Katie Putnam, The Mexico Institute’s Elections Guide, 12/5/2011
Humberto Moreira resigns as PRI president over the Coahuila debt scandal, as the PAN candidates debate over security and economic policy. Andrés Manuel López Obrador attempts to soften his image and looks to political survivor Ricardo Monreal to manage his campaign.
PRI President Humberto Moreira stepped down from his post on December 2nd, as he yielded to pressure over the Coahuila debt scandal. During his time as governor of the state, which he left in January, state debt rose from 32 million pesos ($24 million) to an estimated 36 billion pesos ($2.7 billion). He is also alleged to have falsified documents from the state legislature that approve the increased indebtedness.
As we noted in previous columns (here and here, under “The PRI”), the scandal reminded Mexicans of the PRI’s past financial impropriates and threatened to undermine the party’s efforts to present itself as a “modern, democratic, and transparent party,” according to columnist Ricardo Alemán. The impetus for the decision seems to have stemmed from comments made by the party’s presumptive presidential candidate,* Enrique Peña Nieto, the previous day. He told the press that the questions in Coahuila had “worn down” the party.
*Peña Nieto is the only person to have registered for the electoral race on behalf of the PRI, but will not be the official candidate until December 18th, according to electoral law.
The three PAN candidates for the presidential nod participated in an internet debate on November 28th, in which they responded to questions submitted online by citizens. A major focus of the hour-long conversation was on security. Santiago Creel emphasized “more intelligence, less weapons,” and noted that violence dropped 40 percent during his tenure as Secretary of the Interior (2000-2005). Ernesto Cordero pointed to the need for an institutional reform to the Office of the Attorney General, which includes strengthening its investigative capacity, as the key to reducing violence. Josefina Vázquez Mota pointed to money laundering, corruption, and impunity as the major barriers to peace.
Cordero and Vázqueza Mota also clashed on economic policy. Minutes after front-runner Vázquez Mota shared a story about helping her father with his business as a child, Cordero criticized those who make policy suggestions without actually understanding the economic issues. The video of the event can be found here.
On Friday, December 2nd, it was reported that Andrés Manuel López Obrador would name Ricardo Monreal as his campaign manager. The former PRD governor of Zacatecas and current senator from the PT party is known as a political survivor. Monreal has overcome difficult political odds and several scandals to become a major political operator within Mexico’s left.
For more background on the party’s electoral strategy, Dr. Duncan Wood has an interesting piece for the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on AMLO’s “charm offensive” since winning the internal election for the PRD candidacy.
The [day after winning], he appeared on one of Mexico’s most influential TV talk shows with Joaquin López Doriega on the Televisa network, where he had not appeared since 2006. AMLO had been engaged in a bitter battle of words with the network, alleging monopolistic control of the airwaves. However, on Wednesday night AMLO adopted a conciliatory approach, offering to wipe the slate clean and start again. He spoke not of confrontation and conflict, the marks of his campaign to be recognized as the “legitimate President” of Mexico, but rather of compromise and harmony.
In a related post, Dr. Wood notes the positive impact the new message is having on AMLO’s poll numbers: “whether he can present a viable alternative to the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto is uncertain; but he will certainly begin to whittle away his lead.”