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State’s leftist coalition in acrimonious split

March 17, 2012

Jalisco’s leftist alliance has been shattered ahead of the July 1 gubernatorial elections due to a lingering feud between the coalition leader and local elites of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Tlajomulco Mayor Enrique Alfaro Ramirez announced the split with the PRD last Friday, later confirming that he will still lead an alliance of the Labor Party (PT), Citizens Movement (formerly known as Convergencia) and the National Regeneration Movement (Morena).

Suddenly finding itself without a candidate, the PRD state committee convened with national party leader Jesus Zambrano in a Guadalajara hotel on Wednesday to decide who should run for governor under the party banner.

The outcome was somewhat surprising. By a landslide margin of 126 votes to three, the committee chose Fernando Garza Martinez, a former member of the National Action Party (PAN) who served as mayor of Guadalajara from 2001 to 2003.

Garza quit the PAN in March 2009, claiming the party in Jalisco was an undemocratic institution run by a small group of individuals. His political about-turn raised eyebrows as the conservative PAN and the leftist PRD are the most ideologically opposed of Mexico’s three major parties.

Garza had initially registered to run for governor with the PRD, only to pull out and begin a second bid to be mayor of Guadalajara. But once the coalition collapsed last week he found a shot at the governorship irresistible.

“We will fully support his candidacy to be the next governor of Jalisco,” said Juan Carlos Guerrero, state president of the PRD, on Wednesday. Local party members also had some choice words for Alfaro.

“He overestimates his political capital and thinks that without us he can become governor, but he is wrong,” said Enrique Velazquez, while Celia Fausto accused Alfaro of acting with “arrogance and authoritarianism.”

A popular and respected figure in Tlajomulco, Alfaro gained credibility by taking on the operators of the Guadalajara Airport over their refusal to pay municipal taxes, as well as starting programs to provide across-the-board financial assistance for local students.

But he has a fractious relationship with Raul Padilla, the former rector of the Universidad de Guadalajara (UdeG) who dominates the Jalisco PRD. As local kingmaker, Padilla normally decides who occupies senior party positions in Jalisco, but he was powerless to prevent the nomination of Alfaro, who came out on top in two public surveys to determine who should head the leftist coalition.

The alliance proved unworkable, fracturing barely a month after it was announced. Alfaro said he broke with the PRD “as a matter of dignity, an exercise in consistency and to send a clear message that we will not allow this political project to be kidnapped by anyone.”

This is not the first time Alfaro has split with the PRD. Fed up with constant interference from Padilla and the UdeG group, he led five other Jalisco mayors in leaving the party to join the Citizen’s Movement in May 2011.

Referring to the state leadership as a “mafia,” Alfaro explained he had since agreed “to build a coalition with the PRD because the national leadership of the party gave assurances that they would not allow the group that controls the PRD in Jalisco to impose their mediocre vision and their crooked rules.”

The collapse of the coalition will do neither Alfaro nor the PRD any favors, with the leftist vote in Jalisco split between the two. Mindful of this problem, Alfaro assured that “not only did we not break with the PRD supporters, but we invite them to follow our path. The doors remain open as this is a citizens’ movement without partisan ties.”

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