An excerpt from Cuernavaca……

Raul took care to park his car several blocks
from his destination.

Even though darkness had descended on
Cuernavaca, he didn’t want to risk curious eyes noticing his visit to this
particular address, and his ride was likely the only fire engine red BMW
convertible in the city. At least he’d never seen another one. With a fedora
pulled down to the middle of his forehead, Raul walked as quickly as he felt he
could without attracting attention. Only one car had gone by as he walked, and
he turned his face away from the narrow street as it passed.

From the street, his destination resembled many
upper class properties in Cuernavaca, the residence invisible and securely
embedded behind a high, solid wall topped with a spiraling loop of razor wire.
A large steel double door allowed vehicles to enter only with permission, and
the entire enclosure was painted black.
Raul knew the home hidden behind the high wall must be substantial
because the wall stretched for several hundred feet along the curb — far longer
than the enclosures of any of the other properties he’d passed. Affluence in
Cuernavaca often could be measured by the amount of frontage of a razor wire
topped wall.

He pressed the call button
next to a man door and waited. After a few seconds, a scratchy, barely
understandable voice asked his name through the intercom.

"Raul Cathedra."

Raul sensed eyes on him, through a security
camera, he guessed. Uneasy, he waited on the walk, turning his face away from
the street when a car passed. He’d waited long enough to grow impatient before
he heard "adelante," followed by a sharp metallic click as the lock on the
heavy door disengaged. He pushed the door open and stepped in, finally shielded
from the street.

His first look at the residence inside
confirmed his assessment. Toward the rear of the lot, a large, elegant two
story home and a smaller outbuilding he thought to be a guest house, or
quarters for a servant, rested on the far side of a lush lawn. The whole scene
was bathed in soft accent lighting that showed off meticulous landscaping, the
grassy areas and flower beds all neatly edged. Bright lights shone through the windows
and open doors of the residence as a hissing automatic sprinkling system tossed
gentle streams of water onto the lawn in front of it.

The black, unwelcoming security wall that had
greeted him on the outside enclosed the entire property, providing a comfortable
sense of privacy. From the inside, surrounding the manicured grounds, the razor
wire seemed out of place.

After a few minutes, a short, slight man
emerged from the house and walked toward him.

Senor Cathedra. I’m Felipe Bencivenga.
From Oro’s staff. Thank you for
coming. Most of the people you’ll be meeting are already here. There were
preliminary discussions earlier in the evening with some of the others and I
apologize for having to ask you to park outside, but, as you can see, the drive
is already quite full."

He gestured toward the cars that filled the
drive leading to the front of the residence. Raul noticed the makes of the
parked vehicles. BMW, Audi, Lexus, Mercedes. The idea that he hadn’t been
invited to attend the entire evening with their owners troubled him.

What was
it that I wasn’t privileged to hear? Am I not important enough?

Bencivenga escorted Raul into the living room
of the residence, where two dozen people talked in subdued voices. Everyone had
a drink, and several smoked, able to avoid offending the others because the
warm Cuernavaca night allowed for the opening of the room’s oversized sliding
doors. A light, refreshing breeze flowed through the space. Raul recognized
several of Cuernavaca’s important business and community figures, the presence
of some a surprise at a meeting like this. A few he’d done business with nodded
in his direction when their eyes met, and he assumed they were here searching
for opportunity, the same as he. He guessed others were simply curious or
enjoyed the excitement of attending a meeting with a controversial national
figure. The mood of the room felt like a party where one knew all of the other
guests, but still had to be mindful of where the conversation led.

seen here is probably as much risk as most of these people ever take.

Raul spotted Rodrigo Oro, whom he recognized
from television, and whose visit to Cuernavaca was the purpose of the meeting.
Wasting no time, Raul walked straight toward him.

"It’s an honor to meet you, Senor Oro," Raul
said extending his hand to the tall, immaculately groomed Oro. "I’m Raul

With a slow, deliberate motion, Oro placed his
drink on a small table before turning to face Raul and accepting his hand.

