Tag Archives: amlo

Mexico starts to fight back in earnest against Trump’s US border wall and protectionism threat

Former president Vicente Fox takes a bat to a Trump-shaped piñata in September.

Vicente Fox wants you to know that Mexico is not paying for ‘that fucking wall.’

Though US president Donald Trump officially took office just six days ago, his willingness to push his key campaign proposal of building a border wall along the southern border of the United States has already touched off a diplomatic crisis with Mexican officials. After Trump enacted an executive order (of somewhat dubious legality) instructing the federal government to start construction on the wall, Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto cancelled a planned trip to meet Trump in Washington today.

Though Peña Nieto welcomed Trump on a surprise campaign visit to Mexico City last summer, backing down from confronting someone who was then just the Republican Party presidential nominee, Wednesday’s executive order and the White House’s insistence that Mexico will pay for the wall led Peña Nieto to push back in a video message late Wednesday night. Trump responded with his own Twitter rant on Thursday, essentially daring Peña Nieto to cancel the meeting, during which the two presidents planned to discuss cooperation on security and renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

No one, however, has been more outspoken against Trump than Fox, who served as president between 2000 and 2006 and who has railed against Trump’s proposed border wall, routinely in profane terms. In September, Fox gleefully took a bat to a Trump-shaped piñata and, upon completion, noted that Trump was just was empty-brained as the empty piñata.

Fox is a former president who knows a little something about political revolutions.

In 2000, he became the first president in seven decades from outside the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party). His election, to this day, represents a watershed moment in Mexico’s multiparty democracy. Fox (and his successor) are members of the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party) that held the Mexican presidency for 12 years — until the telegenic Peña Nieto’s election in 2012, when the PRI returned to Los Pinos. Fox, like George W. Bush in the 1990s, was a governor, and before the Sept. 2001 terrorist attacks refocused the Bush administration’s efforts, the two presidents had hoped to work together on immigration reform and deeper harmonization between the two countries, a priority that fell to the back burner with two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Continue reading Mexico starts to fight back in earnest against Trump’s US border wall and protectionism threat

Peña Nieto needs a Trump-sized confrontation to help his ailing presidency

Nearly two-thirds into his presidency, Enrique Peña Nieto is far more unpopular than either of his two predecessors. (Facebook)
Nearly two-thirds into his presidency, Enrique Peña Nieto is far more unpopular than either of his two predecessors. (Facebook)

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was elected in July 2012 to great fanfare, so it was almost certain that his administration would fall well short of expectations.Mexico Flag Icon

In the leadup to that 2012 presidential election, Peña Nieto spent so many years as such a heavy frontrunner he was practically Mexico’s president-in-waiting. When he ultimately won the presidency by a margin of around 6.5%, it was less than polls predicted, but still the largest margin of victory in a presidential election since 1994. With movie star looks and a bona-fide star for a wife in Angélica Rivera, a model and telenovela actress, his victory was a triumph not only for himself, but for his party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party), which lost the presidency in 2000 after seven decades of consecutive rule in Mexico and that spent a difficult decade shut out of executive power at the national level. In Peña Nieto, the telegenic former governor of the state of Mexico, with over 15 million people, by far the largest in the country and the surrounding state of Mexico’s central federal district.

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RELATED: For El Paso-Juárez,
Trump’s vision of Mexico based on misconception

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When he rose to the presidency, Peña Nieto was widely expected to do just two things as the face of what Mexican voters believed to be a reformed and a modernizing PRI.

First, Peña Nieto would enact a range of reforms liberalizing everything from Mexico’s energy sector to its tax collections scheme. Second, Peña Nieto would bring peace to a country roiled by drug violence, lethal competition among drug cartel and what seemed like an increasingly self-defeating militarized response to drug violence by Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón, of the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party).

On both fronts, Peña Nieto fell short of expectations.

While Mexico might today be more becalmed than in 2012, violence and government incompetence have dominated headlines. Peña Nieto’s presidency will forever be marred by the abduction and assassination of 43 students in Iguala by police officers in Guerrero state in September 2014. The glory of his government’s capture in 2014 of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, the leader of the infamous Sinaloa cartel, was soon eclipsed by his escape from a maximum-security prison in 2015, and Guzmán, recaptured seven months later, now faces extradition to the United States.

Peña Nieto’s presidency has been a mix of the good (significant political and economic reforms), the bad (corruption, impunity at the highest level of the PRI and his own administration and ineptitude in the face of cartel strength) and the ugly (the Iguala massacre).

