MGR News Analysis - It's never too early to send up the trial balloons
*Updated Feb. 8, 2014 (below)*
Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto just completed his first year in office two weeks ago, and as he told reporters on Dec. 1, he's only 7K into his six year marathon. But that hasn't stopped the press from speculating in recent weeks about who's likely to make a run in 2018. Some have as much as declared their candidacy, while others are merely being suggested as viable or probable candidates. The leading contenders, according to political pundits in this country, include these:
Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong - The man who has Peña Nieto's ear more than any other member of the president's inner circle, the powerful secretary of government is not just the PRI administration's top cabinet officer, but the virtual vice president of Mexico (it doesn't have an official one). Osorio Chong has been the point man for delivery of periodic drug war updates, some of which have been ridiculed by the press and contradicted by the government's own reporting agencies. Domestic security evaluation on the way, says top PRI government official. He is a former governor of Hidalgo state.
Luis Videgaray Caso - Mexico's chief tax collector and budget planner has had a very difficult year, struggling to steer the ship of state through stormy economic seas while the country's business engine all but ground to a halt. Unquestionably loyal to the administration, Videgaray nonetheless displayed some cojones recently when he dared to publicly express pessimism - and disagreement - with Osorio Chong and other officials over the nation's security, especially in violent Michoacán state.
Aristóteles Sandoval - The Institutional Revolutionary Party governor of Jalisco is following, or trying to follow, the exact steps Enrique Peña Nieto took to arrive at Los Pinos, Mexico's White House. Many have commented on the uncanny physical similarities between the two men. When Sandoval hired the same photographer Peña Nieto used for his official portrait - and paid tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money to promote a plainly intended presidential image - the Guadalajara press had a field day. Sandoval, a Roman Catholic, has gone out of this way to keep all constituencies happy - and to heck with what the respected and politically influential archbishop of Guadalajara may say.
PRI twins: the man who would be president, and the one who already is
Eruviel Ávila Villegas - The 44 year old PRI governor of the State of Mexico (Edomex, as it's known here) is a 2018 potential for that reason alone. Edomex lies just beyond the boundaries of Mexico City and the Federal District, and was once governed by another loyal PRIsta - Enrique Peña Nieto.
Manlio Fabio Beltrones Rivera - A household name, Fabio Beltrones is a powerful PRI senator who previously served in the lower chamber, Mexico's always colorful Cámara de Diputados. It's no secret that Fabio Beltrones wanted to run for president last year, but he graciously stepped aside early on so that Peña Nieto could lead the party to victory in 2012. He may prove less gracious in 2018.
MORENA), Manuel López Obrador is either beloved or hated by voters. He's against every new idea - unless it's his own - sees political conspiracies everywhere and regularly calls for acts of civil disobedience against policies of which he does not approve. A two time loser for president (2006 and 2012), AMLO has a slavishly devoted cult following. Indeed, some national columnists opine that most MORENA activists care little about the political party he created out of whole cloth and understand even less about its goals and plans - they just adore the always fiery López Obrador. The lover of all things anti-establishment was sidelined two weeks ago by a serious cardiac event and is still recuperating - one reason among many that MORENA's opposition to energy reforms fizzled and went nowhere.
Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon - The 54 year old former governor of the Federal District is a member of the decidedly left wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), which like a spoiled child pulled out of the Pact for Mexico over the just passed PEMEX energy reforms and has said it's not coming back. But Ebrard, a respected work horse during his tenure in Mexico City and a far cooler head than López Obrador, remains popular with moderate leftists and some centrists. He's made no secret of his intent to run for president in 2018, an idea enthusiastically endorsed by a prominent European newspaper after last year's PRI victory. Spain's El País blasts Manuel López Obrador. Ebrard, who stepped aside in 2011 so that López Obrador could lead a leftist coalition ticket called Movimiento Progresista (MP) in 2012, likely won't pass up the chance to carry the leftist banner himself next time. Ebrard has said "it would be disastrous" if the Left fielded two presidential candidates in 2018 - a not so subtle hint to Manuel López Obrador.
Margarita Zavala Gómez del Campo - The wife of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts these days, where her husband holds a teaching assignment at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The attractive and personable mother of three, 46, is a licenciada en derecho - an attorney - by profession. Zavala has never given the slightest public indication she's interested in running for president, and precisely for that reason the Mexican press is enamored with the idea. But whether this country is ready for a woman president remains to be seen. It most assuredly was not in 2012, even when the candidate showed particular skill at playing political hardball. Zavala is the only member of Mexico's conservative, center right National Action Party (PAN) - male or female - whose name has been regularly mentioned as a possible candidate in 2018.
There will likely be many more mentioned in the months leading up to July 1, 2018. In the meantime, president Enrique Peña Nieto has that marathon to finish.
Jan. 9, 2014 - Mexican politicians draw scrutiny with lavish publicity expenditures
Jan. 3, 2014 - PRI, which has powerful grassroots organizations in every state across the nation, never takes anything for granted. It's already actively recruiting for Mexico's 2015 midterm elections. Party officials predict that by next year, 2.5 million names will have been added to the list of 5 million party regulars already on file. With 7.5 million activists, PRI hopes to do well in 2015 - and in the big contest 36 months later.
Feb. 8, 2014 - López Obrador all but announced today that he'll be a candidate for president in 2018. Third time's a charm, perhaps he thinks. If AMLO does run again, the ultra Left which he represents will destroy any chance the more moderate and reasonable Left (the Democratic Revolution Party, or PRD, represented by former Federal District governor Marcelo Ebrard) would have to capture the race - even Ebard has said it would be disastrous. That means Mexico's next president will be either from PRI or PAN, and most likely the former. López Obrador is a perennial party spoiler for Mexico's Left.
Feb. 9, 2014 - López Obrador iría por la presidencia en 2018
Mar. 30 - At a conference in California, López Obrador repeats that he'll likely be a candidate in 2018.
Feb. 5, 2014 - Manuel López Obrador files criminal complaint against Enrique Peña Nieto for treason
Dec. 18 - Not much democracy in "Democratic" Revolution Party
Dec. 10 - Foreign Policy names Peña Nieto a top Global Thinker
Nov. 11 - The Left is alive and well in Mexico, and it comes in several flavors
Sept. 19 - Opinion: Mexico's Left determined to shackle the nation to the past
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