February 19, 2001

Mexico's PRI seeks path back to power

                  IXTAPAN DE LA SAL, Mexico (AP) -- With recriminations over the loss of
                  Mexico's presidency after 71 years and political shots at new President Vicente
                  Fox, leaders of the party that long ran Mexico were planning a course back to
                  power on Sunday.

                  Gov. Fernando Silva Nieto of San Luis Potosi told delegates that the meeting of
                  the National Political Council, which ended Sunday, was "the most important in
                  many, many decades" for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the

                  For party loyalists, it marked an end to the months of floundering that followed
                  the loss of the July 2 presidential election to Fox, of the center-right National
                  Action Party, and a start toward reshaping a party that had always taken orders
                  from PRI presidents.

                  The PRI remains Mexico's best-organized party, with the power to put its stamp
                  on national politics. It still governs 19 of Mexico's 31 states and holds a plurality
                  in both the Congress and Senate.

                  For months, critics had demanded the ouster of party President Dulce Maria
                  Sauri, saying she shared the blame for the July defeat.

                  But rivals for the post also suffered setbacks and on Sunday the council ratified
                  Sauri's position as party leader -- though she could be replaced at a national
                  convention in November, not next year as she has proposed.

                  The PRI's biggest problem was determining how to choose officials. In the past,
                  national presidents have imposed their will on the party, not only determining
                  policies but leaders.

                  The council voted to have party leaders elected democratically, though it did not
                  yet determine a method. Some want 65,000 regional party representatives to
                  vote; others suggested having the party's labor, farm and other sectors involved.

                  The council displayed a party that seemed to be turning its back on Mexico's
                  past three PRI presidents, who forced through free-market policies that reversed
                  much of the party's state-centered politics of the past.

                  In a series of declarations, the party criticized tax increases, increased
                  privatization of the energy sector and cuts in social programs -- all policies that
                  the PRI itself has backed in recent years.

                  Copyright 2001 The Associated Press.