End Is Near
By Rick Rockwell
A month before Mexico's presidential election, Father Gonzalo Ituarte is preaching to a church filled with his flock, the indigenous and mestizo residents of San Cristobal de las Casas. In an island of light in the dark church, the priest tells a story about the conquistadors and how the local Indians carried on after the Spanish took their land. It isn't hard to divine that his metaphor is really about the country's current power structure.
A few blocks away from the church, in the town square, the headline on a copy of Cuarto Poder, a regional newspaper, screams: "Attack!" The lead story is about Subcomandante Marcos, the famous guerrilla leader, and his predictions that Mexico's ruling party will move to crush his forces after they win the July 2 election. But many in San Cristobal don't seem to be worried. They say calm will prevail because they believe Mexico's opposition will finally win an election for the first time since the Mexican Revolution.
Could this be the election that finally ends one-party rule in Mexico? For more than 70 years, the country has been run by the Institutional Revolutionary P arty (PRI), the party with the longest stretch of uninterrupted national rule in the world. Mainstream media on both sides of the border are trumpeting the candidacy of Vicente Fox Quesada of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) as the force that will finally topple the PRI's aging, creaky political machine.
Rick Rockwell is a contributor to the new book Mexico: Facing the Challenges of Human Rights and Crime. Currently traveling in Mexico, he teaches journalism at American University.