"Please, it’s Rodrigo," he said with a soft
spoken manner that surprised Raul, who’d expected a more sharply cut demeanor,
and appearance. Oro was dressed in a neatly tailored tan linen sport coat that
framed an open collar French blue shirt.

"Just don’t call me RENO, like the newspapers,"
Oro said, smiling. "The acronym serves its purpose, but the truth is, I hate
it. And the honor is mine, Raul."

Rodrigo appeared to study Raul for a fleeting
moment before continuing.

"My friends in Cuernavaca speak highly of your
political skill."

Raul wondered, and worried, about just how much
Rodrigo knew about him. The presence of so many wealthy people in the room
suggested to Raul that Rodrigo probably knew his bank balance, and perhaps
where the money had come from as well.

"You know, we take a bit of a chance inviting
you here," Rodrigo said, his eyes searching Raul’s face. "But then, life is
full of risks as well as opportunities, isn’t it?"

A chance?
I wonder what he knows?

"Indeed it is, Rodrigo. But you take no risk
with me," he said. "I doubt we disagree on very much."

He liked the idea of calling Oro by his first

"That’s good to hear. We’re facing a difficult
challenge in the next few months and we’ll need committed people who have
Mexico’s future in their hearts, as I hope you do."

Rodrigo paused for a moment, his ice blue eyes
locked on Raul.

"Tell me, Raul," Rodrigo asked. "What would you
expect to accomplish if I’m successful? Personally, I mean."

"Like you, I believe in Mexico," Raul said.

He wanted to make an impression, and had given a
lot of thought about what to say when he met Oro.

"My work is devoted to preserving our patrimony
and so it isn’t much of a leap to devote myself to her future as well," he
added, particularly proud that he’d come up with that phrase. "I’ve no desire
to be a hero, but if I believe that I have a place in the future of Mexico,
then I’ll fight with you for Mexico. And for myself at the same time. If there’s
risk, well, then there’s risk."

He’d come on strong with a national political
figure he’d barely met, and hoped it wasn’t a mistake.

Rodrigo Ernesto Neron Oro was the undisputed
head of the left wing Partido de Revolucionario Accion and would be the PRA
candidate in the national election for president in July. The 58-year-old Oro
looked almost 10 years younger, and his charismatic personality commanded a
devoted, and at times, fanatical, following.

Rodrigo was a committed populist who’d grown up
in the barrios outside of Mexico City. He’d fought his way through the rough
Mexican political culture and eventually rose to become mayor of Mexico City,
and then governor of the state of Hidalgo, adjacent to the capital. His
admiration for the Castros and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez pretty well summed up
his world view. He despised the norteamericanos, whom he viewed as exploiters
of his country, much as the Spaniards had been when they arrived over 500 years

Despite his rough-hewn past and his sometimes
harsh views, Rodrigo was as polished as a gemstone. His handsome, silver haired
bearing and soft spoken conversation charmed women, who often found him
irresistible. Rodrigo could draw people to him and make them want to believe in
him. A dynamic orator, his effect on a crowd could be as intoxicating as a
drug. Privately, his staff sometimes referred to him as "la droga Oro."

Raul had presented himself to Rodrigo as a man
who could be counted on as long as there was something significant in it for
him, which was, in fact, an accurate assessment.

"You’re refreshingly honest, my friend,"
Rodrigo said. "Not many are willing to admit they need to be invested
personally in our success. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t
lose sight of the purpose you serve. Never lose sight of that, my friend."

After talking with Raul, Rodrigo paused to
spend time with several other guests, working the room. Some had been invited
because they had wealth that could be of use to him. Others had influence in
the state government, or in the civic and commercial institutions of the
capital city of the state of Morelos. In common, all belonged to one of Mexico’s
other two political parties, the PRI and the PAN, and, to succeed, he needed
support from many like them. After he finished his rounds, Rodrigo moved to the
center of the salon, surrounded by his guests.

"Damas y caballeros…..I want to talk to you
of Mexico… and her future."

