ALTHOUGH face-to-face peace talks are yet to begin, the pressure
for reform that the Chiapas rebellion has placed on the Mexican
government is already having a profound impact on the politics
The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has been in
power for 64 years, has agreed to a series of unprecedented
political concessions to create "a climate favorable to advancing
the process of reconciliation in Chiapas," said President Carlos
Salinas de Gortari in a nationally broadcast address last week.
On Jan. 27, eight of the nine Mexican political parties agreed
to a package of reforms designed to "guarantee clean elections"
Included in the pact are commitments to:
* Impartiality by electoral authorities.
* An external audit of voting rosters.
* Equal access to the media by all parties.
* A ban on the use of public funds by any political party and a
post-electoral review of party financing.
* A review of the penal code for laws that restrict political
The pact also opens the door for a special session of Congress
to create laws to meet the demands of the pact and the naming of a
special attorney general to investigate electoral fraud.
"We are closer than ever to having a guarantee of clean
elections," said Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano, presidential
candidate for the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party.
The accord marks the first time Mr. Cardenas has signed a
document that was also signed by PRI party officials since he left
the party in 1987. In 1988, Cardenas lost to Salinas in the closest
presidential election in Mexican history. Many Mexicans, including
Cardenas, have questioned the validity of the 1988 electoral
In another major concession, after months of arguing, the PRI
agreed to dramatically lower the campaign spending ceiling. The
original proposal to put a cap of 650 million pesos (about $211
million) on each political party was dropped to 134 million pesos
The major opposition parties, with fewer financial resources
than the PRI, pushed unsuccessfully for a 67-million-peso ($21.7
million) limit. Still, analysts see the new spending limit as a
significant change in PRI policy.
"There's no way these concessions would have been made without
the Chiapas rebellion," says political analyst Arturo Sanchez of
the Mexican Institute of Political Studies, a private think tank.
The Chiapas insurrection has also prompted a shuffling of
Salinas' Cabinet, the resignation of the governor of Chiapas, the
passage of an amnesty law, and a pledge to reform the Chiapas
Mr. Sanchez notes the latest changes are not going over well
with the old guard within the ruling party, who have resisted
previous attempts at electoral reform. One indication of dissension
within the ranks, says Sanchez, is that some PRI legislators are
saying that the special session of Congress called to deal with
issues in the pact and scheduled for the second week of February
will not include changes in the electoral law. …