Calderón Dips Into PAN's Deep Pockets

A sign of concern? Or just flexing its muscles?


The National Action Party is funneling big bucks from its congressional candidates to presidential nominee Felipe Calderón, according to a scoop reported by El Universal.

The party, known by its Spanish acronym PAN, has skimmed 150,000 pesos from each down-ballot contender to divert more than 54 million pesos to Calderón's campaign. The money is for a final, massive ad buy before the July 2 voting.

Calderón, the conservative, Harvard-educated candidate who promises to continue the policies of Vicente Fox, has been spending more than his opponents on television and radio advertising, according to El País, a daily published in Spain.

Polls and analysts on the ground say the race between Calderón and Andrés Manuel López Obrador is too close to call. (Few people give the PRI's Roberto Madrazo or the two other candidates much of a chance.)

In the end, it may well come down to turnout, S. Lynne Walker wrote in the San Diego Union-Tribune: "A long, negative campaign marred by personal attacks has confused voters who are not accustomed to this dark side of democracy. The charges have divided the country - and even families - over who should be Mexico's next president. Now, 40 percent of the nation's 71 million registered voters say they may not vote at all."

Campaign Conexion One-on-One

Turnout is one reason political scientist Kathleen Bruhn thinks Calderón might pull out a victory.

Calderón's supporters are "the type of voters that turn out," she said in an interview. "They tend to be the better-educated, better off financially."

The PAN, Bruhn explained, is similar to the Republican Party in America -- it has fewer registered voters but manages to get them out in higher percentages on most election days.

"If the poor are enthusiastic enough to turn out, then López Obrador wins big," said Bruhn, a professor at the University of California who is author of two books and numerous articles on Mexico.

The voting group to watch, she said, is the growing contingent of independents. It's no coincidence that campaign banners decorating Mexico City and the countryside often have little or no mention of political party. Skepticism toward political parties is a "continental trend," according to Bruhn's analysis of the region.

The growing numbers of independent voters "makes the Mexican election more volatile, more susceptible to" last-minute appeals, campaign ads and news coverage, Bruhn said.

Bruhn has been traveling in Latin America for nearly two decades, tracing political movements. In Mexico for the final few weeks of the campaign, she senses the time is ripe for a challenge of the results. If the outcome is close, particularly if López Obrador is trailing by a narrow margin, she said a recount, court fight or protests in the streets are possible. The PRD, she noted, "has had elections stolen from them so many times" they may be itching for a fight.

More Mudslinging

Stumping in Monterrey, the business capital of Mexico, López Obrador once again raised the specter of Calderón's "uncomfortable brother-in-law" Diego Zavala, the executive who allegedly profited from Calderón's government position.

AMLO, as López Obrador is known here, told a sea of supporters that most entrepreneurs don't use family influence to secure work. Take that!

The Zavala story dominated almost an entire page of El Universal Tuesday. The PRD reportedly released "new evidence" that Zavala's company, Hildebrando, landed favorable government contracts. The firm's Web site touts "successful" contracts with a number of government agencies.

Calderón's party, the PAN, continues to hit López Obrador with charges that the former Mexico City mayor is capitalizing on friends and resources in city government to assist his campaign. But this story looks to be wearing thin. Reporter Carlos Aviles Allende opens a piece in El Universal by noting that the PAN did not provide any new information or copies of the "supposed official documents." Is that media skepticism we hear?

Political Disobedience

In the home stretch, Calderón has taken a low-key approach, spending time planting a tree (part of his schtick) and autographing his book, "The Disobedient Son." The title plays off two central moments in his life, the first when he decided to stick with the PAN after his father renounced it, and the second when he bolted the Fox administration and secured the PAN nomination over Fox's chosen candidate.

Calderón opened his campaign playing off that independent, dare we say squeaky clean, image.

"Calderón, 43, is a man of contrasts--a conservative whose campaign theme is "the disobedient son," a self-proclaimed Mr. Clean who has run what some consider a dirty campaign, a Fox ally who embraces and distances himself from the departing president at the same time," writes Hugh Dellios in the Chicago Tribune. "While some see Calderón as too young and inexperienced to be president, others say he appears too old and serious to be so young. One ally nicknamed him "the young grandpa."

The designation El Hijo Desobediente may not be the wisest choice, Reforma columnist Miguel Angel Granados Chapa argued recently (link by subscription only). A song in Mexico of the same name recounts the unfortunate demise of said son, not the sort of omen most candidates are looking for.

