Monday, October 4, 1999
bid for unity failsThe issue: Opposition parties can't agree on the method for choosing a presidential candidate.A bid to end 70 years of one-party rule in Mexico -- even longer than the Democratic Party's domination in Hawaii -- has been shattered with the failure of opposition parties to reach agreement on how they would select a candidate to run for president next year. The collapse of negotiations was called "the blunder of the century" for the opposition.
Our view: Failure to patch up their differences could cost them a rare opportunity to depose Mexico's longtime ruling party and introduce real democracy.
The result is the probable perpetuation of the rule of the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), which has controlled the presidency for most of this century. The party has been under attack for corruption and for failing to deal effectively with poverty and inequality.
The PRI has been considered to be more vulnerable than ever before to the threat of defeat. Polls showed that as much as 60 percent of Mexicans supported the idea of an alliance to confront it in next year's presidential election. The surveys also showed that if the election were held today, an alliance would defeat the PRI.
But last week four months of negotiations among eight opposition parties collapsed -- primarily because the conservative National Action Party, or PAN, would not accept a proposal to hold a nationwide primary to select an alliance nominee. Yet PAN's candidate, Vicente Fox, was favored to have won such a primary.
Ironically, it is the PRI that will hold a presidential primary, for the first time in its history, while the opposition will not. The PRI has been trying to repair its image in the face of electoral reverses.
One major defeat came in 1997, when the leftist Cuauhtemoc Cardenas was elected mayor of Mexico City in the first election for that powerful position -- his predecessors were appointed by the president.
Cardenas has now resigned to devote all of his efforts to his candidacy for president -- his third attempt. In 1988 he stunned the PRI by nearly upsetting its candidate, and many believe he was cheated of victory. Cardenas is the probable candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party but his popularity has faded and he trails in most polls behind Fox and two PRI candidates.
There is an outside chance that the largest opposition parties may try again to form a coalition, but observers give that little chance of happening. If so, they will miss an opportunity to end the monolithic rule of a corrupt party and give Mexico a taste of real democracy.
Jesse Ventura recantsThe issue: Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura enraged many by denouncing organized religion and scoffing at the Tailhook sexual harassment scandal.PROFESSIONAL wrestlers thrive by enraging fans, and Jesse Ventura brought that style into the political arena. His free-speaking ways distinguished him sharply from conventional politicians and helped get him elected governor of Minnesota as an independent in a stunning upset.
Our view: Ventura retreated from those remarks under criticism but may come back with more outrageous statements.
But now even Jesse can see there are limits to the amount of outrage that will be tolerated in politics. After an interview in which he denounced organized religion and belittled the Navy's Tailhook sexual harassment scandal, Ventura has been forced to retreat to the far corner of the ring.
In the face of a storm of criticism, Ventura released a letter to religious leaders in which he said he respected the beliefs of others even though "organized religion has not been a major influence on my adult life." He also called the behavior of the perpetrators of Tailhook bad although he had previously termed the scandal "much ado about nothing."
The political referees have made Jesse behave -- for the moment. But will he go back to his outrageous ways as soon as their backs are turned? Our bet is that he will.
North Korean threatThe issue: North Korea seems to be threatening to test its long-range missiles despite an agreement to freeze the tests.JUST what did the Clinton administration accomplish when it agreed to lift restrictions on trade, travel and banking against North Korea? The idea was a tradeoff, with the Communist regime of Kim Jong-il freezing test launches of its long-range missiles.
Our view: The North Koreans may be holding out for more U.S. concessions.
But only five days after saying it would halt the launches, North Korea insisted that it has a right to continue to test the missiles. Rodong Sinmun, the newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party, said, "The issue of missile launch is a matter wholly pertaining to our sovereignty and (North Korea) will launch a missile and a satellite any time it feels necessary."
North Korea's leaders seem to delight in keeping the outside world guessing about their real intentions, so the latest pronouncement is hardly a stunning surprise. Does it mean that the previous deal is off? Or that the North will demand more concessions in return for the missile freeze?
Washington didn't concede much in relaxing sanctions, because there isn't much demand in this country for trade or travel to North Korea. It would be just like the North Koreans to demand that the Americans sweeten their offer, maybe with shipments of food or other forms of aid, to get them to do what they already promised to do.
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