Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rosa Albina Garavito: An academic calls for the dissolution of the PRD

A comment on Rosa Albina Garavito Elías. The UAM Azcapotzalco academic is out with a new book, essentially a collection of newspaper opinion articles and other commentaries, entitled "Apuntes para el camino: Memorias sobre el PRD." In last week's Proceso (excerpt-subscription required) she repeats her favorite theme: The PRD is an empty shell, a carcass, with no future. The only reasonable path for the PRD, she says, is to call for a new constituent assembly and create a new party.

There are many things to comment on here, but I'll limit myself to a few observations.

A former PRD senator, Garavito Elías loudly resigned from the PRD in April 2008, following the PRD's disastrous internal election. Notably, Garavito Elías was the running mate of Alfonso Ramírez Cuéllar, who was a candidate for the PRD presidency.While Ramírez Cuéllar - founding leader of the debtor organization El Barzón, who gained further fame when he entered the national congress on horseback - has so far opted to stay in the PRD, Garavito Elías left the party. Reading her memoirs (of sorts), she strikes me as an example that academics do not always make for the best party cadres, nor do they perhaps fully understand the nature of party politics. More than a tad arrogantly, she "returned" to the PRD in 2008 to run for the party leadership with Ramírez Cuellar (she had done nothing of note in the party since stepping down as PRD national senator in 2000) deeming their candidacy a "last opportunity" for the party to, well, redeem itself. Dismissing the notion that PRDs' internal battles can be traced to the overlapping and significant cleavages between two poles - party builders and movement advocates - she and Ramírez Cuéllar gave the party one last chance to rally behind their unity project.

The problem: the PRD members weren't listening. The Ramírez Cuéllar/Garavito Elías list pulled only around 18,000 votes, or a little over 1.5 percent of the vote total of the election, which was by the PRD mass base membership. Garavito then renounced the PRD, as the aftermath of the election turned really ugly, as both sides claimed victory, and with the outcome only settled in court. It is therefore quite amazing to learn that her running mate Ramírez Cuéllar as recently as yesterday called for a similar type of election to elect its new leader, but that is another story. The point here: Given the outcome of the election, the PRD bases apparently didn't buy her message. Garavito, however, renounced the PRD, declaring it beyond redemption: While she gave it one chance to come to its senses and elect Ramírez Cuéllar and her as party president and secretary general respetively, the party didn't know its own good. So, rather than fare thee well PRD and to each his own, she know calls for the party's dissolution.

Back to the book: I thought it would be worthwhile to read her reflections, but I cannot say there is much to applaud here, as the book presents a radical academic who would rather remain "pure" in her bubbly world, rather than to work for pragmatic solutions in the physical present. For example, in 1995, the PRD took a vast step forward by renouncing the idea of a total break with the regime - a government of "national salvation" is how Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas put it - and rather work in favor of a negotiated transition with the PRI government. That is, renounce the radical, immature, and dangerous ideas of a dramatic system change or regime overthrowal, to rather focus on reforming the country's institutions. These "radicals," to which Garavito belong, refused to even talk with the national government or have any relations at all with Ernesto Zedillo. Thankfully, for the party as well as for Mexico, cooler heads prevailed: Garavito was on the wrong side of history. Yet if you're looking for any acknowledgment of this in her book, keep looking.

And as for 2006? Well, that was a fraud, end of story. I wish I could see her evidence for it rather than merely take her word. If she knows something we don't, please do let us know.

Fast forward to 2009, when Garavito and other discontents called for spoiling the vote in the 2009 elections, in order to "send a signal" of sorts to the other parties. Thankfully, Mexicans have far more respect for the vote than that and the long battle it took them to have real party options, and the blank/spoiled vote only rose from around 2 to 5%. In my opinion, she - and others with her - was again on the wrong side of history. Yet in her book she revindicates this act as an important strike for democracy, against the supposed "partyocracy" choking Mexico.

Her book has received much favorable coverage and Garavito often appears as an "expert" commentator, receiving nods of approval from many an interviewer who buys her critiques of the PRD (and other parties) hook, line, and sinker. Yet I have yet to hear any critical question poised that would address her fundamental irresponsibility, both as a party cadre and an academic, last week's Proceso interview no exception.

Even with a 25% discount, Garavito's book is not worth the 262.5 pesos I paid for it. Nor is it worth the time to listen to her calls to dissolve the party, which failed to redeem itself by electing her secretary general. In the case of Garavito, PRD cadres would do well to reject both the medium and the message.

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I have never heard her once in her life saying she has been wrong about anything.