MARCH 17-23, 2008

1. PRD IN CRISIS AFTER INTERNAL ELECTIONS
2. PRISON HUNGER STRIKE SHOWING SOME RESULTS
3. LABOR UNREST
4. 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF PEMEX, CALLS FOR RESISTANCE


1. PRD IN CRISIS AFTER INTERNAL ELECTIONS
The Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was in crisis this week after internal elections for the national president and state leaders were marred by extensive fraud.  “Quick counts” taken from selected election sites by independent polling organizations and released Sunday night shortly after polls closed showed Alejandro Encinas ahead of Jesus Ortega by about 5 percent, but Ortega immediately contested the findings.  Both sides leveled accusations of electoral fraud, including ballot boxes filled with marked ballots before the election opened (known as “zapatos”), PRD members removed from election roles (Encinas claimed as many as 30% of party members were unable to vote), ballot boxes with more than 1,000 ballots (each election site was limited to 1,000 ballots), and ballots that were stolen or burnt.  With each side battling via the media in an increasingly dirty fight for control of the party, PRD founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas called for the election to be annulled on Friday.  Cardenas was probably hoping to be appointed interim party president, thereby recouping some of his lost political influence.  His plea fell largely on deaf ears as both Encinas and Ortega rejected the proposal.  Party officials had hoped to announce final results on Sunday, but by Sunday night ballots from only about two-thirds of the states had been computed. 

Encinas is leader of the United Left faction and closely associated with former PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, while Ortega is the leader of the New Left faction, made up mainly of party bureaucrats and elected officials known for negotiating with President Felipe Calderon. 


2. PRISON HUNGER STRIKE SHOWING SOME RESULTS
Zacario Hernandez, a member of Pueblo Creyente who has been in prison on false charges for the past five years, was released this week after hunger striking for 35 days.  Hernandez was the first of over 40 inmates at three Chiapas prisons to begin a hunger strike demanding immediate liberation.  The number of hunger strikers continued to grow this week as Zapatista supporters and religious activists protested their unjust confinement.  Governor Juan Sabines is under increasing pressure to resolve the justice system’s statewide crisis of credibility.


3. LABOR UNREST
The Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) signed a contract only five hours before a planned strike on Sunday, winning wage increases of 4.25% and benefit increases of 2%.  The new contract will benefit 41,000 workers in the strategically critical electrical sector. 

Meanwhile, workers at the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana (UAM) in Mexico City entered the seventh week of a strike with no resolution in site.  Workers are demanding wage increases of 30%, while the administration has not budged from its initial offer of 4.25% salary increases with benefit increases of 1.5%.  The UAM, which serves about 50,000 students, is in danger of losing an entire semester of studies.


4. 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF PEMEX, CALLS FOR RESISTANCE
Former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for massive civil disobedience against President Felipe Calderon’s plans to privatize Pemex, the national petroleum monopoly which provides about 40% of the federal budget.  Lopez Obrador led a march/meeting in the center of Mexico City on Monday, the 70th anniversary celebration of the nationalization of the energy sector, that numbered in the tens of thousands. President Calderon held his own version of a celebration in Tabasco surrounded by hundreds of security forces.  Lopez Obrador called for blocking highways, airports, Pemex facilities and both houses of Congress in anticipation of Calderon´s presentation of privatization legislation on March 25.  Mexico´s political class immediately criticized Lopez Obrador as “irresponsible,” though his message resonated broadly with the general public.