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Column 061812 Wall

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mexican Presidential Candidates Debate the Past and Future

By Allan Wall

The second debate between the Mexican presidential candidates was held on June 10th, 2012, in the city of Guadalajara, presided over by journalist Javier Solorzano.   

The four candidates participating were, in order of poll rankings: ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and the PVEM (Partido Verde Ecologista de México); ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR of the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática), the PT (Partido del Trabajo), and the Movimiento Ciudadano; JOSEFINA VAZQUEZ MOTA of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional); and GABRIEL QUADRI DE LA TORRE of PANAL (Partido de la Nueva Alianza).

All four candidates acquitted themselves well in the debate. 

PEÑA NIETO seemed to exhibit the most presidential demeanor.  JOSEFINA was the most aggressive, taking on the three other candidates.

LOPEZ OBRADOR came across as more tranquil and reasonable than in the previous debate, where he came across as something of a crank. (I'm guessing he got a talking to from his advisors.)

QUADRI was determined to get some attention from the other three candidates, who usually ignore him.  QUADRI would make statements and ask the other candidates to comment upon them.  At one point the candidate even steered the discussion back to the appropriate topic. 

The debate format included introductory statements, three general topical sections, and a final statement from each candidate.

In the opening statements, QUADRI presented himself as a citizen non-politician; PEÑA NIETO told listeners that with him they would earn more; LOPEZ OBRADOR spoke of a great transformation, which he wished to discuss during the debate; and JOSEFINA said she was the best option.

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

PEÑA NIETO acknowledged the country's passage to democracy (that is, the loss of power by the PRI in 2000), but he asserted that the passage to democracy had not been accompanied by an improvement in living standards in the past 12 years (of the PAN presidencies).  The candidate promised a rise in living standards, and talked about health, education and the Mexican Congress. The candidate called for the elimination of 100 representative seats and 32 senator positions, and talked up energy reform, lower electricity costs, medicine vouchers, labor reform, transparency and fighting corruption. PEÑA NIETO wants better results from government and a more efficient Congress, including a system whereby citizens can propose laws.

JOSEFINA presented an imaginary scenario in which all the candidates were women. She simply transposed her view of the other candidates' characteristics, imagining them to be women.  It was a little strange.  She proposed removing the fuero (criminal immunity for officials), and most of the congressional seats allotted by proportional representation. JOSEFINA asserted that people should have a right to internet access.  

AMLO asserted that the neoliberal economy in place since 1983 was not functioning, and proposed a 6% economic growth rate.  The candidate promised 1,200,000 new jobs a year. AMLO talked about lack of work and violence.  The candidate proposed growth without raising taxes, combating corruption, and government austerity, by which he means lowering salaries of high government officials.  The candidate wants progressive taxation.  LOPEZ OBRADOR also explained that, as when he was mayor of Mexico City, as president of Mexico he would oversee an alliance between the public sector, the private sector and the social sector.  

QUADRI brought up same-sex marriage (now legal only in Mexico City) and asked the other candidates if they supported it. None of the other three candidates wanted to discuss that topic.  QUADRI also wants to remove the fuero, and said that with structural reforms Mexico could be as rich as South Korea, Israel or New Zealand by 2030.  QUADRI talked about the education gap between Mexican states, he said subsidies actually benefit the richest, and he talked about fraud. 

Abortion -- QUADRI said women who have abortions shouldn't be criminalized. JOSEFINA responded that she and her party believe that life begins at conception and that she didn't support criminalizing women who have abortions.  PEÑA NIETO, in response to QUADRI, said he didn't want to criminalize women who had abortions.  AMLO also said he doesn't want to criminalize women who have abortions.

AMLO's arithmetic -- QUADRI asked AMLO to explain his arithmetic and JOSEFINA told AMLO his figures didn't add up.  AMLO defended his figures by calling for the end to corruption, government austerity for top officials without laying any government workers off, fiscal reform, building refineries, lowering fuel prices and the cost of electricity, boosting the construction industry, and by solving the water problems (too much water in parts of Mexico, not enough in another parts).

JOSEFINA told AMLO his figures still didn't add up, but she wants to put a cap on government salaries.  JOSEFINA attacked AMLO for his membership in the PRI many years ago, and she criticized PEÑA NIETO for several more recent actions, and both candidates defended themselves.

MEXICO IN THE WORLD

In this segment, the candidates made some relevant comments, and then proceeded to talk about other topics.

AMLO talked about good relations with the world and with the United States.  Of course, he doesn't want the U.S. to detain illegal aliens or to control its own border, but that is typical for Mexican politicians. 

JOSEFINA doesn't like the U.S. to enforce its immigration laws either, and she promised to defend Mexicans in the United States and to establish a sub-secretary post specifically for them, with the post filled by a Mexican in the United States. 

QUADRI shifted gears and said Mexico had lost its leadership in the world, and needs clear principles. The candidate called for a free trade agreement with China. 

PEÑA NIETO echoed QUADRI on the lost leadership theme, said the country now has a poor external image.  The candidate explained how he had negotiated to keep Ford and Chrysler in the state of Mexico when he was governor.  

AMLO said Mexico can improve its image, and then started talking about internal matters such as employment, attention to the young, and then held up as a positive example Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Depression in the U.S., and how FDR got people to work. 

JOSEFINA too was off-topic in her next statement, reminding AMLO again about a PRI massacre decades ago, and characterizing both PEÑA NIETO and AMLO as different faces of the old PRI, then she talked about fighting violence, and eventually got around to mentioning Mexico in the world.

