JULY 14-20, 2008

JULY 14-20, 2008

1. 200 GROUPS DENOUNCE AGGRESSIONS AGAINST ZAPATISTAS
2. FEDERAL AUDITOR BLASTS FOREIGN PEMEX CONTRACTS
3. PRD ANNULS INTERNAL ELECTIONS
4. PRD AND PRI FORMALIZING ELECTORAL ALLIANCES
5. CISEN ACCUSES CONGRESS OF POSSIBLE NARCO INFLUENCE


1. 200 GROUPS DENOUNCE AGGRESSIONS AGAINST ZAPATISTAS
More than 200 organizations from the Other Campaign and international solidarity groups denounced new offensive measures directed against Zapatista communities “by paramilitary groups, the federal army, police, and the state government, as well as the federal government.  It’s a political-military strategy that seeks to corner Zapatismo.”  Attacks against Zapatista communities, particularly around questions of land tenure, have been on the upswing in recent months.  Many analysts predict that it’s only a matter of time before widespread violence breaks out in Chiapas unless government officials back off their new low intensity warfare strategy.


2. FEDERAL AUDITOR BLASTS FOREIGN PEMEX CONTRACTS
In testimony before the Senate, the federal Auditor General, Arturo Gonzalez, denounced long term service contracts between Pemex and at least 54 foreign corporations that are largely hidden from pubic scrutiny.  He also accused the federal government of lax or non-existent tax collection, leaving Pemex, the national petroleum monopoly, to make up for the taxes owed by large corporations.  During the first five years of the Fox administration, federal tax authorities lost a series challenges brought by 50 large corporations totaling US$65 billion.  The businesses ended up paying an average of 74 pesos (about US$7) in taxes.  The lack of an effective tax system means that Pemex pays an increasing percentage of the federal budget.  During the Fox sexenio, Pemex paid US$70 billion into federal coffers.  The vast majority (73%) covered the federal budget, while only 13% was spent on direct investment in infrastructure.  This left Pemex without the capacity to maintain existing infrastructure or explore for new oil, leaving the national petroleum monopoly with only nine years of proven reserves.  Gonzalez was particularly critical of the lack of transparency by Pemex International, which operates businesses in foreign countries.  The auditor suggested a comprehensive series of reforms that include improving the administration and collection of taxes, strengthening Congressional oversight of Pemex, strengthening the capacity of the federal auditor to review records and levy fines, reserving Pemex profits for infrastructure investment, and reducing the bureaucracy in labor relations.


3. PRD ANNULS INTERNAL ELECTIONS
Four months after internal elections for the leadership of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the National Commission of Guarantees, an internal party organ, nullified the results, claiming there were too many irregularities to declare a winner.  The Commission found irreconcilable irregularities in more than 20% of the voting stations.  The March 16 competition included party President and Secretary General, along with state and local party officials.  Only the contests for the two national spots were voided.  Alejandro Encinas, one of the candidates for party president, called for new elections before October.  Encinas is supported by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  Jesus Ortega, the other leading candidate for party president, called for maintaining the current interim president, Guadalupe Acosta, who is closely aligned with Ortega.

In related news, the PRD is sponsoring a referendum on July 27 on President Calderon’s plans to privatize Pemex.  It is unclear how the party’s inability to conduct clean internal elections might affect the results of the referendum.


4. PRD AND PRI FORMALIZING ELECTORAL ALLIANCES
The unprecedented electoral alliance between the PRI and PRD announced by Guadalupe Acosta, interim president of the PRD, is already a fact in Guanajuato, where negotiations are “very advanced” in allying the two parties for state and federal elections next year.  The alliance would form “a liberal political option of the democratic left,” according to PRI Senator Francisco Arroyo.  Jalisco is another state where a PRI-PRD alliance is possible for next year’s elections.  The electoral alliances are part of the restructuring of the PRD after serious divisions surfaced between allies of former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Senator Jesus Ortega.  Lopez Obrador favors a confrontational approach with the Calderon administration, which he characterizes as a spurious administration because of widespread fraud in the 2006 presidential elections.  Ortega favors negotiating with Calderon and an institutional approach that undermines much of Lopez Obrador’s populist rhetoric.  With this week’s announcement that internal PRD elections for party president were declared void, the demise of the PRD may be closer than many thought possible even a few months ago.  Ortega’s forces are negotiating with the PRI, while Lopez Obrador’s forces are committed to a more independent, populist approach and are aligned with two smaller parties in the Broad Progressive Front (FAP).


5. CISEN ACCUSES CONGRESS OF POSSIBLE NARCO INFLUENCE
Guillermo Valdes, Director of the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen), raised the possibility this week of narco-dollars influencing political campaigns, including at the federal Congressional level.  The Cisen came under attack in recent weeks for secretly investigating members of Congress and other political leaders, and the comments by Valdes could be interpreted as a veiled threat that Congress should avoid criticizing the secretive national security organization.  Valdes offered no proof, but claimed that “Congress is not exempt” from cooptation by drug cartels that spend billions of dollars to corrupt local and federal officials.