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High Profile Inauguration for Mexican Governor - 2002-02-16


In Mexico, President Vicente Fox and many other well-known political figures gathered in the central state of Michoacan on Friday to witness the inauguration of the new governor. The event had more to do with the future shape of politics in Mexico than it did with the issues confronting the state.

The inauguration of Lazaro Cardenas Batel drew more than the normal number of dignitaries and high-profile political figures. He is the third member of the Cardenas family to have assumed control of the governor's office in Michoacan. He is also seen by many in his party, the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, as the bright, shining hope for the future.

His father, former Mexico City mayor and three-time presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano says he is proud of his son, but he is looking beyond the ceremony. He says the inauguration of his son represents the beginning of a new political project, more than the accomplishment of a particular family.

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas also served as governor of Michoacan, in the 1970's, following the path of his father, Lazaro Cardenas, who served as governor of the state in the 1930's before becoming president. President Lazaro Cardenas is best known for his rural reform programs and his expropriation of foreign oil operations in Mexico in 1938. Although many expected Cuauhtemoc Cardenas to also follow his father's path to the presidency, in 1987, he broke away from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, a party his father helped found. He then ran unsuccessfully for president three times, the last time in the year 2000 under the banner of the PRD and a coalition of smaller leftist parties.

That election resulted in the defeat of the PRI by Vicente Fox of the National Action Party. It was the first time the PRI had ever lost a presidential election in 71 years of uninterrupted rule. But Mr. Cardenas and his party were left weaker, losing ground in the national Congress. Party leaders saw the election of the younger Cardenas in last November's election as a badly needed advance and they saw the victor, the member of a proud political dynasty, as a possible presidential contender in the future. Much will depend now on how well Mr. Cardenas Batel does in office and what kind of political support he is able to build around himself in the years ahead.

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