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"There is not a single indication that the party has changed," said Jose Antonio Crespo, an analyst at the Center for Economic Studies.
PRI officials disagree.
"If someone in the party has committed a crime, we are the first to ask that the law be applied in the strongest way possible," said Emilio Lozoya, 37, Pena Nieto’s coordinator of international affairs.
When the PRI lost the 2000 election, people wept with joy in the streets. The overthrow was decades in the making, a mostly peaceful and gradual revolt that led to the victory of Vicente Fox of the National Action Party.
The PRI had been dubbed "the perfect dictatorship" by Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa because everything was conducted under the guise of democratic elections, in which a president could only serve a single six-year term.
"The PRI is a party that was born without ideology," said historian Lorenzo Meyer at the College of Mexico. "It has an authoritarian mentality ... Its principle objective is to have power and to enjoy it, but with some intelligence, not like an animal."
It was founded in 1929 under President Plutarco Elias Calles, whose National Revolutionary Party imposed presidential control, discipline among party members nationwide, and granted power in exchange for loyalty.
By 1946 it assumed its current name, the colors of the Mexican flag and won a majority of laborers, peasants and social activists, boasting representatives in virtually every community in the country.
Opponents warn that the PRI will return to its old tactics. But others say that’s no longer possible even it wants to: The ushering in of democracy in 2000 effectively weakened the presidency and broke its hold on institutions.
"The power of the presidency migrated to the governors," said Luis Rubio, president of the Center for Development Studies, a political and economy analysis firm.
Many voters now see all parties as equally corrupt. The PAN and the PRD have suffered their own PRI-style public scandals, including Fox’s illegal campaign contributions from a group of private donors known as "Friends of Fox."
"There is no evidence that corruption diminishes with an alternative," said Luis Carlos Ugalde, former president of Mexico’s National Electoral Institute.
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