By most measures, though, his performance has been far worse than many observers expected, with less impressive reforms than promised and a legacy of sporadic drug violence, police brutalization, personal conflict-of-interest scandals and continuing widespread corruption at all levels of government. That’s all on top of a Mexican economy struggling to deal with far lower global prices for oil and other commodities. It’s so bad that his approval rating sank earlier this month to just 23%, lower than any Mexican president since Ernesto Zedillo faced an acute peso crisis in the mid-1990s.

In the July 2015 midterm elections, the PRI lost nine seats in the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies), the lower house of the Mexican congress, and in the June 2016 gubernatorial elections, the PRI lost power in states it’s held since 1929 — including Veracruz, Tamaulipas Durango and Quintana Roo.

Just this week, as he prepares to deliver his state of the union address on Thursday, Peña Nieto has faced down embarrassing revelations that he plagiarized much of the thesis that he submitted for his law degree. Earlier this month, his wife faced fresh accusations of a new conflicts-of-interest scandal involving the use of a luxury apartment from a Mexican businessman in Miami.

So as the Mexican president prepares to welcome Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for an unexpected private meeting on Wednesday, it’s no understatement that Mexico’s beleaguered president could use a diversion. With his approval ratings so low, though, Trump presents an easy target. Continue reading Peña Nieto needs a Trump-sized confrontation to help his ailing presidency

Mexican left disintegrates as midterms approach

amlo

With a little patience and a little luck, the 2015 Mexican midterms could have been the magic moment for the long-tormented Mexican left. Mexico Flag Icon

The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) and one of its founder, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, is widely thought to have been fraudulently denied victory in the 1988 presidential election. In the 2006 presidential election, former Mexican City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or ‘AMLO’) came tantalizing close to winning a race that was presumed his election to lose. In the 2012 presidential election, a race that was supposed to be a runaway landslide for Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, López Obrador (pictured above) still managed to come within 7% of Peña Nieto.

It’s an understatement to say that Peña Nieto’s presidency has been a disappointment. Mexicans were wary of returning to power the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which governed uninterrupted between 1929 and 2000. Those instincts may have been sharp. Peña Nieto has not inspired confidence in his ability to reduce drug violence and the accompanying corruption that surrounds it, his landmark reforms to liberalize the Mexican state energy company haven’t been followed by subsequent tax reforms, Mexico’s economic growth sluggish by historical standards and Peña Nieto, his wife and finance secretary Luis Videgaray have all been tarred by accusations of personal financial impropriety.

Mexican voters, however, seem disinclined to turn back to the conservative party that held the presidency between 2000 and 2012, the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party), which managed to enact even fewer reforms and performed no better on drug violence. In an alternate universe, that would leave space for a challenge from the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution). Nevertheless, the party and the Mexican left, in general, is so divided that it is in no shape to emerge as a viable alternative.

For starters, the PRD is just as entangled in the mess of violence and corruption as the PRI. Despite the fact that the Peña Nieto administration has received well-deserved grief for its response to last September’s horrifying massacre of 43 unarmed students in Iguala, the PRD governor of Guerrero state, Ángel Aguirre, was forced to resign after his government did little to seek justice, and it was a PRD official who served as the Iguala mayor accused of involvement in, and cover-up of, the students’ murders.

Out of nine states with gubernatorial elections, the PRD is competing in just two of them — Guerrero and Michoacán, both of which have been plagued by corruption and drug violence in recent years. It not only highlights that the PRD’s roots lie in the indigenous-heavy south, but also that the PRD has failed to become a legitimately national party.

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RELATED: From Cárdenas to López Obrador —
why the Mexican left just can’t win

RELATED: Two years in, Iguala massacre
threatens Peña Nieto presidency

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Most polls show that the PRI, despite the pessimism about the country’s course over the past three years, will win the largest share of the vote in the July 7 elections, possibly even perpetuating the party’s narrow hold, with a handful of allies, on the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies), the 500-member lower house of the Mexican congress.

mexico chamber

Instead of working together to unite toward the common goal of winning power across Mexico in the 2015 midterm elections and propelling the PRD into contention for the 2018 election, its leaders have engaged in petty infighting and recriminations. Continue reading Mexican left disintegrates as midterms approach

World leaders descend upon Chávez funeral: one photo, but mil palabras

whoswho

What’s always been so interesting about chavismo is the way that the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez managed to build alliances both with just about every leader in Latin America, no matter how radical or moderate, while also building close alliances with a ‘who’s who’ of world rogue leaders on poor terms with the United States of America.Venezuela Flag Icon

It makes for an interesting set of photos from Chávez’s funeral — the photo above comes from the Facebook feed of Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of México, a country that’s had relatively little use for Venezuela over the past 14 years — former president Felipe Calderón used Chávez as a boogeyman in the 2006 Mexican presidential election to warn voters against the one-time leftist frontrunner, former Mexican City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and that may have made the difference in that election.

