After recent defeats in several critical electoral contests, Latin American leftists from Ciudad Juárez to Caracas to Concepción have been reexamining their priorities and their place in politics. Speaking on “Rising Challenges to the Left in Latin America,” prominent Mexican politician Cuáuhtemoc Cárdenas argued that the answers they’re searching for lie not in the streets, but in the halls of the legislature.
In a talk at the International House Assembly Hall Wednesday, Cárdenas advocated a return to practical policy positions for his nation’s left wing and fundamental changes in cross-border relations. Appearing as part of the lecture series “Shifting to the Left: Latin America’s New Political Spectrum,” he said that in the future the progressive movement in Mexico will either offer viable alternatives to conservatives or lose ground.
A three-time presidential candidate notoriously robbed of a victory in 1988, Cárdenas was the founder of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and is still viewed as the group’s conscience. Considered an important reformer when he served as mayor of Mexico City, he remains an influential voice in Mexican politics.
Though he declined to directly attack Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the 2006 PRD candidate for the Mexican presidency who is still claiming that the results of that election were illegitimate, Cárdenas called for the Mexican left to move on, saying that “the time to protest is over.” He described a program based on “realistic, comprehensive, and fair solutions” and a rejection of the protest politics that have harmed the left’s image among the electorate.
Cárdenas also briefly touched on energy policy and illegal immigration. With Mexico’s oil reserves on pace to disappear within a decade at current levels of use, Cárdenas encouraged an end to crude oil exports to the United States in favor of refinement within national borders to increase the economic benefit to Mexicans.
He also criticized the current direction in immigration policy on both sides of the border, promoting increased sensitivity to the contributions made by immigrant workers to the American economy and the differences between the war on terror and the war on immigration in Washington, D.C. He also advocated an increased focus on “solving the problems of Mexicans in Mexico.”
“No problem will be solved by raising a wall, or by letting the Minutemen loose in the border area,” Cárdenas said.
Cárdenas participated in a question-and-answer session with the audience, fielding inquiries on the Oaxaca teachers’ strike, the changing nature of U.S.–Latin American relations in the wake of the 2006 elections, and the involvement of Mexican citizens who vote in Mexico’s elections but live in the U.S.
The event was co-sponsored by the Harris School student group Latin America(n) Matters, the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Katz Center for Mexican Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, I-House and Student Government.