RECENTLY Mexico's "ruling" party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), lost a golden opportunity to advance the democratization process within its ranks. It is fairly obvious that in choosing the PRI's presidential candidate for next August's elections, President Carlos Salinas de Gortari had narrowed the field to Mexico City's mayor, Manuel Camacho Solis, and the eventual choice, Luis Donaldo Colosio, the cabinet's Secretary for Social Development. From all indications, it was a tough call since both men seemed eminently qualified and both wanted the job. True to form, President Salinas made the choice himself on Dec. 8.
Instead of having the PRI selection announced as a certainty on Oct. 28, a far more democratic - and fairer - method was available. Even if Salinas judged that the party was not ready for a completely open selection process, he still had an option that would have satisfied his critics, both in the United States and Mexico, who say the democratization process is too slow: Mr. Colosio and Mr. Camacho could have been declared pre-candidates and been allowed to present their views in public. Then the PRI convention, which rubber-stamped Salinas' selection on Dec. 8, could have made its choice. (Voting for Colosio was done by a show of hands of all 6,000 delegates.) Having a single pre-candidate was a real disappointment to those who favored the North American Free Trade Agreement, thinking that its passage would accelerate Salinas' promise of democratization.
So Colosio has been named. But who knows of his political philosophy, or his concept of the issues facing Mexico, or his positions on them? Who can judge his decisionmaking ability or his capacity to withstand the pressures of the presidency? Whereas Camacho has shown he has the ability to govern, Colosio is untested in such a role. In the past, Colosio has been less than eloquent in public - to the extent that the president of the left-center Democratic Revolutionary Party, Porfirio Munoz Ledo, has accused him of never having spoken in the Senate chamber where he represented the state of Sonora. Salinas might think he knows Colosio's capacity and potential, but is it a wise political procedure for the country to leave it to the present chief executive to be the sole judge?
One question is: Does any Mexican president really know enough about the ruling party candidate he chooses? Before the destape (or unveiling of the candidate), it was widely speculated that Salinas might choose Colosio because he would expect Colosio to continue his policies. But such reasoning goes against history. From Plutarco Elias Calles, who chose Lazaro Cardenas in 1934, former presidents have been surprised by the independence of their successors.
The main doubt, however, that touches at the heart of Mexico's political problems concerns the sincerity …