Chávez died Tuesday in Caracas after a long fight with cancer, suddenly bringing to life Venezuelan politics that had largely been frozen in waiting on Chávez’s health since his 11-point reelection in October 2012.

Peña Nieto was expected to move Mexican relations closer to Venezuela than under the more right-wing Calderón, but Peña Nieto and Chávez were hardly best friends.  That relationship was part and parcel of the diverse set of relationships that Chávez had with the rest of Latin America — sometimes ally, sometimes foil, sometimes donor and often, all three simultaneously.  Those relationships, all of which are on display this week in Caracas, give us a rough sense of whether chavismo — and the broader form of the populist, socialist left that has been on the rise in Latin America (though not necessarily in its largest, most economically successful, countries like México and Brazil) — will live beyond Chávez.

Peña Nieto is in the fourth row, standing between businessman Ricardo Martinelli, Panama’s conservative president to his left and Peruvian president Ollanta Humala to his right.  Humala, who won a very close election in 2011 in Perú, was feared as a potential chavista radical leftist, anathema to Peru’s business elite, despite renouncing a chavista-style government in Perú.  In fact, Humala has turned out to govern as a business-friendly moderate, garnering relatively more criticism from environmentalists and social activists on the left since his election.

There in the front row, you can see Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Cuba’s president Raúl Castro (who has the distinction of belonging to both the ‘rogue state’ and ‘Latin American’ groups), the new ‘acting’ first lady of Venezuela Cilia Flores, and her husband, acting president Nicolás Maduro. Continue reading World leaders descend upon Chávez funeral: one photo, but mil palabras

How AMLO’s spinoff movement could help the PRD in Mexico

Since losing the 2012 Mexican presidential election on July 1 to Enrique Peña Nieto, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been working at every turn to invalidate the result — through mass mobilization of his supporters to a lawsuit (since dismissed) charging wide scale fraud.

López Obrador (known simply as “AMLO” throughout Mexico) came in a surprisingly close second place in July, winning 32% to Peña Nieto’s 38%, and the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) won 140 seats in the Cámara de Diputados, the lower house of the Mexican Congress, an increase of 52 seats for the PRD, which kept Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional(PRI) from an absolute majority.  While it is very likely true that the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years from 1929 until 2000, engaged in some amount of fraud, especially in Mexico’s more rural states, some of which have been controlled by the PRI for 80+ years and running — but not the kind of fraud that would make up 6% of the electorate in Latin America’s second-most populous country.

Earlier this month, however, AMLO left the PRD to join forces with the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (MORENA, the National Regeneration Movement), an umbrella group that combines elements of even more leftist forces in Mexico and the #YoSoy132 youth protest movement that notably highlighted the issue of fraud before the election and served (and continues to serve) as a broad anti-PRI bulwark. It seems clear that AMLO is angling to form a second party on the Mexican left in advance of the 2015 legislative midterm elections and the 2018 presidential election — even before Peña Nieto is inaugurated in December!

That could complicate the PRD’s hopes to consolidate its legislative gains in 2015, and it could yet again deny the Mexican left the presidency after decades of bad luck and wrong turns.

AMLO, the former head of government in the Distrito Federal (the position essentially amounts to being the mayor of Mexico City), very narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election to Felipe Calderón, the candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).  AMLO thereupon accused Calderón of fraud after that election, and he and his supporters set up camp outside the Zócalo in Mexico City for months to protest the result — going so far as to hold a mock inauguration of the ‘legitimate’ president of Mexico.

It’s those demonstrations — and AMLO’s insistence that he should be the PRD’s 2012 presidential candidate instead of outgoing DF head of government Marcelo Ebrard (pictured above) that have attached to him a bit of a narcissistic — even messianic — image.  In the most recent race, AMLO even ran television ads apologizing for his post-2006 demonstrations and pledged to respect the result of the 2012 election.

