Welcome to The Digie Zone Network, a global news and information community with a geopolitics perspective. Follow our other pages with news feeds @ https://www.facebook.com/thedigiezone and Marco Polo 360 (en Español). On Twitter @digiezone. News, information, essays, columns and more. Diana Washington Valdez-Publisher and President. Have a great day!
Jun 26, 2018
Mexico Elections 2018: The Battle for Puerto Vallarta
Mexico Elections 2018: The Battle for Puerto
Kent Paterson/The Digie Zone
Photos by L. Paterson
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO - Why would a foreigner give a hoot about who is the
next mayor of Puerto Vallarta? First of all, more foreign-born
transplants are moving to the Mexican coastal resort city, especially from the
United States and Canada. Second, the emerging metropolis on Banderas Bay and
straddling the states of Jalisco and Nayarit is attracting more international
For instance, in one measurement, the cruise ship
business is back in force after a post 2008 decline. According to the old
Frontera NorteSur news service of New Mexico State University, cruise ship
arrivals to Puerto Vallarta soared from 144 ships with 164,967 passengers in
1994 to 276 ships and 589,000 passengers in 2008. In 2013, though, only 80
ships with 164,062 passengers were scheduled to dock in Puerto Vallarta.
This year, however, the bayside city is expected to
host 158 ships with 368,950 passengers, reported the federal Secretariat of
Communications and Transportation.
Whoever is elected mayor July 1 will, of course,
have a big hand in the quality of life and visiting experience for both
residents and tourists, with responsibilities pertaining to streets and
sidewalks, ongoing polemics over garbage collection, the readiness of the local
fire department and the leadership of the police department, always a thorny
issue in Mexico.
With the upcoming vote in mind, Puerto Vallarta's
local chamber of commerce (Canaco-Servytur) organized a mayoral forum in late
June. Eleven of the 12 candidates for the city's top job spoke out on tourism,
public safety and public works. The no-show was Hernan Carmona of the PRD
party. Prior to the event held at one of Puerto Vallarta's newer hotels, eight
of the 12 candidates submitted written statements that were published in
Canaco-Servytur's newspaper. The mayoral candidates must field a slate of ten
city council candidates and ten substitutes.
Greeting forum attendees, Carlos Gerard, president
of the local Canaco-Servytur branch, set the record straight: "We don't
have an inclination toward any candidate. It's important to say that."
Strictly enforcing time limits, chamber organizers limited each candidate to a
Leading off the roster of hopefuls was the Citizen
Movement party's Arturo Davalos, Puerto Vallarta's mayor-on-leave who is seeking
a second term and, if reelected will make history as the city's first two-term
mayor thanks to recent political reforms. Many locals predict
Davalos will win.
First elected in 2015, Davalos highlighted what he
considered were the accomplishments of his administration-adding more police
patrols, certifying honest officers, equipping firefighters, finishing public
works in many needy neighborhoods, paying down the municipal debt, and more.
The day before the forum, the municipal police
conducted a round-up of as many as 50 men charged with public nuisances
(typically drinking in public, urinating on the streets and haranguing
passerby) according to the Tribuna de
Bahia newspaper. In one instance, this reporter observed several young men
handcuffed in the back of a police truck before they were whisked away.
Davalos delivered an upbeat assessment of Puerto
Vallarta's prospects, saying "we are among the safest eight cities in
Mexico, confirmed by the National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics
and 100 percent (lodging) occupation."
According to Davalos, Puerto Vallarta's tourism
industry-virtually the only game in town-has rebounded tremendously since a
sharp downturn about a decade ago due to the Great Recession and other factors,
with statistical indicators beating the preceding year's since 2015. Proof
of a better business environment is evidenced in the filling of 300 of 500
formerly empty storefronts in the downtown core, Davalos said.
"We are going to grow tourism in a safe and
clean city," he vowed.
The two-time mayoral candidate left the forum after
his nine minutes expired, citing a busy agenda as the reason. Consequently,
Davalos wasn't present to hear criticisms of his administration, and the state
of Puerto Vallarta, from the rival candidates.