QUADRI reminded the other candidates that they were supposed to be talking about foreign relations, and proposed the Instituto Mexicano Octavio Paz to promote Mexican culture, including literature, music, gastronomy, etc., in the world. 

PEÑA NIETO pointed out to JOSEFINA that the PAN and the PRD had made alliances in the past, talked about his goal of achieving a greater integration with the United States beyond the free trade agreement, an integration to compete with the world.  The candidate said that the border must be secure and more attention paid to Mexicans in the United States, and that the government of Mexico is the government of all Mexicans, regardless of where they live. 

JOSEFINA discussed Mexico's image in the world, said to QUADRI that a vote for him was a vote for the Esther Gordillo family, and said she was not a protectionist.  

AMLO said he wanted to improve things in Mexico so its image would improve in the outside world, improve education, give free scholarships, increase education budgets, and teach by the internet. 

QUADRI, in a clever (but obviously preplanned) response to JOSEFINA's previous statement, showed a picture of a YouTube video entitled Querida Amiga (My Dear Friend).  I looked it up later on YouTube and it's a video of JOSEFINA calling Elba Esther Gordillo Querida Amiga, and saying that it was impossible to reform education without her union.  QUADRI proceeded to call for an improvement in relations with Central American, and to support development there.  The candidate also said that unless Mexicans treat Central American migrants with dignity they have no right to ask it of the United States. QUADRI proposed that Central Americans have the same rights in Mexico as Mexicans.

JOSEFINA, in response to QUADRI's YouTube video, said she never gave into blackmail as Secretary of Education and would be even less likely to as President, and she talked about arms trafficking from the U.S. 

PEÑA NIETO talked about being neighbors with the U.S., and also about relations with Central America and the Caribbean, selling Mexican products in South America and the Pacific region, and about exporting agricultural products competitively.

QUADRI reprised a few of his previous themes and discussed democracy in Cuba.

JOSEFINA repeated her statement about a vote for QUADRI and talked about free trade agreements, the internal market, infrastructure, and her pride as a Mexican.

QUADRI said it was a shame Mexico had withdrawn its ambassador from UNESCO, plus he again talked about China. 

AMLO said he wanted good relations with every country but not through free trade agreements, because, he stated, Mexico needs to produce first.  And he talked about the trade gap with China, rural Mexico, changing economic policy to generate jobs, and education again.

PEÑA NIETO discussed Mexico's presence in the world, productive integration, ending poverty, and insecurity.

SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

JOSEFINA talked about poverty, inequality, about the progress made under the PAN, and she said she too is a mother.  She wants to double scholarships and help female heads of families, and to provide day care as well as full-time school.

She talked about family debt. JOSEFINA said that Mexico City in 2005 (under AMLO) was the country's most corrupt entity, and that the state of Mexico in 2010 (when PEÑA NIETO was governor) was second in corruption.  JOSEFINA referred to her previous experience as Secretary of Social Development, saying that the poor needed access to credit, then she talked about the two faces of the PRI, by which she means the current PRI and PRD.  She proposed free access to the Internet for everybody. JOSEFINA talked about poverty, single women, and deadbeat dads.

QUADRI called for portability of health insurance, the rights of the handicapped and their guaranteed access to employment.  He discussed treating drug addicts as sick people, giving the example of the decline in tobacco use, and he said that the drug policy should be changed. The candidate discussed the seas, coastal territory, the fishing industry and tourism.  QUADRI said a quality education is the only way to combat poverty, and he wants to revolutionize education and have full-time schools.  QUADRI talked about chaotic urban growth, Infonavit (the government housing program), and sustainable cities.  QUADRI said it should be a right to have broadband Internet, discussed the agricultural sector, spoke of the fragmentation of agricultural holdings, the water problem and irrigation.

AMLO discussed taking care of the 60 million in poverty and the 15 million in extreme poverty, plus he favors a "right" to food, pensions for the elderly, and support for single mothers. The candidate wants to construct dwellings and attend to the rights of the indigenous community.  AMLO wants to end corruption.  The candidate proposes to not always govern from Mexico City, but move to different cities in Mexico from time to time and govern from there. AMLO said he knows how people feel and named some of his choices for cabinet posts.

PEÑA NIETO said poverty has worsened during the past four years, and that as president he would eradicate hunger, give everybody social security and education.  PEÑA NIETO discussed paying attention to rural Mexico, family food costs, agricultural production, credits for farmers, organizations of producers, programs to mitigate hunger, universal health insurance, life insurance, equality in school, cultural activities in school, and free school supplies. PEÑA NIETO talked about his parents, about an inclusive Mexico without poverty, equality of men and women, and what he'd done in the state of Mexico.  PEÑA NIETO also talked about the lack of accords and participation of the handicapped in the labor force.

FINAL STATEMENTS

AMLO said the election will be a decision between two options, more of the same or a true change -- that is, AMLO.  AMLO likened it to three previous historical periods -- Independence, Reform, and the Revolution, in which there were also two options. AMLO called on all classes for support, while saying that high gasoline prices and violence affect everybody. 

QUADRI said the PRI is a party of dinosaurs, the PAN of mediocre conservatives, and the PRD represents populism, but Nueva Alianza represents a liberal, modern, prosperous Mexico with reforms the country needs. Also he appealed to voters hesitating to vote for him because he is low in the polls, saying they should vote for him.

PEÑA NIETO said he represented a new path, and JOSEFINA said she represents the future.

THE MILLENIO-GEA/ISA POLL, as of June 17th, 2012, ranks the candidates for the July 1st vote thusly: PEÑA NIETO 43.6%, AMLO 28.7%, JOSEFINA 25.1%, and QUADRI 2.6%. 

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info/.


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