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Cablegate: Pri Boss Holds Forth On Election, Party's Future

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72557
2006-07-25 16:59:00
06MEXICO4100
Embassy Mexico
CONFIDENTIAL

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TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR MX
C O N F I D E N T I A L MEXICO 004100

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR MX
SUBJECT: PRI BOSS HOLDS FORTH ON ELECTION, PARTY'S FUTURE

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL CHIEF ALAN MELTZER, REASONS: 1.4(B/D).

1. (C) Summary: Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)
Federal Deputy Manlio Fabio Beltrones, recently elected to
head the PRI faction in the incoming Senate, told poloff that
his party would be willing to cooperate on specific issues
with the administration of Felipe Calderon, although he
doubted Calderon would offer a formal coalition on terms the
PRI could accept. Notwithstanding its willingness to
cooperate, he said the PRI would not forget how it had been
"wronged" by the Fox Administration during the campaign,
particularly by the Administration's alleged role in
releasing information about the wrongdoings of prominent
PRIistas that hurt the party's electoral fortunes. He said
the PRI did not agree with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's
post-electoral strategy for challenging the election results,
and that the PRI would support any decision pronounced by the
electoral tribunal (TEPJF). He made the less-than-convincing
argument that the PRI had learned a lesson from its
devastating defeat, and that it would seek to regain its
credibility with the Mexican electorate by presenting itself
as a reasonable, centrist option, tempering the extremes of
the left and right. Beltrones is likely to be an effective
advocate for PRI interests in the Senate. Nevertheless, the
selection of this old-style political operator -- and one
tainted by rumors of corruption at that -- as faction
president belies the party's claim that in the wake of its
electoral rout, the PRI seeks to remake its image. End
summary.

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2. (C) On July 19, poloff met with Manlio Fabio Beltrones, a
member of the outgoing Chamber of Deputies who on July 2 was
elected to the Senate. One of the PRI's most influential
members and perhaps Roberto Madrazo's closest political
operative during the campaign, Beltrones was recently elected
unanimously as head of the PRI's incoming Senate delegation.
Beltrones reflected on the reasons underlying the PRI's
defeat, the PRD's efforts to impugn the electoral results,
the future of the PRI, and its posture in the upcoming
sexenio.

Forgive But Do Not Forget
-------------------------

3. (C) Beltrones bitterly criticized President Fox for
allegedly interfering in the campaign on behalf of PAN
candidate Felipe Calderon, and for his administration's
alleged use of state resources in support of the Calderon
campaign. He attributed the PRI's poor performance in large
measure to the "inequities" the party faced in the campaign.
He said he had no doubt the Fox Administration was
responsible for the release of incriminating information
about the apparent illicit enrichment of former Mexico State
Governor Arturo Montiel, and the release of recorded phone
conversations that incriminated Puebla State Governor Mario
Marin; he noted that the ensuing scandals severely hurt
Madrazo's credibility, especially in those populous states.
(Note: Many observers believe that Madrazo himself released
the incriminating information on Montiel, in order to
eliminate his only real primary challenger; likewise,
Madrazo's first response to the release of the tapes
incriminating Marin was to defend Marin. End note.)
Beltrones also blamed the Fox Administration for leaking to
the press the rumor that the PRI gubernatorial candidate in
Jalisco, Arturo Zamora, was under suspicion by the DEA for
alleged ties to drug traffickers. He disingenously repeated
that although the PRI bore no rancor towards the PAN, it
would not forget how it had been "wronged."

Not Going to Play the PRD's Game
--------------------------------

4. (C) Notwithstanding its grudges against the PAN,
Beltrones made clear the PRI "was not going to play the PRD's
game," and that it would not offer the PRD any support in its
impugnation of the electoral process. He conceded that even
if the election campaign had been unequal, he was aware of no
evidence of fraud on Election Day or in the vote retabulation
that followed. He said the PRI had not contested the results
in the presidential race because it did not want to give the
PRD's position any additional support or credibility.
Beltrones said he was convinced the magistrates would decide
the PRD's impugnation independently and that the PRI would
support whatever decision the magistrates reached. He
argued, however, that it would be very dangerous for the
TEPJF not to order at least a partial recount, as to do
otherwise would convince AMLO's supporters that the entire
process had been rigged against their candidate. He said the
wisest course would be for the TEPJF to order a recount in
the approximately 50,000 precincts specifically impugned by
the PRD.

IFE Counselors: Watch Out!
--------------------------

5. (C) Beltrones opined that although the PRI respected IFE
as an institution, its counselors had done a "mediocre" job
of managing the election, adding that their post-electoral
performance had been "erratic." He said one issue on which
he expected the PRI to cooperate with the PRD was in
"strengthening" IFE; he said that if the IFE counselors did
not agree to resign, the PRI would support the PRD's expected
attempt in the next Congress to impeach them (juicio
politico).

