Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 3/5/2012
A new poll shows Enrique Peña Nieto ahead of Josefina Vázquez Mota by only seven points, while another suggests a difference of 17 points. Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Mexico in the midst of a debate in the region about drug legalization; we look at the stances of the three Mexican presidential candidates on the issue.
Two new polls released on March 1 show Peña Nieto’s lead slipping, yet diverge on how much. The poll released by GEA/ISA, which made the headlines in the English-language media as well, show the priísta with 36 percent support, just seven points ahead of Vázquez Mota’s 29 percent. Peña Nieto was 20 points ahead in the company’s January poll.
Parametría found Peña Nieto dropping as well, losing four percentage points since the firm’s January survey, but still 17 points ahead Vázquez Mota. The PRI candidate polled 49 percent compared to Vázquez Mota’s 31 percent. As we discussed last week, Mitofsky’s poll from earlier in February found Peña Nieto to be 15 points ahead: 40 percent to the panista’s 25.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador trailed in all three, with 17 percent support in the GEA/ISA and Mitfosky surveys and 19 percent in Parametría’s.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Mexico City yesterday, in the midst of an emerging, region-wide debate about drug policy. The presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico, all struggling to address the rising violence associated with drug-trafficking, have been increasingly receptive to holding a public debate about drug legalization. Private sector leaders have been vocal as well: a group of banking, medical and legal experts sponsored a drug policy conference in Mexico City in February which concluded that current drug control policies have failed and need reform. Mexico already decriminalized the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use (the law passed easily in the Mexican Congress in August 2009); the debate now centers on the prospect of legalizing them (especially marijuana), and has caught the attention of the three main presidential contenders. All candidates agree that it would not resolve the security crisis, yet some are more willing to consider legalization than others.
On one end of the spectrum, the PRI’s Peña Nieto flatly opposes legalization: “the topic has arisen out of the impatience and suffering in society [related to the “war against drugs”], so citizens are looking to quick fixes. I am completely against it.”
In the middle, the conservative PAN has increasingly expressed a willingness to discuss the possibility of legalization. Four years into his fight against organized crime (August 2010), Felipe Calderón stated that although he opposes the idea, he believed a full public airing of the issue was warranted. His foreign minister, Patricia Espinosa, called for an international forum on the subject on February 22. However, Calderón and Vázquez Mota both have cautioned that it would not resolve the violence surrounding organized crime. Calderón has said that it wouldn’t make sense to legalize drugs in the region as long as they remain illegal in the U.S. He also asserted that legalization wouldn’t make a large dent in the drug violence, which is supported by this Foreign Policy story. Vázquez Mota in November 2011 said she was in favor of a debate on the topic, but that “the legalization of drugs would signify surrendering to organized crime.”
Towards the other end of the spectrum is the PRD: López Obrador has proposed submitting the question of legalization to a national debate if elected. He does not blindly support the idea, but has suggested submitting it to public opinion and doing a thorough analysis of the potential impact of legalization. So far he has been the most open to the concept among the leading presidential candidates.