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Union joins effort to influence Mexico's next presidential choice

Even as a labor strike ended yesterday in Mexico, political analysts predicted that such incidents will become more frequent as the maneuvering to pick a new Mexican President intensifies. Many analysts saw the electricians' strike as an attempt by Mexico's strongest labor leader, Fidel Vel'azquez, to discredit a leading candidate, Programming and Budget Secretary Carlos Salinas de Gortari, as a potential successor to President Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado.

Some 36,000 electricians went on strike for six days to protest the government's austerity plan, which was the brainchild of Mr. Salinas de Gortari. The plan provoked a 1986 inflation rate of about 112 percent, and workers lost about 40 percent of their purchasing power. The strike was one of the largest labor disputes the administration has had to tackle in the last five years.

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Salinas de Goratari is seen as one of several people in line for the presidency. Traditionally, the outgoing president chooses his successor. Since the founding of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) 58 years ago, every president has been a party member.

And, despite some internal pressures for reform, there are no signs that the system is about to change. The President and his ruling party have made it clear that the politicking will occur strictly within the traditional rules established by the party.

A group of prominent PRI members wanted to end the system of having its candidates chosen by a only few people in the party hierarchy.

The informal reform movement had hoped to find a better reception from PRI's president who took the helm last fall. He crushed those hopes Wednesday, at the end of PRI's national assembly meeting, saying, ``We have approved the necessary reforms to satisfy the demands of our party members....''

Furthermore, another reform goal - Mr. de la Madrid's plan to end corruption - seems to have ground to a halt. At the assembly, PRI presented two former Presidents, accused of widespread corruption, as ``outstanding members of our organization.'' When asked about this, PRI spokesman Jos'e D'iaz Redondo said ``that [ending corruption] was just politics.''

This move indicated that PRI-style politics, no matter how tainted by actions of former Presidents, would not change.

Political analysts consider the appearance of former Presidents Luis Echeverria and Jos'e L'opez Portillo as both an attempt to display party unity in anticipation of de la Madrid's choice to succeed him and the beginning of de la Madrid asserting his place in history. The President will name his successor this autumn for the 1988 presidential election.

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