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Presidential Candidates Pursue Indian Vote

LADB Article ID: 53839
Category/Department: Mexico
Date: 2000-06-28
By: LADB Staff

[The author is a freelance journalist who has written on Mexican political and economic affairs for many years] As the tightest presidential election in Mexican history hits the homestretch, the front runners are beating the bushes for every vote they can get. This means Mexico's 10 million to 20 million Indians a constituency ordinarily ignored when it comes to matters of national importance have suddenly become the center of attention for candidates Francisco Labastida of the governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and Vicente Fox Quesada of the center- right opposition Partido Accion Nacional (PAN). On June 13, Labastida rented 1,000 buses to transport 30,000 residents of indigenous communities to the Otomi Ceremonial Center in a mountainous resort in Mexico state. Labastida, known as "Hermano Mayor" or "Big Brother" among the Otomis or Nnanhu People, pledged to the audience gathered at the Otomi center that he would continue to provide assistance to indigenous communities via the government's Progresa program. But the PRI candidate carefully avoided the word "autonomy," a concept advocated by the more radical Indian factions, led by the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN) in Chiapas. Labastida did not have to offer his audience more than a continuation of government handouts. The ruling party, through pork-barrel subsidy programs like Progresa, dominates the indigenous vote and captured 57% of all majority Indian municipalities in the 1994 presidential race.

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