Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mexican presidential election 2012 - news clips and sound bites on the campaign trail

If you think American politicians call each other names, read this post

Enrique Peña Nieto "knows nothing about this country," said Manuel Andres López Obrador, pre-campaigning in Yucatán over the weekend (the real thing isn't permitted under Mexican federal election laws until March 30). The PRD candidate made similar remarks last November, when he called his PRI opponent a "soap opera actor" and "part of that group seeking privileges for the few." (

López Obrador is biting at the bit to debate his opponents once the general campaign is underway. He says he'd like to see "10, 20 even 30" debates, so that voters can see what the candidates are all about. About 80 million Mexicans are expected to go to the polls on July 1 to select their next president, who will replace Felipe Calderón.

Enrique Peña Nieto hasn't slung any mud, at least not yet. That's probably because he's so confident. Last week he predicted that PRI would "win by a wide margin," and would capture not only Los Pinos, Mexico's White House, but many federal and state legislative seats, as well governorships in most of the 32 states.

Meanwhile, PAN pre-candidate Ernesto Cordero, one of three vying for his party's nomination, dropped his own A-bomb on López Obrador. Cordero is a former Secretary of the Hacienda -- Mexico's I.R.S. -- and a staunch supporter of business. López Obrador has come under fire in recent days for statements he allegedly made in the 2006 presidential campaign, to the effect that businessmen are just "white collar criminals." The PRD candidate has denied the attributions, and now says that businessmen are essential partners in the development of a better society for all Mexicans. But Cordero (and others) are using the claims to paint López Obrador as a radical populist who wants to massively redistribute wealth in a country where almost 50% subsist at or below the official poverty line. López Obrador lost the 2006 election to president Calderón by one-half of one percent, the closest in Mexican history. He alleges that fraud cheated his party of victory.

Calling the PRD nominee a "snake," Cordero said that López Obrador "wants to reinvent himself, but everyone knows that he's fundamentally anti-democratic, and even when he sheds his skin, a viper yet remains." If you think that's tough language, it sounds even harsher in the original Spanish. President Felipe Calderón more or less endorsed that characterization, by the way.

Cordero says that Josefina Vázquez Mota is his real opponent in the PAN primary contest. I agree with that analysis, and I don't think Cordero can win the nomination, which will be decided by an internal party survey (Mexico does not hold primary elections). Surveys have consistently shown that Vázquez Mota is both the party favorite and the PAN candidate most likely to make a credible showing against the PRI and PRD opponents.

Campaigning in Veracruz today, Mota hit again on a pledge she make earlier this week to "apply the full force of the law" against corruption ( But she upped the ante by saying that she would propose life imprisonment for convicted politicians. In addition, the PAN candidate called for complete repeal of the infamous fuero, a powerful legal immunity for public office holders deeply rooted in Mexico's constitution and political history. Although the Mexican Senate voted to considerably curtail the fuero last year, it still clings to life:

PAN has held the Mexican presidency for 12 years, since the 2000 victory of Vicente Fox. On Feb. 5 it will select the nominee who it hopes will lead it to yet another triumph in July.

Other notes of interest:

Cabinet announcements: It is common for presidential candidates here to announce their cabinet choices, or at least some of them, long before the election. By selecting popular public figures for important posts the candidate may garner further support, while eliminating doubts or concerns about what his or her administration would look like. López Obrador has already named most of his.

Campaign security: All Mexican presidential candidates are eligible for protection at government expense during the general campaign, just as are nominees in the United States. Security is provided by Mexico's crack Estado Mayor Presidencial, which is roughly equivalent to the U.S. Secret Service. But this year, for the first time ever, all federal office candidates (for the Senate and House of Deputies) may be offered protection if a risk evaluation suggests the need, a primary component of which will be the geographical region where the candidate is seeking office. Pre-candidates might also be offered such protection on a discretionary basis. A proposal for these measures is under consideration and will likely be decided in February. Some politicians may prefer to invest in a good set of body armor: .

A primer on Mexican presidential politics:

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