U.S. "staying out" until it's all over, says Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano
The PAN hopefuls, Josefina Vázquez Mota, Santiago Creel and Ernesto Cordero, disagreed on details but were firmly united in arguing that a victory by Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) nominee Enrique Peña Nieto would represent a disastrous step backwards for Mexico.
"This election will decide what kind of a country we're going to live in for a long time," said Vázquez Mota. "We can't permit a return to PRI authoritarian rule, nor to PRD populism." "PRD populism" is a euphemism for the leftist politics of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the nominee of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). But it was obvious that Vázquez Mota's real target today was Enrique Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto has topped all major presidential preference polls in recent weeks, with 42-49% of likely voters reporting they intend to vote for the "tri-color" candidate whose lead appears almost insurmountable (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/pri-and-pena-nieto-may-be-unstoppable.html). Peña Nieto may have slipped a few points in the last weeks of 2011 after a series of embarrassing (and unnecessary) public relations gaffs (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/squabble-over-candidates-literary-gaff.html), but his numbers on a bad day are still about double those of Vázquez Mota, who has unquestionably emerged as the only remote challenger on his radar screen.
The candidates traded soft blows during their first debate, keenly aware that they will have to work together in just a few weeks if PAN is to have any chance of winning this year. All were full of praise for outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón, a fellow PANista, and generally endorsed the National Security Plan which he implemented after taking office in December 2006, designed to take on Mexico's powerful drug cartels. Only Santiago Creel said that he would significantly alter the course of Calderón's now 61 month old drug war strategy. But apart from cosmetic changes such as a new cabinet level agency focused on organized crime, he was thin on specifics and revealed nothing of substance.
Vázquez Mota repeated recent promises that she would deal harshly with political corruption by pushing for life imprisonment for convicted office holders, as well as the complete repeal of Mexico's historic fuero, a type of legislative immunity used by corrupt politicians to evade justice. (http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/mexican-government-officials-lose-legal.html). An economist by training, she said, "Yes, I understand economics, but what I really understand are the Mexican people."
For his part, Ernesto Cordero -- a former secretary of the Hacienda, Mexico's I.R.S. and budget office combined -- emphasized bread and butter issues. In a country of 110 million where about 50 million live at or below the official poverty line, Cordero spoke of improved housing and access to health care, especially for the country's tercera edad -- senior citizens. He sought to distinguish himself from his two opponents by drawing upon his business experience at the Hacienda. "I'm ready to be the pilot to get the Mexican people safely to their destination," Cordero said. "How can these other two do it, in these turbulent economic times, when they've never had their hands on the controls?"
The National Action Party is the only one which has yet to select its 2012 presidential standard bearer. It will do so February 5 when the PAN primary is held. The primary is an internal survey of registered party members, not an election open to the general public. A poll last week showed Vázquez Mota with 54% support of PAN party regulars, although she claims it's over 60%, and appears convinced that she'll capture the nomination. In the same poll Santiago Creel won 31% support, and Ernesto Cordero 12%. If she wins, Mota would become the first female presidential nominee in Mexico's 202 year history.
PRI ruled Mexico for 70 years until it was defeated in the 2000 election by former PAN president Vicente Fox. Felipe Calderón was elected six years later on the PAN ticket. Mexican presidents are limited to a single term. PRI, which controls the majority of the 32 state gubernatorial posts, is more determined than ever to recapture national office on July 1. All of its hopes ride on Enrique Peña Nieto.
U.S. "staying out" until Mexico's election is over, says Security Secretary
A footnote: Speaking at a Washington conference today U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano emphasized that the United States "will work with whoever is in charge; we have good relationships (with everybody)." She added that violence in Mexico and Central America is one of the principal concerns of the Obama administration.
Mexican presidential election 2012: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2012/01/news-clips-mexican-election-2012-notes.html.
Mexico's "Great Hope," Enrique Peña Nieto: http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/12/pris-great-hope-enrique-pena-nieto.html.
Back to the "Good Old Days" with PRI: http://mexicogulfreporter-supplement.blogspot.com/2011/11/back-to-good-old-days-in-mexico.html