MEXICO CITY (AP) — Internal disputes descended into a battle with sticks and fists between members of Mexico’s former ruling party, which governed the country with an iron hand for seven decades before losing the presidency in 2000.
Party dissidents had set up a ring of protesters Tuesday around the headquarters of the Institutional Revolutionary Party and fighting apparently broke out when a squad of loyalists tried to retake the headquarters.
Both sides accused the other Wednesday of starting the violence, and photos on social media showed men in suits advancing down the street armed with stout cudgels or bats.
Party president Alejandro Moreno said several of his supporters had been hospitalized, “hanging on the edge of life and death,” as a result of the confrontation.
The party known as the PRI is a shadow of its former self after losing eight of its 12 governorships in June 6 elections, three years after it once again lost the presidency.
Internal disputes were long resolved by the president or by the governors of Mexico's 32 states, all of whom — for generations — were party members. But president now belongs to another party and the PRI has so few governors left it is not clear they can impose order.
Some members want Moreno to step down because the PRI lost even his home state, Campeche, in the elections and many believe he is overly accommodating with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose Morena party is now dominant.
Some fear the PRI could deteriorate into wing of López Obrador's party because the president's charismatic political style, nationalist stance and big-government policies are all inspired by PRI administrations of the 1950s and 1960s.
Moreno, the current PRI leader, has vowed to deal with the president's proposals on a case-by-case basis, but many remember his friendly relations with López Obrador when he was governor of Campeche. Some think López Obrador has control over Moreno because the president could decide whether to investigate allegations of corruption under the former governor.
The protesting side is led by Ulises Ruiz, a former governor of the southern state of Oaxaca, whose current governor, apparently opposed by Ruiz, is a López Obrador ally.
Moreno blamed Ruiz's supporters for Tuesday's clash, calling them “lackeys, scabs for Morena, infiltrators for Morena,” and pledged to expel Ruiz.
Ruiz's faction suggested Moreno had staged the confrontation to make himself look like the victim, writing, “It just reflects his inability to dialogue and his lack of shame in failing to resign over his terrible results.”
Ruiz is an unlikely reform leader: he was almost toppled from the governorship of his home state of Oaxaca in 2006 during an insurrection by teachers and activists.
The PRI's other, few remaining governors and senators had yet to comment on the dispute. The party led Mexico from 1929 until 2000 and briefly regained the presidency from 2012 to 2018, but that administration was so marred by corruption scandals it may have put most voters off the party forever.
The Associated Press