joined forces with then-candidate Calderón in 2006, and now is often seen sitting at his right side whenever he appears before education-oriented audiences.

CONVERGENCIA: Formed under the influence and deep-background leadership of former Oaxaca governor Diódoro Carrasco Altamirano, the Convergence Party represents the interests of the "young turks" in the PRI who, for one reason or another are impatient with the old guard for slowing their ascendency or that of the interests they represent - mostly "globalist" and "technocrat" types. They have won several important mayoralties, in Oaxaca state and elsewhere.

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All materials copyrighted, 1994-2004 by Stan Gotlieb and Realoaxaca.com