May 19, 2018

Mexican presidential candidates to debate border issues

Mexican Presidential Candidates to Debate Border Issues
Zavala drops out of the race ... 

Kent Paterson/Digie Zone Network

Candidate Zavala bows out
Readers who understand Spanish might well check out the second Mexican presidential debate, scheduled for Sunday, May 20, at (8:30 pm Mountain Standard Time).  The debate will be transmitted live from Tijuana on YouTube via, the website of the official National Electoral Institute (INE). Interested viewers will also likely find the debate streamed live on, El Universal and other major Mexican media outlets.

Organized around border security, migrant rights and foreign trade issues, the second presidential debate comes at a time of renewed friction between the United States and Mexico. Besides disagreements over  a revised North American Free Trade Agreement and the Mexican Economy Secretary's pledge this week to respond in kind if the Trump administration imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum, bilateral relations were strained in the wake of President Trump's now famous "animals" remark connected to migrants.

In response, the Mexican government sent an unusual diplomatic note to Washington.  In a May 17 statement describing its action, the Peña Nieto administration called the U.S. president's words "absolutely unacceptable, since they generated an adverse climate for Mexicans in the United States, independent of their migratory situation."

Mexico's Foreign Secretariat contended that Trump's words were "contrary to respect for human rights and weaken the principle of shared responsibility that should govern the bilateral relationship."

Significantly, the second presidential debate will occur with one less contender. Independent Margarita Zavala, the former wife of President Felipe Calderon and the only woman candidate who achieved ballot status, suddenly announced May 16 that she was dropping out of the race.

Zavala, who was polling in the low single digits, cited the lack of money and the unlikely election of an independent candidacy under current election rules as the major reasons for her decision. The former National Action Party lawmaker did not immediately   throw her support behind one of the remaining four male candidates, insisting she would leave it up to her followers to vote their consciences.

"..The votes are yours, of the citizens, not of the politicians, the leaders or the political parties," Zavala was quoted in La Jornada.

Despite Zavala's withdrawal from the race, the INE said her name will stay on the ballot because of the logistical and financial impossibility of printing a new one before July 1 election day. 

Zavala's departure leaves Andrés Manuel López Obrador, José Antonio Meade, Ricardo Anaya and Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez in the presidential contest. All four are expected to participate in Sunday evening's Tijuana debate. Because of the reduction of scheduled participants from five to four, the INE shortened the duration of the debate from 118 to 96 minutes.

Different from the first debate, time is reserved for questions from citizens. 

Meanwhile, politically tainted violence continues to mount in the six weeks remaining until the July 1 elections. According to Mexican media reports, Lourdes Torres Diaz, mayoral candidate for Álvaro Obregón, Michoacan, was kidnapped May 17 by armed men from the headquarters of the local branch of the Labor Party but reported rescued by state police the next day.

"There will be no impunity in Michoacan," state Governor Silvano Aureoles wrote on his Twitter account. 

Torres is the candidate of López Obrador's Together We Will Make History coalition and the wife of an ex-mayor of Álvaro Obregón who is currently in jail on homicide charges.  Also on May 17, the leader of the pro López Obrador Labor Party in Santo Domingo Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, Hernán d de Mata Quintas was shot to death, while Andrés García Jaime, former mayor and state legislator for the PRD party, was murdered in his hardware store in Amacuzac, Morelos.

Author-journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on Mexican politics.