Mexico Tries Not to Slip Back

One of Mexico's three gubernatorial elections last Sunday is noteworthy in that it puts at least a small brake on a disturbing - and backward - political trend.

In the country's southern state of Guerrero, home to several famous Mexican resorts, including Acapulco, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was soundly defeated by the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party or PRD.

The 76-year reign over the country of the corrupt PRI ended in 2000 with the election of President Vicente Fox and his center-right National Action Party (PAN). But since then, the still powerful PRI has relished a number of state-level election victories (it won seven out of 10 governorships last year, but by tighter margins than usual). It has positioned itself to regain the presidency in 2006, and still controls Mexico's Congress. And the PRI's hold in Guerrero has remained strong.

But not so Sunday, when it lost the contest by a stunning 55 to 42 percent. The PRI vastly outspent the PRD, and fell back on its usual questionable political tactics. For instance, it gave would-be voters insurance policies offering coverage of schoolchildren - valid only if the PRI candidate won.

But even their huge campaign effort wasn't enough. Guerrero's history, like so much of Mexico's, has been bloodied by decades of guerrilla fighting and violent government repression. The government's own human rights office reports that hundreds of suspected leftists have been tortured and killed in recent years. No doubt, strong anti-PRI sentiment helped fuel enough votes to give the PRD the win.

The PRI's long and incompetent rule can be blamed for the entrenched poverty that continues to push Mexicans to migrate illegally to the United States. Even with its lingering power in Congress, the PRI has defeated Mr. Fox's economic reforms that would have helped raise Mexico.

Until the PRI cleans up its act, a return of that party to rule wouldn't be something the US or most Mexicans would really wish for.

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