November 9, 2001

Mexico fights dirty in state poll

                 MORELIA, Mexico (AP) -- Mexico's two main opposition parties are vying for
                 more than just the governor's seat in Michoacan state.

                 They are trying for a comeback after months of internal squabbling and power
                 struggles within Mexico's blossoming multi-party system.

                 Many polls indicate Lazaro Cardenas, the son of one of Mexico's most important
                 political leaders, is leading in the race against business leader Alfredo Anaya.

                 A victory by Cardenas on Sunday could determine the future of Mexico's leftist
                 Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, which has struggled to overcome internal
                 strife since Cardenas' father, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, came in a distant third to
                 Vicente Fox in presidential elections last year.

                 "An adverse result would be a hard blow not only to PRD followers and me
                 personally, but to my father," Cardenas recently told the Reforma newspaper.

                 The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is hoping a win by Anaya will help
                 reinvigorate the party.

                 Fox's victory was the party's first presidential defeat since its creation in 1929, and
                 it fought for months to hold onto a disputed gubernatorial victory in Tabasco state.

                 The party eventually won a run off election, its only gubernatorial victory since
                 Fox's election.

                 Both opposition parties have struggled to overcome internal divisions and regain
                 their former strength.

                 After his loss in July, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas -- himself the son of one of Mexico's
                 most neloved presidents -- found himself competing with other party chiefs for the
                 de facto PRD leadership.

                 If his son wins, Lazaro, or "Lazarito," could find himself in the running for the
                 party's presidency in March.

                 "Lazarito's victory would rip open intra-PRD divisions _ temporarily sutured closed
                 for the election -- a bout the party's leadership," said George Grayson, a professor
                 at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va.

                 Michoacan is the home of the Cardenas clan, a prominent political family whose
                 dynasty began with Lazarito's grandfather, Lazaro Cardenas.

                 The elder Cardenas, whose presidential term ended in 1940, nationalised the
                 country's oil industry, a decision that is still celebrated annually.

                 Cuauhtemoc Cardenas has run for president three times, and many Mexicans
                 believe he was cheated out of a victory by Carlos Salinas de Gotari in 1988.

                 The campaign leading up to Sunday's election has been plagued by the usual
                 accusations of foul play.

                 Cardenas' party blamed the PRI for a phony Cardenas site that kept popping up on
                 the Internet despite repeated efforts to shut it down.

                 The site appeared to be the candidate's official Web page, but contained links to
                 sites containing pornography and information on satanism and gay pride.

                 PRI officials said they were unaware of the site.

                 On October 10, unidentified assailants opened fire on Anaya's car, but the candidate
                 was unhurt. State officials are investigating the incident.

                 Still, the biggest obstacle for both candidates could be a crucial World Cup qualifier
                 between the Mexican and Honduran soccer teams.

                 Election officials are predicting low voter turnout, believing that many people will
                 opt to stay home and watch the game rather than vote.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.