Unlike the quiet, conversational tone he’d
shared with each of them a few minutes earlier, his voice now carried a
resonance and depth that filled the small space. With a few brief words, spoken
barely loud enough for everyone to hear over the subdued background
conversation, he’d commanded the room to fall silent. He waited a few seconds
for the room to settle completely.

"In a few months the course of our country’s
history will change."

He paused as his eyes moved about the room, taking
care to make contact with most of the guests.

"The future of our beloved Mexico will change,"
he repeated, his voice now rising slightly. "Permit me to explain. Our history,
sadly, has been one of choices between groups of corrupt thieves who govern for
themselves and who turn their backs on the people. Every six years, after the
sexenio has run its course, our people get to choose…but what exactly have
they had to choose between? They get to choose only which group of thieves will
steal for the next six years, and nothing more. With your help, this is the
year it will end. Mexico is a great and abundant country, mis amigos, but she
needs leaders who will rule for all of los Mexicanos, not only for the
privileged. Mexico must be for los Mexicanos. For all of them. And it falls on
us as leaders to make it so."

Rodrigo’s words electrified Raul. He’d seen
Rodrigo speak on television many times, but the way his presence dominated the room
went beyond anything Raul had expected. Clearly, the salon was too small a
stage for him. Raul looked around as the rapt guests all stared at Rodrigo,
but, here and there, as he surveyed the faces of people he knew well, Raul
thought he saw judgment being withheld.

"The Mexico of the future will not be for the
norteamericanos to exploit. They think they are the new conquistadores. The
gringos make deals with our corrupt government so that they can build their
factories here, and then what do the gringos do? They use our people as cheap labor
to make their products while they pay three or four times as much to workers in
their own country. And for a price, our government lets them get away with it."

No one moved or made a sound.

"And when our people try to join their families
in the north, to find work at a decent wage, what then?" he asked. "What then?
The gringos build fences to keep them out. They treat our people like
criminals. The gringos have conveniently forgotten that their own patrimony was
made of immigrants who spoke no English and came with nothing but hunger in
their bellies. Our corrupt government does business with these people, when it
should have stood with Chavez. This must change too, mis amigos."

"You were invited here because others listen to
you and will follow you. You are all leaders in Morelos but most of you, for
reasons I well understand, are not members of my party. That is precisely why
you were invited here this evening. I respect the realities you have to deal
with, and the risks you have personally accepted by coming here to speak to me,
but I must ask now if you share my vision for Mexico. If you do, party will not
matter to you. Mexico will matter more."

Raul had made his decision before he’d arrived
at the meeting.

"I feel as you do, Rodrigo. I stand with Mexico,"
he shouted.

"Muchisimas gracias, Raul. I’m in your debt.
You serve our country and honor your patrimony."

Around the room it went, most of the others
voicing support, some more enthusiastically than others as each calculated how
his own interests might be affected if this impressive man eventually succeeded
and they hadn’t been invested in him.

"Let me speak of something else, mis amigos. If
we’re unsuccessful in the election, I fully expect it will be because the
government bought the votes it needed, or simply miscounted them. It’s happened
before, and they’ll do it again if they must. If we let them get away with
that, then what good have we done? What is the point of pretending to have a
democracy? If we simply permit them to dictate the outcome there is no

"We must not let that happen. Not this time. It
has to be different, and we must do whatever is necessary to assure the proper
result. If we have to take to the streets to vindicate the will of the people,
and take the government from their hands and return it to the people by
whatever means we can, then so be it."

The audience which had been entertained by
Rodrigo’s speech now stood in stunned silence. "Take to the streets?" their
expressions asked. Raul was as unprepared as the rest, yet understood Rodrigo
perfectly. He found the prospects both frightening and exhilarating. He sensed
the opportunity to be in on something monumental, to be an insider.

As he had in so many other places, Rodrigo had
tried to plant another seed of revolution.

Cuernavaca is available in paperback and as an ebook for Kindle at

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