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Protesters take over PRI offices

December 10, 2001|By ARTURO BOJORQUEZ, Staff Writer

MEXICALI — Members of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, took over the state party offices here a week ago and remained there this morning.

The action was in protest of the proclamation of PRI national delegate Guillermo Cossío Vidaurri as the PRI state president, an action that isn't permitted by party policies.

Protester Felipe Morales said, "We don't accept that the last governor of Jalisco (Cossío Vidaurri was the last PRI governor of Jalisco), who is to blame for the defeat of the party in that state, comes to Baja California and acts as the PRI leader."

The protesters are seeking Cossío's immediate resignation as PRI state president.

The previous PRI president for Baja California was Alberto Reza Saldaña, who resigned Oct. 30 amid actions allegedly designed to provoke his departure by other PRI members.

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"We had talked with the (PRI) national executive council. We sent a letter with our petitions to Dulce María (Sauri, the national PRI president), to Rodolfo Echeverría (the party's national secretary general) to the technical secretary of the political council and each one of the national leaders of sectors and organizations of our party," said Morales.

No answer has come from the PRI national offices in Mexico City.

Morales said Friday it wasn't until that day that national leaders knew about the situation and promised to address the controversy.

Jessie Bonilla, another protester, said the group has been supported by many party members.

"We are rotating our positions in the protest. Some of us stay in the party's offices at night and others have daily activities," Bonilla said.

He added that leaders of organizations affiliated with the party have come to the offices to support the protesters, including leaders of the Popular Organizations National Council and the National Farmworkers Confederation.

The movement has spread to other organizations and PRI members, according to protesters.

Jorge Leyva, another protester, said the group will stay at the party's offices until Cossío is removed from office. He said Cossío arrived as a delegate and started to act as the state party's president.

"In a national party it is valid to have a national delegate. It is common to have support and assessment from the national office with delegates. It (the protest) isn't against that," said Leyva.

"This is a definite NO by the state's membership," said Leyva of the state party presidency situation.

When one of the protesters argued with Cossío before the protest started, Cossío conceded the leadership of the state's Popular Organizations National Council. Such measures have been taken in the past to alleviate controversies among party members.

"These are old measures of the party. We reject them. That was an offense to our intelligence," said Leyva.

According to Leyva, the protest doesn't mean the party's membership is divided.

"On the contrary, we are united, against the leadership," said Leyva.

Leyva joked that Cossío finally made members unite, against Cossío.

In February, according to PRI's policies, there has to be a new selection of state leadership.

Leyva said he and others don't want to see another state party president imposed upon them. They would like to see people come together to appoint an interim president. The interim president will have a main task of coordinating the election of a permanent state PRI president.

In the past, protests such as taking over the party headquarters have been considered puppet movements, as people with money and other resources had their followers protest to obtain a political position or something else for the powerful person.

"There are no persons behind us. There is a lot of support, a lot of people working with us, but that's it," said Leyva.

PRI members bring food to protesters, such as a woman who brought menudo on a recent day.

Although cold and lacking in resources, Leyva said the protesters are "enthusiastic" about the protest.

According to press reports in Mexicali, Cossío set up a president's office in a local hotel.

"It is very expensive for Baja PRI members. Every night is around 1,800 pesos (U.S. $180), plus expenses for traveling and other things," said Leyva.

"He should go to Mexico City to work there. If there is any quality as a person in Cossío — of which we are unaware — he should apply it in another state," said Leyva.

Cossío told the Mexicali press he isn't state party president anymore. He said the process of an election for a state president will start soon.

Cossío said he supports the idea of an interim president until the elections.

Because of the protests, PRI employees were not allowed to work.

"We don't know if we are going to be paid for these days which we hadn't worked," said a worker who asked to remain anonymous.

By mid-December, Mexicans are paid a yearly bonus called an "aguinaldo," The payment is enforced by law.

"We don't know if we are going to be paid our aguinaldos," said the PRI worker.

Around 45 people work at the PRI offices, either for the state or municipal committee.

"We told the leaders that they can come to pick up payments for the party's employees, but they haven't appeared here," said Felipe Morales, a protester.

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