The Week in Review: 3/12/2012

Katie Putnam and Eric L. Olson, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 3/12/2012

Biden hears reassuring messages from the three presidential candidates in Mexico’s July election that security cooperation with the United States would not significantly change. Meantime, each party’s congressional candidate lists raise eyebrows amongst analysts and the PRI’s Mexico City mayoral candidate urges voters to separate the social benefits they have received under successive PRD governments from their electoral preference.


Security cooperation with the United States


On March 5, U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden met with Mexican President Felipe Calderón and individually with the three candidates vying to replace him in the July presidential election. The conversations centered on security cooperation, which has reached an unprecedented level under the Calderón administration. According to Mexico Institute Director Andrew Selee, there is an “underlying nervousness in the Obama administration about whether a new Mexican president would change the close collaboration between the governments.” After his private meetings with each candidate, Biden suggested that a new president would not dramatically alter the collaboration. According to The Associated Press:

 “When asked whether he had sensed any significant differences among the candidates with regards to cooperation with the United States, Biden answered simply, ‘No.’

‘I’m not being flip, but no,’ he said.”

The PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto said he told Biden he would fight organized crime more efficiently: “The discussion is not whether we should or shouldn’t fight against it but what we can do to achieve better results.” Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN, said she emphasized the joint challenge of money laundering. She also “told him that I will neither make a truce nor surrender in the fight against organized crime because for me the most important things is the security of all families.” The PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters that he suggested “a new bilateral relationship with the United States based on cooperation for development.” He added that “the problems with crime and lack of safety have their origins in the lack of welfare, and that is why it is very important that in bilateral relations, priority be given to development.”


Congressional candidates

Over the last two weeks, all parties have presented their rosters of congressional candidates.  There are two categories for congressional candidates: those elected by direct vote, and those elected based on a complicated equation of proportional representation.  These latter “plurinominal” candidates, as they are known in Mexico, are usually the highest profile candidates. They are protected by the party, as they are guaranteed a seat in Congress as long as the party receives enough support.  Analysts often try to interpret some deeper meaning about the party and its strategy based on who it names as a plurinominal candidate and how high on the list she/he appears. Overall, the selection of these candidates in all parties raised eyebrows amongst commentators.

The PAN’s naming of former presidential candidate Ernesto Cordero to the first place in the party’s proportional list, which virtually guarantees him a seat in the Senate, was understood as a way to ensure party unity behind the party’s presidential candidate, Vázquez Mota. It is thought to appeal to both Cordero’s supporters and President Calderón’s followers, who largely backed Cordero in the primary contest. Meanwhile, the PRD named one of its old PRI rivals, Manuel Bartlett, to one of its top spots. The PRI’s selections too raised concerns amongst some; Proceso magazine’s analysis was typical:

The alleged ‘new face’ of change in the PRI is not reflected in its list of plurinominal candidates for the Mexican Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. It includes individuals from the most rancid factions of the unions, including those responsible for the Pemexgate scandal in 2000; women popularly known as ‘juanitas,’ who quit their political posts after being elected in order to cede them to a male substitute; and various people with powerful connections to the two television conglomerates in Mexico.”


The PRI in the presidential and Mexico City mayoral races

The PRI fought back against a fake presidential campaign ad that implied the party’s collusion with drug traffickers. The poster appears to be from the PRI and criticizes the current PAN government for “ineptitude in fighting drug traffickers” while boasting that the PRI has “experience in negotiating with them.” The PRI has threatened legal action against those responsible.

Beatriz Paredes, the party’s candidate for the mayorship of Mexico City, called on voters to not let their reliance on social programs started by PRD administrations influence their vote. A recent El Universal poll found Paredes in second place, with 23 percent support compared to frontrunner and perredista Miguel Ángel Mancera’s 46 percent and panista Miranda de Wallace’s 14 percent.


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