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Column 051412 Wall

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mexican Candidates Go Round and Round in Presidential Debate

By Allan Wall

On Sunday, May the 6th, the four Mexican presidential candidates squared off in a televised debate.  My wife and I watched it live on the Internet, and I took notes.  My impression was that the debate was informative, that is, a good forum for the candidates to express their views.  And it was actually entertaining.

The four candidates appearing in the debate were Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and Green Party; Josefina Vazquez Mota of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional); Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known by the initials AMLO) of an alliance of parties led by the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática); and Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of PANAL, the Nueva Alianza.

The candidates began with opening statements that introduced themes which would pop up again and again.  Peña Nieto decried Mexico's growing poverty and violence.  AMLO said that Mexico has been plundered for centuries by a shadowy group which has taken over the country.  Josefina Vasquez Mota called herself "a different candidate."  Quadri affirmed that Mexico could be a rich country, and faces two alternative futures -- that of Quadri and that of everybody else.

Then the regular rounds began.  A topic was presented and each candidate spoke about it, with the first candidate both beginning and ending each round.

Peña Nieto, as the front-runner, was the target of both Josefina and AMLO, and defended himself against both.  Nobody attacked Quadri, who presented himself as a sort of non-political candidate.

Here are the topics in chronological order:


Josefina would open markets, improve competition, and open internet access.  Quadri said monopolies were bad, even in electricity and petroleum, and that broadband internet access is a basic human right.  Peña Nieto said that for the past ten years Mexico has had poor economic growth compared to other countries in Latin American, and that Mexico needs more competition.  AMLO is against monopolies too, and started talking about former president Carlos Salinas (president from 1988 to 1994) and about yachts belonging to rich Mexicans.  Josefina started criticizing Peña Nieto's record as governor (2005-2011) of the State of Mexico (also known as Edomex).


Quadri said that Mexico needs more science and technology, and it needs a cabinet secretary of science and technology; and once again he said that broadband internet is a basic human right.  Peña Nieto defended his record as Edomex governor against Josefina.  AMLO started talking again about the shadowy group that rules and dominates Mexico, and he talked about the FOBAPROA [banking fund] controversy of the 1990s. Josefina talked about scholarships.  Quadri tut-tutted the other three candidates as typical politicians and held up Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, as a good example.


Peña Nieto said reforms were needed in social security and health access.  AMLO talked more about that group which he says controls both the PRI and the PAN.  Josefina pointed out that she is an economist, played up anti-corruption and transparency, and used the state of Mexico as a bad example again, calling it Mexico's second most corrupt state.  Quadri said once again that the other three candidates were continuing politics as usual.  Peña Nieto defended his record in Edomex again, and called for fair taxes.


AMLO said the "neoliberal" economy of the past 29 years is not functioning, and that the violence and insecurity are in the interests of those who rule Mexico and control the media.  Josefina said it's time for the economy to grow, and she emphasized tourism and small businesses and job creation.  Quadri said the populist models have failed, the market economy is good, and Mexico needs reforms and not monopolies of electricity and petroleum.  Peña Nieto disputed AMLO's view of the media. Josefina attacked Peña Nieto's Edomex record again. AMLO started talking about Santa Anna back in the 1800s.


Quadri pointed out that Mexico's prisons are saturated and suggested new prison systems, using the U.S. and Europe as examples.  Peña Nieto talked about violence, prisons, and fiscal reform.  AMLO asked about who Peña Nieto really is, and talked about the PRI candidate's uncle and another former Edomex governor.  Josefina said she won't make a truce with criminals, and talked again about Peña Nieto's Edomex record.  Quadri talked about a new national police force, using Chile, Spain and Italy as positive examples of national police forces.


Peña Nieto talked about judicial reforms carried out in Edomex, and defended himself against a charge by AMLO. AMLO, in the funniest moment of the debate, produced a photograph supposedly damaging to Peña Nieto -- but the photo was upside down as he talked very seriously about it.  Josefina brought up the sad case of a four-year-old girl named Paulette who was killed in Edomex while Peña Nieto was governor.  Quadri decried the mudslinging employed by the three major candidates, and talked about his plan to pressure states to enact legal reforms.  Peña Nieto brought up some dirt on one of AMLO's associates.


AMLO called for a federal police force and a new strategy, and started talking about 1988.  Josefina brought up Paulette again. Quadri stressed the importance of intelligence in police work. Peña Nieto accused Josefina of making political hay off the tragic death of Paulette.  AMLO accused Peña Nieto of privatizing hospitals and highways.


Josefina spoke of the value of universities, culture and playing musical instruments.  Quadri wants to abolish the autonomy of municipal police forces and wants mayors to be able to stand for reelection. Peña Nieto agreed with Josefina's support of a new national police force and asked why the PAN hadn't established one.  AMLO talked about Peña Nieto and Edomex, and brought up Carlos Salinas again.  Josefina said that most of the deaths perpetrated by organized crime took place in PRI-ruled states.


Peña Nieto talked about the increase in poverty in the last four years, and he told AMLO that he'd never spoken of privatizing PEMEX but of modernizing it, and he used Brazil and Colombia as positive examples. AMLO talked about poverty in Edomex.  Josefina assured Mexicans that she knows the poverty of Mexico and called for scholarships and reforms.  Quadri called for private investment in PEMEX, along the lines of Brazil's Petrobras, and talked about the relationship between agriculture and the environment.  Peña Nieto criticized Josefina's absentee rate in the Mexican Congress.


AMLO started talking about the internet and wound up talking about honesty.  Josefina reminded viewers that she's different and talked about Edomex's poor educational record.  Quadri talked about quality in education and broadband internet as a basic human right.  Peña Nieto talked about the digital divide, and putting computers in 5th and 6th grade classes. AMLO says he'd fight corruption and improve education, while adding that high-level Mexican officials' salaries are too high.


Josefina talked about schools, sustainable development, defended her Congress attendance record, and talked about climate change.  Quadri talked again about agriculture policies causing deforestation.  Peña Nieto talked about increasing agricultural production and criticized something on Josefina's website.  AMLO wants to rescue rural Mexico, clean up PEMEX, lower energy costs and terminate monopolies.  Josefina talked about climate change and education.


Quadri said to AMLO that gasoline subsidies actually benefit the rich, and that Mexico needs to eliminate the electric monopoly, and he discussed solar, wind and geothermal power.  Peña Nieto wants cheaper and cleaner energy.  Josefina criticized Peña Nieto's Edomex record.  AMLO wants justice, jobs, to help the handicapped and single mothers, and to fight poverty and inequality.  Josefina wants to modernize PEMEX and the CFE (the electrical monopoly), and she's also for wind and solar energy.  Quadri talked again about solar energy


Josefina said everybody could be successful and said she is different. Quadri said citizens are sick of the status quo and should choose Quadri, a citizen. Peña Nieto defended his Edomex record to Josefina and talked about poverty and education.  AMLO knows every municipality in Mexico, called for lower energy costs, plans to end corruption and to hold a referendum on his presidency every two years.

The next debate is scheduled for June 10th, with the election scheduled for July 1st.


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at

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