The Week in Review: 4/16/2012

Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 4/16/2012

The PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota seeks to solidify party unity by expanding her campaign team, while the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto gets more specific on security policy and the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador reassures business leaders.

 

Vázquez Mota’s campaign shake-up

Luisa María Calderón joins Vázquez Mota's campaign

Details of the revised strategy of the PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota surfaced in the week after she announced plans to revamp her campaign strategy after a rough start and sinking popularity (some new polls show her support at about 19 percent, down from 26 percent before the “blackout period” began in February). First, her campaign team now includes many more close associates of President Calderón. Calderón’s sister, Luisa María, has been put in charge of the get-out-the-vote effort in their home state of Michoacán, while Ernesto Cordero, the President’s presumed favorite for the PAN nomination, was named a new strategist. Rafael Giménez, Calderón’s pollster, and Juan Ignacio Zavala, his brother-in-law, have also joined the campaign. The appointments seem to be a clear effort to bolster party unity and put to rest questions of internal divisions.

Second, Vázquez Mota has shifted her security stance to a greater emphasis on victims. She named a special campaign coordinator (Gabriela Cadena, whose son was murdered with the son of poet and activist Javier Sicilia), to reach out to families of individuals killed or kidnapped by organized crime. The Calderón administration is oft criticized for its lack of responsiveness to victims groups; his potential successor hopes this new, more “humane” approach will distinguish her from the unpopular current strategy.

The challenge for Vázquez Mota continues to be distancing her candidacy from Calderón’s administration while at the same time unifying the party and pulling Calderon’s confidantes closer. The balance is a tricky one: the allure of a “new” strategy on security, for instance, might be undermined by the infusion of Calderónistas to her team. It may, however, be a necessary step.

 

Peña Nieto on security

The PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto, whose popularity is holding steady at around 40 percent support, also recently announced a new element of his security strategy. On April 9, he committed to increasing the size of the federal police and to creating a 40,000-person strong “national gendarmerie” staffed by former soldiers. The military would remain on streets, he added, until the new force was ready.

As we have mentioned before, the three main presidential candidates have all been vague on their security platforms, preferring to denounce the violence while withholding specific policy proposals. As Peña Nieto said recently: “I reaffirm the Mexican state’s obligation to combating drug trafficking. But now we have another matter which for me takes higher priority, that of the violence. I would focus efforts on reducing the violence.”

Perhaps this announcement, along with Vázquez Mota’s recent comments on policing, is a small move towards a more substantial discussion on the issue in the lead-up to the two televised candidate debates (the first will be held May 6th and the second in early June).

 

López Obrador and the business community

As certain new polls show him approaching his panista rival (some suggest as little as a two-point difference between them), the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador met with leading private-sector finance chiefs on April 12. As The Los Angeles Times reports:

“He was greeted with smirks and chuckles at some points, but drew applause when he said he’d basically ‘maintain macroeconomic policies’ currently in place in Mexico.”

López Obrador told the Institute of Mexican Finance Executives (IMEF) that he had no plans to expropriate, and would respect concessions and contacts to foreign companies. He said he would aggressively seek to reduce poverty and combat corruption and waste through austerity measures, resulting in annual growth of six percent. He emphasized here, as he has elsewhere, that his overall model is former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who helped Brazil on its path to an economic powerhouse.

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