why there are no good PAN candidates

I have been wondering why the PAN ran such a weak candidate. Really, I had actually been kind of indignant about it. Until I found out why this weekend: all the good candidates were assassinated in helicopter crashes or shot, apparently.

I feel really gringo here in this situation. The more interest I develop in the Mexican elections, the more ignorant/naive I realize I have been on Mexican politics. As much as I would like to blame the Associate Press, I know I can’t. I vaguely understood that the country never really had problems with narcoviolence before Calderon because, before Calderon, the government had cooperated with the cartels. I also had formed the opinion that no matter how good your intentions are in cooperating with cartels, or in getting them to cooperate with you, the fact that your cooperation, for various reasons, has to be extra- or illegal, eventually leads to unaccountable governance. But I haven’t really been well-informed enough to substantiate these ideas, nor to see how true they actually are.

So today, I have signed in to update that, this weekend with my Mexican boyfriend’s family in Cuernavaca, we were discussing the presidential candidates, and two things emerged. The first is that my suegro, who was active in the foundation of the PAN, says he is going to vote PRD, just because he doesn’t think PAN has a chance and he doesn’t want PRI to get in. Others said they were pretty wary of the PRD candidate’s ego, for example my cuñada mentioned that she could see him turning into a Hugo Chavez. (Incidentally, someone else chimed in that the gringos wouldn’t let that happen. I pretended to be proud and Merican, but I am not so sure, actually. Rather than voice my doubt, I joked that perhaps Mexican emigrants in the U.S. would withold remissions transfers in protest.)

But anyway, then this second thing emerged. I, previously being kind of quiet because everyone else knows more about Mexican politics than me, finally blurted out, “¿Does the PAN really not have a better candidate than Vazquez Mota?” Everyone looked at me sadly and confirmed that, no, in fact she is the best they’ve got, bless her heart. I was kind of incredulous, so then an aunt softly explained to me that…

The PAN had actually had 3 promising candidates, but each of them had been killed, specifically shot or shot down in helicopters, over the last 4 years.

Oh.

I had of course heard about those killings, but, not really understanding the background of any of the victims, other than that they were powerful, I had left the events classified in my mind as “generally murky dealings, probably narco-related.”

Those killings I’m sure were narco-related, but for me, realizing that all of the strongest, most credible presidential candidates were knocked off, it clicked that yes, of course the cartels are working with the PRI, dummy, and in probably quite definite terms.

I don’t actually assume that everyone calling themselves PRI is horrible, still. In some places, ie the border, people may not really have any choice. At the same time, I am kind of disheartened that Mexico isn’t raising more hell about this, if only because I think maybe the people who are most outraged feel like they have to hide it. Or even worse, maybe they don’t feel that way; maybe they are raising hell, and just not enough people are listening to them.

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u.s. news media lame oh wait that’s not news

Ugh. Just wanted to check in with English-language/U.S. coverage of the student uprisings that were happening in Mexico this weekend, so I went to my old source the Washington Post and searched “Mexico.”

The first thing that comes up is this crap. “Front-runner in Mexico’s presidential race pledges respect for democracy and plurality.” That is the headline.

I didn’t realize that the PRI owned the Washington Post (actually, the Associated Press) as well as Televisa, but it sure sounds like they’ve got the same bland-ass copywriter on their payroll.

Background: this candidate is the “front runner” because the Mexican media is heavily manipulated by politicians (and vice-versa), and also gangstas judging by the journalist homicide rate. (Because there are homicide statistics for journalists here.) When characterizing the persecution of journalists and hampering of free speech in Mexico, Freedom House actually uses the term “systematic impunity.” Apparently this news is not as important as the story about a politician who, quote, pledges to respect democracy and plurality.

Anyway, since there seems to be not that much reporting on the student marches that happened this weekend in Mexico, I will briefly summarize. Around 40 thousand “mostly young,” as AP says, college students marched through the city Friday and again Saturday to demonstrate what they see as obvious falseness in media claims that he is the “front runner.” There were offshoot marches in cities around the country, and even in other countries (including a group of 40 in NYC). This was after he was jeered by hundreds a week earlier when giving an obligatory interview to the Ibero University’s radio station.

I get that these kids are fresas, but AP doesn’t even make it to that level. What we have here is a very clear example of syndicated journalism eating its own barf, and then the Washington Post goes and republishes it.

