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Cablegate: Pri Revving Up for 2009 Elections

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RR RUEHCD RUEHGD RUEHHO RUEHMC RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS RUEHTM
DE RUEHME #2793/01 2571214
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 131214Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3269
INFO RUEHXC/ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFIUU/CDR USNORTHCOM
RUEAHLA/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 002793

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB MX PGOV PINR PREL
SUBJECT: PRI REVVING UP FOR 2009 ELECTIONS

REF: A. MEXICO 2766
B. MEXICO 2764
C. MEXICO 0281

1. (SBU) Summary: PRI has sought over the past two years to
recover from Roberto Madrazo's disheartening third place
finish in the hard fought 2006 presidential race and is now
gunning for big gains in the 2009 legislative and regional
elections. PRI is looking to restructure the party from the
inside out, better define its ideological stance, and take
advantage of tough economic and security conditions to
position itself for next year's votes. Nevertheless, a
resounding PRI victory in 2009 at this point is far from
certain, and it faces a tough opponent in President Felipe
Calderon and his PAN supporters.

Regrouping and Recentralizing
-----------------------------

2. (SBU) PRI is highlighting recent efforts to rejuvenate the
party both in structure and image. PRI congressional deputy
Samuel Aguilar from Durango State told poloff on August 28
that the party has undergone an internal restructuring aimed
at ridding itself of the infighting and power struggles he
blames for the 2006 loss. Indeed, several of the changes to
party statutes approved during the PRI's August 23 National
Assembly appear designed to redistribute party authority away
from state governors--which has been blamed by party insiders
and analysts in part for the party's struggles since
2000--and to recentralize power in the National Executive
Committee (CEN). Some of the new statues include granting
the CEN the right to approve coalitions made by state-level
leaders, the ability to oversee the selection of candidates
to compete in state elections, and the power to collect every
month five percent of the salaries and expenses paid to PRI
public servants and elected officials. PRI Deputy Edmundo
Ramirez also touted for poloff on September 9 new efforts to
promote younger leaders and allow them to take on more
substantive roles in legislative commissions, which he claims
will help to infuse new energy in the party.

Burnishing Its Image
--------------------

3. (SBU) In addition to strengthening party command and
control, PRI is also looking to energize its party dogma and
better define itself as an attractive alternative to its PAN
and PRD opponents. At the August assembly, the party
unanimously and officially adopted "social democracy" as its
ideological cornerstone in an attempt to differentiate itself
from the PAN's conservatism and the PRD's more hardline
leftist bent. PRI Senator and Vice President of the Senate's
Mesa Directiva Francisco Arroyo told poloff on September 11
that PRI for too long has paid scant attention to defining
its political stance and is rectifying this ideological
vacuity prior to the 2009 House of Deputies and six
gubernatorial elections.

4. (SBU) PRI is also seeking to define itself as the party
that gets things done or, as its propaganda posters and
stickers exclaim, "Priistas are working." Senator Arroyo
noted that, rightly or wrongly, the Mexican public perceives
PRI as the party that robs Mexico but governs well. Aguilar
said that PRI can play this image against both the PAN and
the PRD by taking advantage of Mexico's problematic security
and economic conditions to cast PAN as failing to take
significant or effective steps to address such woes, and
highlighting PRD's obstructionist and divisive behavior as
only blocking necessary reforms. PRI leaders told poloff
that they think PRI can win between 200 and 220 seats in the
Chamber of Deputies next year using this approach, up from
106 of the 500 Chamber slots they currently hold.

Plans for this Legislative Session
----------------------------------

5. (SBU) PRI, in its efforts to cast itself as the efficient
and practical political powerbroker, plans to privilege the
passage of energy reform and security measures during this
legislative session. PRI politicians and various political
analysts believe that some sort of energy reform will be
passed by the PRI and the PAN this session in the October

MEXICO 00002793 002 OF 003


timeframe. Senator Arroyo also reported that a priority is
the passage of some security related legislation, such as
measures to toughen the maximum sentences for kidnapping and
organized crime. PRI also is preparing to play hardball on
the administration's budget proposal, according to both PAN
and PRI contacts, and will probably demand that the
government rescind cuts to agricultural programs (ref a and
b).

6. (SBU) PRI's sharpened public criticism in recent days of
the Calderon administration's overall security approach (ref
c) and economic management probably is a bell weather of
things to come. Most political commentators suggest that the
legislature will be more or less productive through October,
in part because the PRI wants an energy reform feather in its
cap. After November, however, PRI and PAN politics in
particular will become increasingly embattled as both parties
posture in the run-up to 2009. PRI already is impugning
Calderon's economic record by releasing a report in the
Chamber of Deputies early this month claiming that more than
1,300,000 Mexicans have immigrated to the United States
during the first two years of Calderon's presidency,
representing a "true catastrophe" and a failure by the
government to provide Mexicans with real employment
opportunities.

It All Sounds Good on Paper...
------------------------------

7. (SBU) Despite PRI's claims that it has indeed learned from
its electoral debacles, the party still is facing challenges
in adapting to Mexico's changing political realities. The
party appears to be as yet unable to specifically define its
social democratic vision. When asked by poloff, PRI leaders
were only able to describe the platform as being "more like
Europe's than like Chavez's" and "focusing on people." Claims
that the party is promoting the emergence of young leaders
may also be overstated--the Embassy's Labor Attache reports
that younger rank and file PRI and affiliated labor leaders
continue to be frustrated in their aspirations for upward
mobility in the party. Moreover, while PRI has presented a
relatively united face to the Mexican public, PRI-affiliated
labor contacts also report that internal jockeying for the
2012 presidential candidacy has already begun. State
governors such as Fidel Herrera Beltran of Veracruz and
Eduardo Borz Castelo of Sonora are beginning to battle for
the position along with oft-mentioned Mexico State Governor
Enrique Pena Nieto and PRI Senate leader Manilo Fabio
Beltrones.

Comment: A Long Road to 2009
----------------------------

8. (SBU) PRI is well-positioned about a year out of the 2009
election season to make gains in the Chamber of Deputies.
PRI's political machinery--including its current eighteen of
31 state governorships--is still for the most part in place
despite its past electoral defeats. The party's publicly
unified face presents a sharp contrast to the PRD and, to a
lesser extent, the PAN. Party representatives pay at least
lip service to learning from 2006 to move forward on internal
restructuring and allow for the reemergence of new leaders,
which in theory could help improve its image as a party
responsive to Mexico's changing political environment.

9. (SBU) All the same, a resounding PRI victory in 2009 is
far from certain at this point. The party, despite efforts
to the contrary, has yet to more than vaguely define its
platform or the meaning of its new social democratic label.
The party may also have a tough time selling the message that
it is a political powerbroker "getting things done" if the
bulk of what it has accomplished has come through voting in
coalition with the PAN on PAN-proposed legislation.
Moreover, casting the 2009 votes as a plebiscite on the
Calderon government could very well backfire--Calderon's
approval ratings still register above the sixtieth
percentile. PRI is ready for a fight, but probably should
refrain from counting their deputies so far before the
candidate selection process even starts.
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity and the North American
Partnership Blog at http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/nap /

MEXICO 00002793 003 OF 003


BASSETT

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