Sunday, March 11, 2012

PRD, PAN candidates "take the oath"; Obrador, Mota summon the party faithful

"Mexico's crime and violence are due primarily to lack of economic development and lack of jobs, especially for the young" - PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador

In Mexico presidential candidates take an oath at the beginning of the formal campaign season, promising to represent the goals and interests of their parties to the best of their ability. Today PRD (Democratic Revolution Party) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador and PAN (National Action Party) nominee Josefina Vázquez Mota both took theirs. The oaths are a clarion call to political battle, which officially begins in this three party nation on March 30.

The PRD candidate
López Obrador hit economic themes in his acceptance speech. Declaring that PRD would turn the country "inside out," the candidate said that Mexico lacks more than just the material basics for millions of its citizens, but has lost its core vales as well. It's a familiar refrain for López Obrador, who attributes the enormous wealth and power of the drug cartels to lack of hope on the part of Mexico's aimless youth, who serve as ready recruits.

Last year López Obrador -- invariably referred to here as the country's leftist candidate -- announced a massive "New Deal style" jobs plan for Mexico, where many young people are unemployed ( The candidate has promised seven million new jobs in the first year of his administration -- four million in the first six weeks. He's also said that he'll halve the pay of top government officials ( Mexico's president receives base monthly pay of 247,000 pesos (almost $19,000 USD), while Mexican cabinet secretaries earn 200,000 pesos ($15,000 USD) per month. In addition, all government officials receive extraordinary perks. In a country where the minimum monthly wage is 1,800 pesos -- $135 USD -- and where workers got a trifling 4.2% pay raise last year, López Obrador's proposals will likely prove popular with those on the bottom rungs of the ladder.

But in an effort to calm big business, the well-to-do and Mexico's jittery middle class -- which wants to stay in that spot -- López Obrador frequently claims that he's no Robin Hood ( In December the candidate said, "We're going to see to it that (Mexico's) budget takes care of everybody, we're not going to take anything from the rich, but we're going to be sure that the budget is not corrupted."

"We're going to convince the doubters, we're going to tell them that there are only two roads: either to continue with the oppression, with more of the same, which is what our opponents stand for, or the other road, which is one of real change. The people are going to make the decision, to choose their own destiny; the people are going to wake up, and neither propaganda nor campaign publicity nor money can buy their support, that just won't work," argued the candidate.

"We can't continue with the sin (of ignoring) social needs, by not helping those who remain behind." He added that his administration would "govern for everybody, we're going to take care of and listen to everybody, and respect everybody, but we're going to give preference to the humble people of our country."

Noting that Mexico's annual federal budget of 3.5 trillion pesos (about $260 billion USD) represents over 10,000 pesos per family, López Obrador argues that budgetary goals must be established with fairness and a greater sense of social justice. But at the same time he emphasizes, "We're not trying to take anything from anybody, we're not going to take from the rich to give to the poor."

What could well hurt the PRD candidate this year is his drug war stance. López Obrador has repeatedly called for a removal of Mexican military forces from the offensive, and for cancellation of president Felipe Calderón's National Security Strategy launched in Dec. 2006. ( In a year where Mexicans of every political stripe agree that domestic security is the overriding national concern, López Obrador's promise to "return the army to its quarters and the drug war to local police" within six months may instill confidence in few.

The PAN candidate
In her acceptance speech Josefina Vázquez Mota stressed national security and an end to special privileges (such as legal immunity) for politicians and office holders. Mota urges life in prison for crooked elected leaders and government officials convicted of corruption (, and says she'll make "no deals with criminals," refuting those who propose peace with the cartels ( Vázquez Mota is firmly committed to the Calderón drug war strategy, including use of the armed forces, but would open a "second phase" of the war focused on ridding local police of corruption and retraining them for eventual resumption of narcotics interdiction duties ( On Feb. 5 Vázquez Mota handily won the three way PAN internal primary, capturing 54% of the 547,000 ballots cast and easily defeating both of her male opponents. (

Today Vázquez Mota told cheering supporters, "PAN has changed the face of Mexico. We have a party that's changed the country in the last 12 years. There's no censorship, there's freedom of expression, there's standing up to crime, there's no omnipotent presidency, there's a balance and sharing of governmental powers."

"Fellow PANistas, we face the challenge of renewing democracy: it's a moment for unity, a time for resolving our differences in strict accord with democratic principles, and above all, a time to remember that PAN belongs not to us, but to the citizens."

The 2012 prospects
Numerous presidential preference polls have been taken in recent weeks, and perhaps not surprisingly the candidates' fortunes have ebbed and waned. But thus far, the real contest seems to be between Vázquez Mota and PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, who just a few weeks ago was widely regarded as a shoo-in. The latest poll published Feb. 29 showed a big surge by the PAN nominee:

PRI - Enrique Peña Nieto: 36%
PAN - Josefina Vázquez Mota: 29%
PRD - Andrés Manuel López Obrador: 17%

Mexicans will go the polls to select their next president on Sunday, July 1. He -- or she -- will take office on Dec. 1, and serve for 72 months. The government says that up to 80 million people are expected to vote.

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Mexican officials may lose historic legal immunity:

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