Take the Stand
Enrique Gerardo Gou Boy, the candidate for the
Mexican Green Party (PVEM) prefaced his remarks by saying that he was a
non-party member, or "citizen" candidate, who had agreed to run on
the ticket. Gou Boy sharply criticized the persistent trash problem on the streets,
and the size of sidewalks that are "impossible" to walk on.
Street in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Pointing to his experience as a former resident of
Cancun who organized the Caribbean city's now famous jazz festival, Gou Boy
argued that Puerto Vallarta needs more events of that magnitude as a strategy
to survive the infamous low tourist season (May-October), when workers are
regularly laid-off and some businesses temporarily close their doors.
Independent candidate Francisco "Pepe"
Martinez advocated that public works contracts go to locals so "the
greatest amount" of money stays in town, while another independent, Maximo
Martinez, proposed boosting tourism through cultural activities, developing
ancient ruins and luring group meetings to the city. "We have a convention
center and we need to take advantage of it," he said. Martinez criticized
the condominium boom in the Emiliano Zapata neighborhood, claiming that
"50 (construction) permits have unduly gone out … we can't permit
"I am a father, Catholic, humanist, and
businessman," was how the conservative National Action Party's Saul Lopez
introduced himself. The youthful candidate ran down seven specific proposals
including downtown revitalization, a new tramway, a sunken boat attraction and
an ecological park for the El Salado lagoon, home of crocodiles and migratory
Luis Alberto Lopez, an independent candidate and
journalist by profession, took sharp jabs at the current municipal administration,
blasting the "corruption" nobody addresses.
"As a journalist I've always been a pessimist,
and as a candidate even more so. We have to cut the (political)
campaigns," Lopez said.
Heriberto Sanchez of the National Alliance Party,
who characterized contemporary Puerto Vallarta as a "dark and dirty"
city, was also forceful in his words. Sanchez described a chaotic airport
and harried circumstances for pedestrians in places like the boulevard between
the cruise ship terminal and a familiar super store.
"It's a shame you have to risk your life to
cross the street to buy something at Walmart," he quipped. Sanchez also
accused the Davalos administration of being "corrupt," bloated with
"lazy employees" and non-essential "advisors to advisors."
A soft-spoken chemist and entrepreneur, Maria
Laurel Carrillo of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's electoral coalition, made up
of the Morena, PT and PES political parties, is the only woman in the mayoral
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
"We don't have commitments to anyone, only the
people," Carrillo insisted. The first-time candidate said one of her acts
as mayor will be to sit down with Canaco-Servytur and other community
organizations to draft an "integrated strategic plan" for Puerto
Vallarta. She called for downtown revitalization, bringing more European
tourists to Puerto Vallarta and promoting regionally produced goods such as the
mezcal like beverage raicilla and coffee.
As a relatively unknown politician until now, it remains
to be seen if Carrillo will benefit from a possible "AMLO effect," or
heavy vote for presidential contender Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, that will
extend to other Morena candidates.
For his part, a wonkish Roberto Gonzalez of the
Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) proposed greater attention to the
non-touristic sector of the economy, proposing major investment in the fertile
lands surrounding his Pacific coast city.
"Puerto Vallarta is only classified as a
touristic place, when we have a formidable countryside," the higher
education professional said.
Based on government statistics, Gonzalez painted a
troubling socio-economic picture of Puerto Vallarta, contending that more than
half of the economically active population only brings in between $45 and $200
per month; the stupendous growth of a city made famous by Richard Burton and
Elizabeth Taylor has primarily benefited a small elite, he contended.
As elsewhere in Mexico, public safety looms as a
huge issue in Puerto Vallarta. In addition to commonplace burglaries and armed
heists of convenience stores and gas stations, spectacular incidents last
spring added to the concerns, including the simultaneous armed robberies of two
jewelry stores in broad daylight and, separately, the arrest of the deputy
municipal police chief who was accused of participating in the forced
disappearance of two federal police agents who were later found murdered,
allegedly at the behest of a drug cartel.
At the same time, earlier forced disappearances
that have jolted Vallartense society, including the high-profile cases of dance
instructor Erika Cueto and City Councilman Humberto "Beto" Gomez in
2014 and 2015, respectively, remain unresolved.