Seriously, it makes sense that a wire service like AP would get stories from the big local media conglomerate, but why bother running the story if they aren’t even going to fact check it? Or reality check it?

Here, of course, the L.A. Times has a more realistic take.

mexican elections

Last night at the trendy cocktail bar Limantour this chick who works for L’Oreal’s hair dye division told me I have “cara de política” meaning I look like I am into politics. She was cool. I am going to post on the Mexican elections in honor of her, and in honor of the fact that my FM2 immigration document was approved; also, in acknowledgement of the fact that I don’t have that much to say about the US elections.

Background on the Mexican elections–  Presidential elections are in July. Four candidates are running. Here is my somewhat simplistic take on each of them:

Josefina Vázquez Mota, of the PAN. PAN is the incumbant president’s party. Widely viewed (by me) as a weak candidate strategically offered up by the party because she is a woman and because due to widespread violence in the country the PAN does not expect to be reelected. Her campaign also seemed really amateurish at first, which supports the theory that PAN doesn’t take her seriously.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the PRD. Former mayor of Mexico City who ran in the last elections, and according to many won the count. In protest of the “official result” against his favor, he shut down one of the main thoroughfares of the city for three months. He is a badass which normally I respect, but I also think he is kind of crazy and might pull some kind of Hugo Chavez steez if elected.

Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI. Former governor of Estado de México, a PRI stronghold and the largest economy in the country after Mexico City. PRI governed the country for 70 years in the 20th century and were corrupt. There isn’t really any reason to believe that they aren’t still corrupt, but they still govern most of the states in Mexico. They have the most support, I guess in “las provincias,” but everyone I know says they don’t know anyone who will vote for him. He is also a pretty boy and seems to have a low IQ.

Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, of the Nueva Alianza. “Academic” candidate from unestablished party, whom no one was talking about until he won the debates. Probably most people who were listening to him agreed with the things he said, but increasingly I hear, and believe, that he is a hologram candidate put up to distract votes from Vázquez Mota and López Obrador. Also, it is hard to trust a guy whose party was founded by the teacher’s union boss. Although to a foreigner the teacher’s union might sound harmless enough, from what I understand they actually allow some quite appalling practices to go on. I won’t go into it here.

And here is my official analysis:

I am disgusted to realize that based on PRI support which seems to visible “in the interior of the republic” (outside major cities), it is likely that Peña Nieto will win. Aside from the fact that he is an idiotic prettyboy who just does what he is told, corrupt government is socially demoralizing.

Upon further reflection, I am also disgusted by the PRD and PAN’s failure to put forward competitive candidates. PRD could have run Marcel Ebrard, the current, very popular mayor of Mexico City. My roommate suggested that they didn’t because of López Obrador’s ego. I think it could also be related to Ebrard and/or Mexico’s unreadiness that he come out of the closet. At any rate, I would vote for Ebrard. A lot of people would. He would have had a great shot at winning.

Meanwhile Vázquez Mota, while probably not crazy like López Obrador, kind of just seems not ready yet. She did alright in the debates, and she seems to have some strong opinions. But she just doesn’t seem very leaderly or commanding. And I find it hard to believe that she is the best the PAN could do.

So this leaves me trying to decide whether I feel dejected at the apparent defeatism of Mexico’s educated class (I also feel this way about Mexican soccer, by the way) or conspiracy-theoristy about maybe the PRI has something up its sleeve in terms of stemming the narcoviolence, which the PAN at least in its desparation is willing to accept. Or something. That would be kind of nice, but I generally discount conspiracy theories because of skepticism that governments are capable of organizing well enough to pull them off.

YouTube clip of Peña Nieto getting jeered off campus yesterday at one of Mexico City’s large public universities.

I really don’t know whom I would vote for in Mexico. The best I can do to influence policy here is vote for people in the U.S. who want to pursue a good relationship with Mexico and Chicanos.

u.s elections

My boring opinion on the U.S. elections is that I think Romney and Obama are both pragmatic enough and the problem of the economy is overarching enough that it doesn’t empassion me to consider who will win or lose. I will vote for Obama mainly because things like his interest in cutting federal agriculture subsidies indicates to me that his ideas on leadership for the country are better-rooted in a clear, non-partisan list of national problems to solve. Both seem to be pretty intellectually honest dudes, but I think Obama’s priorities are more constructive.