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Column 050806 Thompson

Monday, May 8, 2006

 

The "Dirty War" Against López Obrador in Mexico

 

By Barnard R. Thompson

 

“A huge and overwhelming dirty campaign against (Andrés Manuel) López Obrador” is in motion in Mexico, said Dr. Agustín Basave during an educational roundtable presentation at the University of San Diego, in California, on May 3.  And he referred to well-established rumors that US political advisor Dick Morris has been contracted by the campaign of Felipe Calderón.

 

Calling Morris a “dirty war expert,” Basave said that this US campaign specialist is behind the negative ads by Calderón and his National Action Party (PAN) that are painting populism as a peril and López Obrador as “a danger for Mexico.”  They are conducting “a campaign of fear” Basave said in flawless English, adding, “this dirty war could boomerang.”

 

Explaining boomerang, “people get sick and tired of negative advertising,” he said.

 

Agustín Basave, a prominent academic, political analyst and former member of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party – as was AMLO (the popular acronym for López Obrador), resigned from the PRI in 2001 when he joined the administration of Vicente Fox.  During his tenure with the PRI, Basave served in the Mexican Congress as well as in highlevel posts in the party and the Mexican government.

 

Fox named him Mexico’s ambassador to Ireland, where he served from 2001 to 2004.  Subsequently Basave left the administration and returned to his native state of Nuevo León, where today he oversees the López Obrador and Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) presidential campaign.

 

Calling the ongoing attack spots on television against AMLO “lies,” Dr. Basave pointed out some of the alleged Calderón and PAN sponsored falsehoods.

 

One ad says that the debt of Mexico City tripled while AMLO was mayor.  Calling AMLO prudent, Basave said that the claim is simply not true.  The fact is López Obrador “decreased the increase in debt” during his administration, which is acknowledged by responsible economists according to Basave.  He also said that the “support senior adults” program of AMLO, a Milton Friedman-like negative income tax arrangement, has been a success.

 

An inflamed debate is taking place in Mexico today over voter preference polls and surveys, a subject Basave went into somewhat in depth at the request of a USD professor.  This particularly in light of an early May Reforma newspaper poll that gave Calderón a surprising seven point lead over AMLO (Calderón 40 percent; López Obrador 33; and Roberto Madrazo of the PRI 22).

 

Among other comments on the subject, Basave said: AMLO has serious doubts about the accuracy of the polls, believing they are being manipulated; we are suspicious, “I personally am suspicious of manipulation”; and many people have no confidence in the polls.

 

The way poll questions are presented is a concern, as it is like asking a man if he (still) hits his wife?  And the Mexican people are afraid to say that they would vote for the opposition.

 

Yet he also said, regarding AMLO’s claimed lead: “I do believe that the gap has shortened, that the lead has lessened.”

 

The latest jump ahead by Calderón comes on the heels of Mexico’s April 25 presidential candidates’ debate – which AMLO skipped.  Reforma concluded in its poll notes that the PAN candidate has advanced by winning over undecided voters owing to the debate.

 

Not to debate was an apparent strategic mistake by AMLO, a decision based on his supposed polling suspicions – or maybe it was a campaigning ploy?  Whatever, the PRD candidate has announced that he will participate in the second and final contest on June 6.  As for Basave, he said the June debate will be “very important, maybe decisive” as to the July 2 election.

 

Regarding AMLO’s “center-left” party, Basave condemned current and past governments, and the Mexican system, by implicitly saying “up until now the PRD has been deprived of victories in several states.”  And differentiating between modern and moderate leftists vis-ŕ-vis the more radical left, he noted that Mexico should change from a system that excludes some to a system that includes everyone.  He said that the PRI was guilty of exclusion for 71 years, and the PAN has followed in its footsteps since 2000.

 

Yet Basave still gives the trailing PRI a chance to win.  Noting that many analysts have written off Madrazo, Basave is not so sure since the PAN’s fear campaign and dirty war could help Madrazo.  As voters’ aversion to the negative campaigning grows so will absenteeism on Election Day, he said, which could turn the election into a hard vote contest.  Should that happen the PRI has the hard vote edge.

 

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Barnard Thompson, a consultant, is also editor of MexiData.info.  He can be reached via e-mail at mexidata@ix.netcom.com.

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Reforma Newspaper, Mexico City (May 3, 2006)