All of which is to say that, despite the initial fears of a split left in Mexico, and despite a strong core of personal supporters, AMLO’s departure might well be the best thing to happen for the PRD. Continue reading How AMLO’s spinoff movement could help the PRD in Mexico

Impressions of Oaxaca in México’s Peña Nieto era

I have been in Oaxaca this weekend (and will be so until Tuesday of the following week — when Québec votes!) and I wanted to share just a little about what I’ve seen here, and how it colors my perception of Mexican politics.

Oaxaca is the capital of Oaxaca state, which is by and large a student-heavy city (so lots of supporters of the #YoSoy132 movement in opposition to president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) ) in a state that already traditionally supports the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), and its candidate for president in the July 1 election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.  It is also the capital of state that is the most indigenous in all of México– with Zapotec, Mixtec, Mazatec, Chinantec and myriad other groups calling the region their home.  It is the home of México’s sole indigenous president, Benito Juárez, a central figure of 19th century Mexican history.

The backstory is that Oaxaca was the site of a fierce — and deadly — fight between police forces and the Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO, or the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca), which emerged after the tense showdown between authorities and a teachers’ union during a strike in Oaxaca in May 2006.  Brutal force by the police during that strike escalated the incident into a full-fledged battle that left Oaxaca, essentially, with a reputation as the Chiapas of the 2000s.  Although the governor at the time, Ulises Ruiz, a PRI governor, left office in 2010, his successor is the PRD-backed Gabino Cué, the first non-PRI governor of Oaxaca in over 80 years, and peace has, more or less, returned to the beautiful city 5,000 meters above sea level.

Nonetheless, and despite the ruling of México’s highest election court that Peña Nieto, has indeed won the election, despite accusations of unfair play from the PRD, I have been struck by the expressions of anti-Peña Nieto grafitti everywhere (see above, and see below, with Carlos Salinas, former PRI president from 1988-1994, ummm, popping out of Peña Nieto’s brain:

And here is Mexico’s president-elect being portrayed as garbage:

It’s understandable that there’s a certain segment of Oaxaca’s population that is significantly opposed to Peña Nieto, given the authoritarian background of the PRI when it was in power for seven decades from 1929 to 2000, but it’s striking that there’s been so little, just two months after the election, in the way of support of López Obrador or of opposition to the current, outgoing Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, whose Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has held the presidency for the past 12 years.

None of this is to rule out the potential of a Peña Nieto presidency, but it’s a clear signal that he has yet to convince many segments of México’s vast population that he has their interests at heart.

Photo credit to Kevin Lees — Oaxaca, Mexico, September 2012.

Despite likely fraud, AMLO, #YoSoy132 protests seem destined to fail

It’s been over half a month since Enrique Peña Nieto’s victory in the presidential election on July 1, but the protests against the electoral fraud alleged to have been committed by his party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), continue, however haltingly, especially in Mexico City.

Although the street protests are mostly at the impetus of a student protest movement called #YoSoy132 — it’s a long backstory, but think of it as sort of an ‘Occupy Zocalo’ movement, formed to call for greater electoral integrity and the elimination of corruption in Mexican government.  To be fair, the group has kept up a lot of pressure on the PRI both before and now after the election, especially in light of a scandal, revealed by The Guardian, suggesting a too-cozy relationship between Peña Nieto and Televisa, a top television news source in Mexico.

To be sure, it’s great that #YoSoy132 and other watchdogs will be watching the PRI like a hawk.  Notwithstanding its 12 years in the wilderness, it did control Mexico in a semi-authoritarian grip for seven decades (although I have argued that Mexico’s democratic and civil society institutions are sufficiently robust to withstand the PRI’s return to power, and the PRI may succeed where recent presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón have failed — in tax reform, on energy reform and on ending Mexico’s war on drug cartels).

Meanwhile, the runner-up in the July 1 presidential race, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (commonly, “AMLO” in the press), the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), has cried foul play — he’s filed a complaint to invalidate the election with Mexico’s elections institute. He’s alleged that the PRI bought votes in the 2012 election and exceeded spending limits.  He’s probably right.

