Apr 26, 2018

Mexican presidential candidates hold lively first debate, poised for next one June 12


Mexican presidential candidates finish first debate, poised for the next ones May 20 and June 12

Diana Washington Valdez

Digie Zone Network

Contenders for Mexico’s presidency exchanged insults and accused rivals of wrongdoing during their first debate April 22 in Mexico City that was televised and carried by social media.

The five presidential candidates are:

Ricardo Anaya
Ricardo Anaya, 39, the candidate who represents an alliance called For Mexico to the Front, law school lecturer, a former state and federal legislator and officer of the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

Andres M. Lopez Obrador
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, 64, also known as “AMLO,” represents the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) political party and is a candidate for the Together We’ll Make History coalition, a former governor candidate and former Mexico City mayor. He ran unsuccessfully for president two prior times.

Jose Antonio Meade
Jose Antonio Meade, 49, candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a lawyer and economist who held cabinet positions in the Felipe Calderon and Enrique Pena Nieto administrations.

Jaime "Bronco" Rodriguez
Jaime “Bronco” Rodriguez Calderon, 60, independent candidate, on leave as governor of Nuevo Leon, first governor to be elected as an independent, worked on ex-Governor Alfonso Martinez’s staff.

Margarita Zavala
Margarita Zavala, 50, independent candidate, a lawyer, former representative of the Mexican federal Chamber of Deputies (like the U.S. House of Representatives) and former First Lady as wife of ex-President Felipe Calderon. She unsuccessfully sought the nomination of the National Action Party (PAN), which went to Anaya.

The April 22 debate issues included public corruption, insecurity, democracy and vulnerable population groups.

“Bronco,” as Rodriguez is known, and who perhaps wanted to a make a splash on the national political scene, made the most controversial statement when he proposed “chopping the hands” of those who steal from the public.

“We need to chop the hand of those who steal. It’s that simple,” Rodriguez said.

Criminals apparently did not wait long to give “Bronco’s” idea credit. One or more suspects left three written messages, one alluded to “Bronco’s” suggestion, next to the mutilated body of an alleged extortionist. According to Aristegui Noticias, authorities said the victim’s head, hands and feet were found April 23 on the side of the Mexico City-Acapulco highway. Mutilated man

The moderators for the April 22debate were journalists Denise Maerker, with Televisa; Sergio Sarmiento, with TV Azteca, and Azucena Uresti, with Milenio.

As expected, Lopez was grilled about his campaign to grant amnesty to lawbreakers as a step toward reducing the violence in Mexico. During the debate, several of his rivals accused him of being vague on the details as to who might benefit from a presidential amnesty.

The candidate explained that amnesty was not the same thing as impunity, and that he wanted to create a multi-faceted task force to come up with recommendations to address the crime and violence that plague Mexico.

“We have to attend the causes that originated the problem of insecurity and violence,” Lopez said. “Above all, we need to combat poverty.”

Lopez complained that the other candidates had ganged up to attack him. Nonetheless, he was the front-runner in Reforma newspaper’s poll the week before the debate, with a near 50 percent favorability rating. During the debate, Lopez displayed a chart of those poll results.

“I’m not boasting. Something terrible would have to happen (to lose). We’re going to win this election,” Lopez said.

Although Lopez is often described a left-leaning politician, some pundits peg him as a populist in his third and most recent bid for the presidency.

Anaya had placed second in the same pre-debate Reforma poll, with 26 percent, Meade came in third with 18 percent, Zavala 5 had percent and Rodriguez 3 percent.

The poll of 1,200 voters was taken April 12-15 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.

Mexico’s presidential election is July 1. Presidents serve six-terms and may not be reelected. There is no early voting in Mexico currently. The citizens of Mexico will also be electing 3,000 other elected officials across the country.

“The question is, what kind of change do we want,” said Anaya, who stressed that he is the only candidate who can beat Lopez.

Anaya said he favors an independent federal prosecutor to tackle major cases of corruption and violent criminal organizations.

Anaya said it is not enough to go after the heads of criminal organizations, and that it is as important to dismantle the organizations.

The president should not above the law, said Anaya, adding that he will offer a legislative proposal “so that the president can be tried while he is in office.” He said that public servants who break the law should not be allowed to hold any other public post in the future.

Anaya also held up a photograph of Meade cutting a cake with ex-Chihuahua Gov. Cesar Duarte, who is wanted by Chihuahua authorities on alleged public corruption charges. Duarte, reportedly, is in the United States.

“What size was the slice you got?” Anaya said to Meade, who like Duarte belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Meade did not have time to respond.

“This is not just another election,” Anaya said. The future of an entire generation is at stake.”

At times, Anaya criticized Meade and the political party he represented, which he blames for widespread corruption. During other moments, Lopez came under fire for the controversial supporters he’s added to his campaign and was peppered with questions about his income sources and properties.

Meade said he would like to see a uniform legal code instituted to deal with crime.

"Out of two million crimes each year, only three out of 100 are solved,” said Meade, who vowed to end impunity.

“Mexico’s biggest problem is (economic) inequality, and we’re going to beat it,” Meade said.

Meade also said there should be greater transparency whenever the military is used in a crime-fighting role, to include why and how the military will be used.

Zavala, the former First Lady, said "We have to fight the evil with the good ... because we won't have a Mexico at peace if we don’t have a Mexico that feels safe."

Zavala also said she would champion the rights and safety of women, protect the country against crime and corruption and against U.S. President Donald Trump.

“I’m going to set as priorities the fight against femicides, sex-trafficking and the disappearances of young people,” Zavala said.

When Rodriguez suggested that “thieves should have their hands chopped off,” Uresti, one of the moderators, asked him if he was serious, and he responded in the affirmative.

In another dramatic gesture, Rodriguez held up a bullet during the debate that allegedly had been used in a failed attack against him. He did not provide details about the attack.

He also flashed his telephone number on Whatsapp, and said that instead of making campaign promises, he wants to hear from the public on what kind of changes they want to see in Mexico

Anaya wins post-debate survey

According to a Grupo Reforma post-debate survey, Anaya gave the best performance and handily won the April 22 showdown. The survey of 903 opinion leaders gave Anaya a 68 percent favorability rating. Lopez, who is the front-runner in the polls, with 48 percent of support, garnered only 16 percent of the post-debate survey support.

Only 9 percent of the respondents thought Meade won the debate. “Bronco,” the governor of Nuevo Leon on leave from his post during the campaign, scored 4 percent. Zavala, wife of ex-President Felipe Calderon, who projected better in the debate than she had in other past public appearances, scored 3 percent.

The second of three debates scheduled for the candidates will take place May 20 in the border city of Tijuana, Bajo California, and will focus on immigration, border security and foreign relations.

Sources: Univision (televised debate), CNN, El Pais, Reforma, Aristegui Noticias, Forbes Debate

Diana Washington Valdez
Diana Washington Valdez is an award-winning journalist and author who has reported on Mexican politics, U.S.-Mexico relations and other international issues. She has been interviewed by major news outlets around the world. She is based in El Paso, Texas, and is president of the Digie Zone Network, a group of digital news services in English and Spanish. www.facebook/thedigiezone @thedigiezone