President Ernesto Zedillo blasted as “grotesque opportunism” several defections that threaten to loosen his ruling party’s grip on Mexican politics.
During a visit Saturday to his hometown of Mexicali, on the border with San Diego County, Zedillo told Institutional Revolutionary Party members that the resignations came as the party is planning to work harder for reform.
Zedillo described the defectors from the party, known as the PRI, as members of “the old order” who oppose democratic change, “stagnating toward grotesque opportunism.”
“I have no doubt that PRI members of genuine conviction will continue working to put our party at the vanguard of democratic change,” he told a party gathering.
The PRI has held national power since its founding in 1929 through a blend of patronage, strong-arm tactics and outright electoral fraud. But democratic reforms and dissatisfaction with an economic crisis have eroded the party’s power.
Zedillo said that those who remain in the party will work together “to win the confidence and the support of the citizenry, respecting the new rules of political competition, fighting tirelessly to win democratically the continued privilege of being the majority in Mexico.”
One high-profile defector - Luis Eugenio Todd, former rector of the public Nuevo Leon University - announced Friday he will join the Workers Party, or PT, to run for Nuevo Leon state governor next year.
Other party members defecting from the PRI in recent weeks have included several members of Congress who bolted to the center-left Democratic Revolution Party.
Shortly after former Veracruz Gov. Dante Delgado Rannauro announced last week that he is leaving the PRI to form an independent political group, he was arrested on corruption charges.
Opposition party leaders charged that the arrest signaled a campaign against politicians who defect from the country’s dominant party.
PRI President Humberto Roque Villanueva, who was elected a week ago to stem defections and electoral losses, has denied those charges.
Roque Villanueva also has attacked proposals by the Democratic Revolution Party and the center-right National Action Party - Mexico’s two other major parties - to form an alliance to try to defeat the PRI next year in the first-time election of the mayor of Mexico City, as well as in crucial congressional races.