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OXNARD : Mexico Leftist Leader Speaks Before 200

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It was hardly as emotional as the fiery orations he delivered earlier this month in the Mexican village of Coyuca de Benitez--when local peasants burned down the town hall after his speech.

But when twice-defeated Mexican presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas came to Ventura County on Thursday for a discussion on “Mexico’s March Toward Democracy,” more than 200 local political junkies listened raptly to the leftist leader’s every word.

The event, sponsored by the Ventura County World Affairs Council, was held at the tony Tower Club on the 22nd floor of the Oxnard Financial Plaza.

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Cardenas, founder of Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution, said the United States and Mexico need to work together to solve the immigration crisis, block drug smuggling and knock down trade barriers.

But he said that with the Institutional Revolutionary Party in power for more than 70 years, Mexico is not a democracy and must become responsive to the needs of its citizenry before true relations can be achieved.

“The PRI served its purpose a long time ago,” Cardenas said in steady English. “And it is now living on borrowed time.”

Cardenas defected from the PRI in 1987 and almost won the presidency in 1988. Many Mexicans still believe he was the true winner of the elections.

But he placed third in last year’s Mexican election.

Marco Antonio del Castillo, a deejay on Oxnard’s Radio Lobo, said many of Oxnard’s Latinos are interested in Cardenas. But they could not attend because the fee--$25 for non-members of the World Affairs Council--was too steep.

“In Oxnard, a lot of people don’t have $25 to throw away like that,” he said. “If they did, they would take their wives dancing or something, not to hear Cardenas.”

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