But unfortunately, he lost by between 6% and 7% of the vote.  A lot of folks in Mexico acknowledge that the PRI may have bought a lot of votes in the recent election and probably exceeded spending limits — even the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), which currently controls the presidency, admits this. But there’s really no substantive legal recourse (just a post-facto fine). The relevant fact is that no one thinks Peña Nieto’s margin of victory is small enough for this to have actually mattered.  Continue reading Despite likely fraud, AMLO, #YoSoy132 protests seem destined to fail

Final Mexican election results (and some positive surprises for the PRD)

We have some more final numbers for each of the key Mexican races from Sunday’s election, and in each case, it suggests that Mexico was warier than polls suggested about returning the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) — the party that governed Mexico for 71 years until 2000 — to power.  Furthermore, the results suggest Mexicans, under the right circumstances, may be turning to the left and, above all, the leftist  Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) may, like so often in its recent history, have lost a key opportunity to win real power in Mexico.

When you look to the congressional races and the key gubernatorial races too, there’s reason to believe that at each turn, the PRI hasn’t won quite the sweeping victory that it once expected, and in many ways, the PRD and even the center-right, ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) over performed from expectations.

Presidential Election.  Enrique Peña Nieto, the PRI’s candidate has won with just 38.15% to 31.64% for the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).  The candidate of the PAN, Josefina Vázquez Mota, trails with 25.40%.  Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the Partido Nueva Alianza (PANAL), won 2.30%. Vázquez Mota managed to win a handful of states in the north-central Mexico (unlike the PRI’s 2006 presidential candidate, whose third-place finish was much more devastating), the manufacturing and industry headland that has always been the PAN’s stronghold.  Likewise, López Obrador carried many of Mexico’s southern states and the Distrito Federal.

What is so striking is that Peña Nieto’s lead was not the double-digit lead most polls suggested, but just 6.5%.  It suggests to me that the PRD made a colossal mistake in nominating López Obrador, with all of his baggage — voters remained wary of someone they suspected remained an old-line statist leftist and he never quite shook the unpopularity that he developed from the months of protests following his very narrow loss in the 2006 election.  It seems unmistakable that the outgoing head of government of the Distrito Federal, Marcero Ebrard, would have presented a much more moderate campaign and may well have given Peña Nieto a real campaign, if not overtaken the PRI’s candidate altogether.  It was a clear missed opportunity for the PRD in renominating López Obrador.

Even today, López Obrador has refused to concede defeat amid what he calls more corruption and fraud than in 2006, is asking for a full recount, and is likely already turning off moderate voters in what Mexico’s political elite fear will be a rerun of the months of protests that followed the 2006 election.  Although he may have some valid points, notwithstanding his closer-than-expected result, it seems unlikely that a recount could make up 6.5% of the total vote.

Above all, the rise of Peña Nieto indicated more disapproval for the PAN, and the Calderón administration in particular, than any love or nostalgia for the PRI.  A modern, competent PRD effort could have well caught fire.

Congress.  Unlike election night predictions and polling predictions prior to the election, the PRI and the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), Mexico’s Green Party, a longtime PRI ally, did not win an absolute majority in either the Senado, the upper house of Mexico’s Congress, or the Cámara de Diputados, its lower house.  The PRI and the PVEM actually lost ground — going from 262 seats before to just 242 seats now.
The PAN lost 24 seats and looks likely to hold just 118 in the new Congress — surely a solid defeat, but hardly a wipeout.  Given that the PRI will not command an absolute majority in the lower house, the PAN will likely be the party that determines which PRI-initiated reforms will be passed in the next three years.  This will assuredly provide comfort to Mexicans, such as those in the #YoSoy132 movement, that were so concerned with the PRI’s return to power.  Not only will the PRI be checked by much stronger institutions than existed two decades ago, it will need to work with the PAN to pass reforms — in many cases, market-friendly reforms that the PAN itself has been proposing for years.  PANAL won 10 seats, an improvement of two.
In the meanwhile, the big winner was the PRD and its leftist allies, who will improve on their 88 seats to 140 in the new Congress, and will have a a base to grow upon for the 2015 midterm elections and the 2018 general election.
In the Senato, the PRI will have 57 votes to 41 for the PRI, 29 for the PRD and one for PANAL — again, it will require the PAN’s approval to pass any PRI legislation in the upper house.

Peña Nieto and the PRI win Mexico’s general election after 12 years out of power

The rapid count from Mexico’s federal election institute is in, and has projected that, as expected, Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of the the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), has been elected the next president of Mexico.