Each of the 11 participating candidates had
specific proposals for the public safety realm, though many shared positions
around improving the quality of police officers, hiking officer salaries,
encouraging community policing, and ensuring that public security cameras function.
Crime prevention was also broached, with Maximo
Martinez urging the restructuring of the police force and neighborhood block
watches, Saul Lopez favoring art and sports activities for youth and
independent Francisco Romero, a self-described mariachi, advocating musical
training as an alternative to violence. "We have music in our
blood," Romero maintained, saying it was better to have an instrument than
Movements and Electoral Politics
The Puerto Vallarta mayoral race has proven to be
an opportunity for human rights, environmental, land rights and other social
movement activists to enhance their presence through the formation of the
Social Council Collective (CSC), which is fielding city hall watchdog Fernando
Sanchez for mayor as an independent candidate. Sanchez was a local spokesman
for the anti-gasoline price hike movement that flared in Puerto Vallarta and
across the country in early 2017.
At the mayoral forum, Sanchez stood out for his
proposals to ensure "total transparency" in government by taping the
daily activities of public officials while opening up city council meetings to
direct citizen involvement in decision-making. "When you are a public
figure, you are a public figure the moment you leave your house," Sanchez
told the assembled audience.
No measures should pass the council without the
input of specialists in a given subject, i.e., architects or engineers, as well
as the general public, he said.
In an interview, Sanchez later detailed the
grassroots political initiative launched by the CSC. According to the political
hopeful, independent candidates like himself were required to form a non-profit
organization such as the CSC and pay the hefty, corresponding fees.
Sanchez's candidacy was at first rejected by the
state electoral authority because of a dispute over the geographic scope of
nominating petition signatures. But the activist appealed to the state
electoral court and won, gaining ballot status in late May and giving him time
for a few weeks' worth of campaigning.
"The system didn't want us to participate,"
he maintained. Sanchez stressed the community nature of his campaign, telling
this reporter that he counts on a core group of 25 volunteers plus another 100
or 150 others who occasionally pitch in. Campaign funds, he added, hail from
the pockets of supporters.
"We aren't rich and what we had was money
contributed by ourselves."
The CSC is pushing a 10-point program containing
planks for good government, slashing salaries of high-ranking municipal
officials, improving public safety, fomenting culture and sports, basing
economic development on local businesses, reactivating municipal medical
services, and supporting quality education in schools.
In pounding the pavement of Puerto Vallarta's
different neighborhoods, CSC campaigners have heard an earful about public
safety, Sanchez said. "(Puerto Vallarta) was known as the friendliest city
in the world," he lamented. "That's because you could sleep with your
Sanchez added that the CSC's efforts will continue
after election day. "This is the work of conscious people who want to
change Puerto Vallarta," he said.
Battle in Context
In a larger sense, the Puerto Vallarta mayoral race
is a microcosm of the Mexican political scene in 2018, a fragmentary one which
is characterized by the proliferation of independent candidacies,
office-holders seeking reelection for the first time, the growing profile of
women candidates, and the rise and fall of various political parties. Notably,
five of the 12 contenders in the Puerto Vallarta mayoral contest are
Although many parties have banded together to field
joint presidential and congressional candidates in the national races, the
fragility of such electoral coalitions is apparent in state and local contests
like Puerto Vallarta's where the different forces are frequently going it
alone. Nonetheless, Lopez Obrador's coalition has stuck together behind
Laurel Carrillo for mayor of Puerto Vallarta,
As the July 1 vote approaches In Puerto Vallarta
and Jalisco, the old domination of local and state politics by the PRI and PAN
parties appears to be on the verge of final burial. If local predictions are on
mark, the two leading statewide parties likely to emerge after July 1 will be
the centrist Citizen Movement party and the center-left Morena party, both of
which nevertheless host defectors from the PRI, PAN and other political
In Puerto Vallarta and other tourist destinations
already suffering the low season blues, businesses and their workers reliant on
liquor sales will take another economic hit the weekend of July 1, when a dry
law takes effect until the voting is over.
Author-journalist Kent Paterson is an expert on
Mexican politics. He is a frequent contributor to the Digie Zone Network.