In politics you can never rule out the improbable. It is a game in which extreme scenarios tend to materialize more frequently than in other disciplines. For this reason, like the doormen, a politician without luck is not a politician. One of the most important skills in the trade is knowing how to read opportunities as they arise.
But ambition is treacherous. It can lead you to see opportunities where there are actually pitfalls. Instead of increasing your prestige and ability to influence certain outcomes, you may end up isolated, with your reputation destroyed. It is still early to tell, since the final outcome is unknown, but everything seems to indicate that Alejandro Moreno, the PRI’s national leader, also known as Alito, fell into a political trap of his own making.
President López Obrador’s initiative to transfer the National Guard to the Secretary of Defense –approved in fast track by the official majority in Congress a few days ago– left the Armed Forces in a state of legal vulnerability. The Constitution defines the National Guard as a “civilian” public security institution. In addition, it determines that said body must be assigned to the secretariat of the public security branch. With such locks, it seems difficult for the legal reforms so that the National Guard remains integrated and subject to the command of active military to pass the test of constitutionality.
Alito then saw an opportunity that would allow him to look good with the Army – a former PRI ally – and with President López Obrador. In this way, the siege of the governor of Campeche, Layda Sansores, and her prosecutor, Renato Sales, could be removed. In addition, it would serve to placate the rude ones of the 4T, who sought to remove him from the presidency of the Commission on Governance and Population of the Chamber of Deputies.
The plan they came up with consisted of proposing a reform to the transitory fifth article of the constitutional reform decree by which the National Guard was created, in order to extend from five to nine years the transition period in which the Armed Forces will be able to continue to carry out public safety tasks. The Army and President López Obrador bought the idea immediately.
However, there are two things that Alito seems to have miscalculated. In the first place, he underestimated the reaction of the PAN and PRD leaders, his partners in the “Va por México” alliance. He tried to convince them that his initiative did not violate the moratorium on constitutional reforms agreed in June. He argued that he was modifying a term established in a transitory article, not the body of the constitutional text itself. He forgot that, in legal terms, there is no difference.
The national leaders of the PAN and PRD strongly disapproved of Alito’s actions. They declared that the legislative and electoral coalition with the PRI was suspended. Although they are still looking for a way to maintain the opposition alliance in the elections in the State of Mexico and Coahuila, the relationship with the national leadership of the PRI is broken.
The second miscalculation has to do with the PRI caucus in the Senate. Alito controls the deputies, but not the senators of his party. In the Upper House, the PRI is coordinated by Sen. Osorio Chong, a declared adversary of Alito, who has openly called for his resignation.
The military initiative needs at least 11 of the PRI’s 13 votes in the Senate. After the entire bench spoke out against it, it seems difficult to get them to change their position. Alito bets that the government can double them.
But the failure in the Upper House will not be a defeat for President López Obrador, but for Alito. He would leave his party divided and he himself would be isolated. His days as a credible interlocutor with the government and the opposition would be over, a year before he completes his term as the PRI’s national leader.
*Professor at CIDE.