Peña Nieto had between 37.93% and 38.55% of the vote. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), who narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election, won between 30.90% and 31.86% of the vote.  The candidate of the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), Josefina Vázquez Mota, won between just 25.10% and 26.03% of the vote.  As shown below in an electoral map from El Universal, the PAN still eked out a plurality in the vote in some of its strongholds in Mexico’s north, and the PRD held on to many of the states in central and southern Mexico that have long been its strongest region, while the PRI found success across the country.

López Obrador has not yet conceded defeat, however, maintaining that he will wait for the final count.

Outgoing president Felipe Calderón has promised a cooperative transition, pending final results from Mexico’s elections institute.

Meanwhile, the PRI seemed likely to win a majority in both houses of Mexico’s Congress — in particular with an absolute majority in the

The ability to control both the executive and legislative branches was seen as a major opportunity for the PRI to implement tax reforms, labor reforms and energy reforms that the PAN has not accomplished in the past 12 years of occupying Los Pinos.

Across the country, up to a quarter of Mexicans also voted in gubernatorial elections in six states and selected a new head of government in the Distrito Federal.

In the DF, the PRD’s candidate, Miguel Ángel Mancera, the current DF attorney general, won the election easily with 63.5% of the vote, extending the PRD’s longtime advantage in the DF — the party’s candidate has won the race since 1997, when Mexico City’s residents first had the opportunity to vote directly for their head of government.

In Morelos, exit polls showed the PRD’s candidate, Graco Ramírez Garrido Abreu, leading with 41% of the vote, with the PRI’s candidate, Amado Orihuela Trejo, following in second place with 37%.

In Tabasco, the PRI’s candidate, Jesús Alí de la Torre, mayor of Villahermosa, and the PRD’s candidate, federal senator Arturo Núñez Jiménez, were locked in a very tight race — exit polls show the PRI candidate leading 37.03% to 35.81%.

Although the PRI has declared victory in Yucatán, its candidate Rolando Zapata was leading with just 30.01% to the PAN’s candidate, Joaquín Díaz Mena with 28.32%.  The PAN held the governorship of Yucatán previously from 2001 to 2005. Exit polls, however, showed Zapata with a more comfortable margin of victory of about 49% to 40%.

In Jalisco, Jorge Aristóteles Sandoval Díaz was set to win 44% of the vote to just 33% for the PRI’s candidate — Jalisco is Mexico’s third-largest state and has been controlled by the PAN since 1995.

In Guanajuato, however, Mexico’s fifth-largest state, and another PAN stronghold since 1995 (former president Vicente Fox got his political start here), the PAN’s Miguel Márquez Márquez, a state minister for social and human development, seems likely to have won: he leads with 49.77% to just 38.04% for the PRI candidate.

In Chiapas, the 32-year-old Manuel Velasco Coello, the PRI-allied candidate of the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), was leading with 64.3%.

Mexico votes today!

Mexican voters go to the polls today to elect a new president and a new Congress and the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) looks likely to win both the legislative elections and the presidency in frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto.

Voters in six states and the Distrito Federal will also vote for a new governor.

While we wait, here’s the Danzon No. 2 by Arturo Márquez:

Seven local Mexican elections to watch on Sunday

With polls showing that Sunday’s federal elections will be a landslide for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and its presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, we have to look to the state-level elections for any suspense.

Not to be forgotten amid the federal elections, six states and Mexico’s federal district hold elections on Sunday.

The seven elections take place in jurisdictions that are home to over one-quarter of Mexico’s population.  They will occur in some of the richest and poorest states of Mexico, in the north and the south, and in places with robust democratic traditions and in places that have remained corrupt PRI strongholds.  In sum, the seven contests seem to hold at least some good news for each of the three main parties:

  • In the Distrito Federal, Miguel Ángel Mancera (pictured above, bottom), the candidate of the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) is likely to win the race for head of government, a position the PRD has held continuously since 1997.
  • In Jalisco, Guadalajara’s mayor Aristóteles Sandoval, another young and charismatic priista (pictured with Peña Nieto above, top) is likely to take the governorship from the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) for the first time since 1995.
  • The tightest race looks to be in tiny Morelos, where the PRI and the PRD are locked in a tight battle to succeed the outgoing PAN governor.
  • The PAN is expected to hold onto the governorship in Guanajuato, which it has also held since 1995 when former president Vicente Fox first won it.
  • The young, PRI-affiliated Manuel Velasco Coello is likely to win in Chiapas, and the PRI also looks set to retain the governorships of Yucatán and Tabasco.

