A Hat In Mexico's Ring?

Former Mexico City Mayor Manuel Camacho, one of the country's savviest politicians, is reentering active politics after a year-long silence--and President Ernesto Zedillo's government is uneasy about it. Camacho is believed to be trying to carve out a power base among factions in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), including moderates who are frustrated by hard-liners' resistance to steps to democratize the party. Camacho's moves could complicate Zedillo's own attempts to maneuver between reformers and "dinosaurs."

Camacho, 49, a longtime friend of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, expected to be the PRI's presidential candidate in 1994. But Salinas tapped Luis Donaldo Colosio. Salinas kept Camacho's career alive by giving him the role of peace negotiator with the Chiapas rebels, but Camacho continued to hint he might make an independent run for the presidency. After Colosio was assassinated and Zedillo took his place as the presidential candidate, Camacho quit as peacemaker and adopted a low profile. Now he is launching a series of public talks on the need for political change, starting with a speech in Monterrey.

Critics see Camacho as more of an ambitious populist than a reformer. Backers of Zedillo fear Camacho's moves in the PRI could undermine Zedillo's remaining five years in office. Camacho's aim, observers believe, is to step in as the bridge-builder in the PRI after reformers and hard-liners have duked it out--and become the party's standard-bearer in the 2000 election.

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