Manuel Ca­ma­cho So­lis, a skilled politi­cian who quit Mex­ico’s PRI, was 69.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Tracy Wilkin­son tracy.wilkin­son@la­ Wilkin­son re­ported from Mex­ico City.

Manuel Ca­ma­cho So­lis, a vet­eran politi­cian in Mex­ico who served as govern­ment ne­go­tia­tor with re­belling peas­ants in the 1990s and later turned against the rul­ing party, has died. He was 69.

Mex­ico City Mayor Miguel An­gel Mancera an­nounced Ca­ma­cho’s death early Fri­day on Twit­ter. The cause was re­ported as brain cancer.

A sen­a­tor since 2012 for the left­ist Demo­cratic Revo­lu­tion Party (PRD), Ca­ma­cho was praised for his ne­go­ti­at­ing skills and deft abil­ity to carry out be­hind-thescenes po­lit­i­cal ma­neu­ver­ing.

A Times pro­file in 1994 de­scribed him as both “the black sheep of Mex­i­can pol­i­tics” and “his na­tion’s great con­cil­ia­tor.”

For decades he was a stal­wart in the po­lit­i­cal party that ruled Mex­ico vir­tu­ally un­chal­lenged since 1930, the In­sti­tu­tional Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Party (PRI). He served in nu­mer­ous lead­er­ship posts, in­clud­ing what was then the equiv­a­lent of the mayor of Mex­ico City in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Ca­ma­cho was seen as a right-hand man to Pres­i­dent Car­los Sali­nas de Gor­tari (1988-94), both loyal and sharp. He ex­pected to be ap­pointed as Sali­nas’ suc­ces­sor; in those days the sit­ting pres­i­dent, al­ways from the PRI, des­ig­nated the can­di­date to re­place him.

But in 1993, with elec­tions ap­proach­ing the next year, Sali­nas nom­i­nated a less-known pro­tege, Luis Don­aldo Colo­sio.

Ca­ma­cho was said to have been crushed and be­gan to dis­tance him­self from Sali­nas and the PRI lead­er­ship.

In Jan­uary of 1994, ev­ery­thing changed. In­dige­nous peas­ants in the south­ern Chi­a­pas state, call­ing them­selves the Za­p­atista Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army and led by a charis­matic, pipesmok­ing Mex­i­can who iden­ti­fied him­self as Sub­co­man­dante Mar­cos, staged a re­bel­lion that chal­lenged the sta­tus quo. The govern­ment dis­patched the army, and dozens of peo­ple were killed.

Ea­ger to rein in the re­bel­lion, Sali­nas sent Ca­ma­cho to Chi­a­pas as a spe­cial peace en­voy. Ca­ma­cho and Bishop Sa­muel Ruiz, a Ro­man Catholic cleric re­spected by the guer­ril­las, ne­go­ti­ated with the rebels for months.

The talks raised Ca­ma­cho’s pro­file na­tion­wide, over­shad­ow­ing Colo­sio’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. In March 1994, Colo­sio was as­sas­si­nated at a cam­paign ap­pear­ance.

But Ca­ma­cho was passed over again as the can­di­date when Sali­nas tapped Ernesto Zedillo.

The fol­low­ing year, Ca­ma­cho fi­nally split from the govern­ment and the PRI, form­ing his own left­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. It was a tur­bu­lent pe­riod mark­ing the first ma­jor chal­lenges to the PRI.

Writ­ing in the Los An­ge­les Times opin­ion pages in 1994, po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Denise Dresser sug­gested that Ca­ma­cho could shake up the stul­ti­fied Mex­i­can po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, but that he was “no bea­con of democ­racy.”

“Ca­ma­cho is a Mex­i­can ver­sion of Ja­pan’s Mori­hiro Hosokawa — a prag­matic tac­ti­cian us­ing a cri­sis and the at­ten­dant out­cry for re­form to fur­ther his po­lit­i­cal stand­ing,” she wrote. “Like Hosokawa, he can be viewed as a mod­ern­izer but also as an op­por­tunist, seek­ing to trans­form the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem so that he can lead it.”

Ca­ma­cho ran for pres­i­dent, un­suc­cess­fully, but helped shape what was un­til re­cently the ma­jor left­ist party, the PRD.

In 2000, the PRI’s hold on pres­i­den­tial power was fi­nally shaken, although it would be a right-wing can­di­date, Vi­cente Fox of the Na­tional Ac­tion Party (PAN), who won the of­fice.

In 2011-12, when it looked as though the PRI was about to make a come­back and re­turn to the pres­i­den­tial palace, Ca­ma­cho was again in his el­e­ment, fight­ing to un­der­cut the PRI’s suc­cess. He chal­lenged the PRI’s time-hon­ored prac­tice of buy­ing votes with gifts to con­stituents. He ac­cused the party of over­spend­ing il­le­gally and warned of a re­turn of an un­mod­ern party with au­to­cratic ten­den­cies.

The PRI’s Enrique Peña Ni­eto won elec­tion as pres­i­dent in 2012.

In­for­ma­tion on Ca­ma­cho’s sur­vivors was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Jean Marc Bouju As­so­ci­ated Press

BE­HIND-THE-SCENES NE­GO­TIA­TOR Ca­ma­cho ad­dresses the me­dia in 1994. A Times pro­file that year de­scribed him

as “the black sheep of Mex­i­can pol­i­tics” and “his na­tion’s great con­cil­ia­tor.”

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