With apologies for the cliché of an "October surprise," as the latest developments with Mexico's labor reform have absolutely nothing to do with imminent elections, but what happened when the Senate voted over the reform was in any case quite stunning. I did suggest that we might see a surprise here as well, though I was far from certain the left and right would be able to pull it off, but they did.
In short, the reform sent by president Calderón to the Chamber of deputies had language stripped out of its text that required transparency and democracy in Mexico's unions - notoriously authoritarian, corrupt, and often highly unfriendly to the average worker they claim to represent.
Yet the senate managed quite a feat: Every single one of its 128 senators appeared to vote (a rarity in itself) over reinserting this language, and return the legislation to the Chamber. Here, senators of the ideologically opposed PAN and PRD managed to amass the votes needed, with surprising allies (above all the sole senator of PANAL, the daughter of teacher union boss Elba Esther Gordillo, but also, on some sections, the usually pliant pro-PRI "Green party).
Yet here's the trick: By changing the legislation, rather than voting "yes" or "no," the senators arguably transformed the originally fast-track initiative ("preferred initiative") to merely an ordinary piece of legislation.
(they also seem to have inserted some new lines on collection bargaining, which should pretty much seal the change in character)
Already PRI leader in the Chamber Manlio Fabio Beltrones said there is therefore "no hurry" to pass the reform, again seemingly doing what the PRI has been accused of for years: Dragging its feet over any significant reform, acting as a highly irresponsible opposition party. Yet here is a golden opportunity for president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto to distance himself from the hardliners in his party, and push for the reform to be passed in the Chamber - and demonstrate that he is, as he claims, a true reformer, even when it hurts the clienteles of his own party. The fact that the weathercocks of the PVEM, always eager to suck up to power, broke with the PRI suggests something of this order may be in the works.
The next days should tell.
Ya no hay prisa para sacar reforma laboral, dice Manlio. El Universal, Oct. 26, 2012
PRI y PVEM titubearon; Panal optó por democracia. El Universal, Oct. 27, 2012