Here’s a deeper look at each of the seven races. Continue reading Seven local Mexican elections to watch on Sunday

From Cárdenas to López Obrador: Why the Mexican left just can’t win

It’s been a bad century or so for you if you’re a Mexican leftist.

Barring a huge upset, Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections are not going to change that.

Despite coming within a very narrow margin of winning Mexico’s presidency in 2006, the candidate of the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), Andrés Manuel López Obrador seems likely to do much more poorly this time around — despite a poll boost that’s seen him overtake Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) earlier this month, and despite an anti-PRI youth movement, #YoSoy132, that has rallied opposition to the PRI (although not necessarily in favor of the PRD).

López Obrador — or “AMLO” as he’s known in the media and among his supporters — is holding a large rally in central Mexico City today to wrap up his presidential campaign, starting on the Reforma, Mexico’s grand avenue, and marching all the way to the Zócalo, the central square of Mexico City.

And while he may well come within single digits of the frontrunner, Enrique Peña Nieto, candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), it seems almost assured that 2012 — like 2006 and so many elections before it — will not be the year for Mexico’s left.

López Obrador, who has, fairly or unfairly, been tagged as a bit of a messianic figure in Mexican politics, refused to cede the PRD’s presidential nomination to his successor as Mexico City’s mayor, Marcelo Ebrard.  Ebrard, who lacks López Obrador’s baggage and who is viewed as much more centrist, could well have given Peña Nieto a strong run.  Given the recent success in several 2010 gubernatorial races of PAN-PRD coalitions, it is possible that Ebrard could have challenged Peña Nieto in a two person-race on such a PAN-PRD banner nationally. Continue reading From Cárdenas to López Obrador: Why the Mexican left just can’t win

Drug cartels and the security issue in the Mexican election

One issue I have not emphasized much in advance of the Mexican presidential and legislative elections is the drug issue, because I don’t think that the issue alone has necessarily driven the resurgence of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the popularity of presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto.

But it’s of course a huge issue, especially in the background, and it does account for a lot of the fatigue with outgoing president Felipe Calderón.  William Finnegan in The New Yorker and Patrick Radden Keefe in the The New York Times Magazine both provide amazing accounts in the past week or two, with stunning insights into the Mexican drug cartels: the power of the longtime Sinaloa cartel and its head, Joaquín Guzmán; their rivals, the Zetas (a mutant sect of one-time elite army forces-turned-criminals); and the Calderón administration’s “war” against the drug cartels.

Calderón enlisted Mexico’s military to combat the drug trade in 2006.  The results of that effort have not exactly been successful: an army that’s now distrusted by the citizenry, but not feared by the drug lords; spreading (although still very localized) violence; 55,000 Mexicans dead in six years; and a public that’s generally weary of additional Mexican bloodshed.  But the drug violence is really just one among several issues — lack of progress in reducing corruption, economic reforms, GDP growth and unemployment, lack of further energy development — where the public has gotten frustrated with Calderón and with his predecessor, Vicente Fox, in the 12 years that the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has held Mexico’s presidency.

You should take the time to read both stories — they provide a fascinating background for Sunday’s general election (and make clear that reducing drug use is a demand-side problem currently in Sisyphean pursuit of a supply-side solution).  But I would caution against using them as the sole prism through which to view Mexican politics, for various reasons.

The drug war is an issue that gets plenty of exposure in the American media space, but probably more exposure than it should.  For much of the past six years, the American media has generally overemphasized the drug violence to the point where many Americans now assume that all of Mexico is a war zone. That’s ridiculous, of course — it should be taken with a grain of salt (or maybe a gram of something stronger), but anecdotally, I get the sense that this is one of several pressing issues in Mexican public life for Mexicans, but not the overweening issue.  Growing the economy, reducing unemployment, further tax reform, labor market reform, reducing corruption, reducing poverty, political reform, trade and foreign relations — all are just as important to Mexicans.

It’s also important to remember that drug violence varies widely by region.    Continue reading Drug cartels and the security issue in the Mexican election

The PRI also looks likely to sweep Mexico’s congressional elections on July 1

The presidential race’s outcome may seem all but certain, but the race for Los Pinos has nonetheless received much more coverage than the legislative elections that take place on July 1 as well — and are just as vital to the comeback hopes for the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).

In addition to electing a president, Mexicans will elect 500 members to the lower chamber, the Cámara de Diputados, and 128 members to the upper chamber, the Senado.