Cooperation Yes, Coalition No
-----------------------------

6. (C) Beltrones said he saw little possibility of the PRI
forming a formal coalition with the PAN, assuming the TEPJF
confirms Calderon as President. He dismissed as insincere
Calderon's comments during the campaign about forming a
coalition or national unity government, as he doubted
Calderon would be willing to offer significant positions or
concessions to the PRI in return for its support, and the PRI
would not be willing to join a coalition on the PAN's terms.
He said that given the highly polarized post-electoral
climate, he expected AMLO loyalists to be critical of
Calderon throughout his sexenio and that the PRI did not want
to be seen as "complicit" in a discredited administration
while receiving little in return. Nor would the PRI be
satisfied by Calderon's inclusion in his cabinet of PRI
"deserters" such as Senator Genaro Borrego or former
Secretary of Energy Luis Tellez. He said, however, that in

SIPDIS
the unlikely event that Calderon offers the PRI a genuine
coalition, including several influential cabinet spots, the
PRI would consider such an offer seriously. He said the PRI
especially sought positions like the Secretariat for Social
Development and the Federal Auditing Service, that would
enable it to ensure that GOM social programs were not being
used for political purposes. Notwithstanding the PRI's
reluctance to join a coalition on unfavorable terms, he said
it would be willing to cooperate with the PAN on a range of
legislation, particularly those structural reforms that the
PRI itself had proposed in the outgoing Congress.

PRI Has Learned a Lesson
------------------------

7. (C) Echoing the refrain often used by PRIistas after
their historic 2000 electoral defeat, Beltrones said the PRI
had learned a lesson from this year's electoral thrashing and
that it would emerge stronger for it. He said the party
would seek to position itself as a reasonable, centrist force
between the right and left, emphasizing both economic growth
and equality, along the lines of a European social democratic
party. He optimistically predicted that if the PRI were able
to remake its image in this manner, it would double its
legislative faction in the 2009 elections.

8. (C) Beltrones minimized the continued reports of party
infighting, asserting that it was no worse in the PRI than in
other parties. He said there was no longer a dominant
faction in the party, observing that the party had been
defeated on virtually every level and that party factions
understood they needed to stick together to survive. He
predicted the party would turn to an interim leadership when
the terms of the current party President and Secretary
General, Mariano Palacios Alcocer and Rosario Green, expired
in September, and that a longer term leadership would not be
selected until the party convened a national convention.

Biographical Notes
------------------

9. (C) Born on August 30, 1952, Beltrones received a degree
in economics from the National Autonomous University of
Mexico. His career trajectory is that of the consummate PRI
insider, having held important positions in the party's
national apparatus from an early age. At the age of 30, he
was elected to represent his home state of Sonora in the
federal Chamber of Deputies, and thereafter worked in the
Secretariat of Government. Although he was elected to the

SIPDIS
Senate in 1988, he served only a short time, as President
Salinas tapped him to serve as Undersecretary of Government.
He served as Governor of Sonora from 1991-97. He served as
head of the PRI's National Confederation of Popular
Organizations, one of the party's key corporatist sectors,
until July 24, when he resigned to devote himself to his
responsibilities in the Senate.

10. (SBU) As Governor of Sonora, Beltrones was rumored in
the press to have connections to drug traffickers, a rumor he
denied in an April 5, 1997 letter to the editor of the New
York Times. The Mexican press has published rumors of his
past involvement in money laundering, an allegation he also
has denied.

11. (C) Extremely smooth in manner and impeccably coifed and
groomed, Beltrones exudes self-confidence. He tends to speak
in a deliberate, intense manner and low tone of voice,
interspersing his conversation with frequent pregnant pauses
and making very direct and prolonged eye contact with his
interlocutors. He often appears with a retinue of aides in
tow. He has the reputation of a hardball political operator
who thrives in an atmosphere of closed-door political
deal-making.

Comment: Back to the Future for the PRI?
-----------------------------------------

12. (C) That Beltrones managed to emerge from the debacle of
the Madrazo campaign with his prestige sufficiently intact to
win election unopposed as the head of the PRI's Senate
delegation is testimony to his considerable political skills.
Given these skills, we expect him to be an effective
legislative leader for the PRI, managing to extract from the
PAN the highest possible price for PRI support.
Nevertheless, it will take more than political deal-making
skills if the PRI is to restore its credibility among Mexican
voters. Indeed, the election of this backroom operator to
such a prominent position belies the party's claim that it
seeks to reinvent itself. At this point, what the PRI really
needs is a period of genuine introspection, and with
Beltrones placing virtually all the blame for the party's
defeat on the Fox Administration, introspection may be one
skill he lacks.


Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/wha/mexicocity

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