If polls are accurate, not only will the PRI’s presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, win, but it will also win an absolute majority in the Cámara de Diputados — the first time that a party has won an absolute majority since electoral reforms in 1996, which would give Peña Nieto the best environment in over 15 years to pass legislation in Mexico.  A Mitofsky poll released yesterday shows that the PRI and its allies would win 44% of the Congressional vote to 29% for the PRD and its allies and 24.5% for the PAN.

Although the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) has controlled the presidency since 2000, first under Vicente Fox and then under Mexico’s incumbent president, Felipe Calderón, it never controlled an absolute majority of seats in the Cámara de Diputados and only from 2000-03 and from 2006-09 did it even hold the largest share of seats.  Given that dynamic, the PRI and the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) have been able to unite in opposition to the PAN, frustrating the extent of Fox and Calderón to enact major reforms (although Calderón has passed minor tax reforms in 2005 and energy reforms in 2008).

Under the current rules, 300 deputies are elected on the basis of first-past-the-post plurality in single-member districts.  An additional 200 deputies are elected by proportional representation — each party that wins 2% is entitled to its share of seats.

No party, however, can win more than 300 seats in total — 200 seats must always be apportioned to opposition parties.  As most reforms in Mexico are “constitutional reforms” requiring a 2/3 supermajority, most major initiatives therefore require a broad base of support.  While that is of some assurance to those who are worried about the PRI’s authoritarian roots — Peña Nieto and the PRI won’t likely be able to push through legislation that would repress the gains of Mexican democracy — it also is the primary reason that Fox and Calderón have not accomplished any truly landmark legislative victories in the past 12 years.  Continue reading The PRI also looks likely to sweep Mexico’s congressional elections on July 1

Why fears about the return of the PRI to power in Mexico are wrong

Jo Tuckman had an engaging piece in The New York Times on Sunday, decrying the “lost years” of Mexican democracy and sounding some alarm about the likely return to power in Mexico of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) when Enrique Peña Nieto, as widely predicted, wins the presidential election on July 1.

She asks:

How is it, then, that the party’s candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, seems poised to win the presidential election next Sunday and become the leader of 113 million Mexicans?

The answer is that Peña Nieto has run a much (much) superior campaign than Josefina Vázquez Mota, the candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) or Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).  The PAN has held the presidency for 12 consecutive years, so it has taken the brunt of criticism over the Mexican economy, drug violence and the less-than-galloping pace of political and economic reform, even though it doesn’t control Congress, and the PRI and the PRD have opposed most of president Felipe Calderón’s agenda.  For its own part, the PRD still isn’t truly a political presence in northern Mexico and López Obrador blew a huge lead in the 2006 presidential election and refused to cede the PRD’s shot in 2012 to the younger and more centrist Marcelo Ebrard.

The PRI, of course, governed Mexico from 1929 until 2000, often with a healthy dose of authoritarianism, an even healthier dose of electoral fraud and a lot of government spending diverted to bolstering the party.  For most of the PRI’s reign, it’s safe to say, Mexico was something short of a strict dictatorship (Mexico’s government had certain features that limited authoritarian abuse, such as a six-year term limit for Mexican presidents), but nothing like a liberal democracy.

But Tuckman is wrong to call the last 12 years a lost opportunity, and she’s wrong that the impending return of the PRI indicates that Mexican democracy is in danger — if anything, the PRI’s return indicates that Mexican democracy is thriving.

It would be prudent, of course, for Mexican civil society to remain vigilant for any signs of backsliding, and groups, such as the youthful YoSoy132 movement, are pressing this very point within Mexico.  As it turns out, Televisa, Mexico’s largest television network, had been selling favorable coverage to Peña Nieto — in years past, the PRI may have gotten away with that; instead, it was plastered earlier this month across global headlines when The Guardian broke the scandal (back in 2000, Mexico’s oil company, Pemex, gave $140 million in loans to certain PRI-backed unions, who in turn donated the cash to the PRI’s then-presidential candidate Francisco Labastida, who still lost handsomely), embarrassing Televisa, the PRI and Peña Nieto.

A lot of people think that 2000 — the year that the PAN’s Vicente Fox wont he presidency — marks the key transition for Mexican democracy.  Fox’s election was indeed a landmark for Mexican democracy, but the real turning point came a bit earlier — in 1994. Continue reading Why fears about the return of the PRI to power in Mexico are wrong