For his part, Calderón has been talking up plans for a "coalition" government. At one campaign stop, he suggested the time for partisan politics has passed and "this is the hour of Mexico."

Angry Teachers

Fellow blogger Ana Maria Salazar, who also hosts radio and television programs in Mexico City, says anyone following the election should "keep an eye on Oaxaca. The dissident teachers of Oaxaca extended their strike till after July 2, and blamed the Oaxaca government of not fulfilling its promises, such as canceling the temporary restraining orders against the magisterial leaders."

The large and lengthy teachers' strike in one of Mexico's most rebellious regions does not directly relate to the presidential campaign. But there are hints it could affect the race.

The Los Angeles Times traveled to Oaxaca to check out the situation: "Most teachers in the state earn $600 to $700 per month. Many teachers complain of government corruption in a state still dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party [Madrazo's party], which until 2000 had ruled Mexico for seven decades as a virtual one-party nation." Coincidence? Back-in-the-pack Madrazo canceled an event in Oaxaca for today.

So how does a strike in one Mexican state stand to tip the election? The nation's 1.5 million teachers are like the Teamsters Union in the states, said Octavio Pescador, a UCLA professor born and raised in Mexico City. They are relatively poor and traditionally turn out in large numbers. "If they vote with their heart and ideology, López Obrador" will have a wide margin, Pescador told washingtonpost.com. He expects Lopez Obrador to capitalize on the Oaxaca unrest and make a pitch to frustrated teachers "part of his final push."

Road Trip

Campaign Conexion hits the campaign trail Wednesday. I'll be in Queretaro for an AMLO rally. Stay tuned.

By washingtonpost.com Editors |  June 21, 2006; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Campaign Conexión
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Altough I concur with the idea that a low turn-out may hurt AMLO chances, I have to take issue with Dr. Bruhns' statement that Calderón/PAN's followers tend to be "better educated." More schooling (most likely in a posh institution ran by a Catholic order or sect, or abroad) doesn't necessarily mean better education (e.g. The Presidential Couple); it only indicates that the voters and sometimes their families tend to be more affluent.

Unfortunately the tone of the campaigns has created disgust among a lot of public university students, who claim that there are no major differences among politicians, despite sharp contrasts between the proposals of the two leading candidates. This angry group of truly well educated youngsters are so disenchanted with politics that they may abstain from voting altogether. This is a tragedy, in particular in a nascent democracy, in a country in which a high proportion of the population is between their 20's and 30's.

Political parties of all persuasions in Mexico have failed to clearly explain their platforms to the indifferent, the fed-up and the undecided. The high cost of the election also makes some angry taxpayers to abstain from voting in protest.

At the end the electorate will probably chose the candidate that has managed best to paint his oponent in the most negative light. A vote for fear is for sure not the best way to elect a President.

Posted by: pasilla | June 21, 2006 03:10 PM

A regionalist perspective is in order... I am of the left, but cannot abide the PRD because it embodies the navel-gazing Mexico City intellectual elite. I am a northener who has never voted for PAN, but am getting ready to do so for the first time, because the PRD simply does not understand the North. At least the PRI has good northern governors...

Posted by: Gabriel | June 21, 2006 05:54 PM

Navel Gazing?????? Some people sound like the Christian Fundamentalists who call talk radio in the US, claim to be Democrats, but will vote for Dole or Bush "because the Democratic Party has left them."

Anyone "of the left" who will vote for a RightWing candidate, Calderon, who has publicly questioned scientists who claim the morning-after pill induces abortion, who continues to quote Bible passages in his campaign speeches, well...........

Posted by: Richard | June 22, 2006 09:18 AM

Richard,

You obviously don't grasp the reginoal diversity of Mexico... look at the polls and see the miniscule support the PRD has in the North. Comparing it to American politics of right and left, so-called Christians and secularists, utterly misses the point. Mexico City intellectuals, which are swooning over AMLO, think they embody the will of the entire coutry... the same way the have for centuries. Maybe in the north we are better with our checkbooks and loath the possibility of returning to the 1970s populism that took us 20 years to recover from. If AMLO wins it will be because of the hordes of "chilangos" that will vote for him.


Posted by: Gabriel | June 22, 2006 11:37 AM

Gabriel, you sound exactly like the Wall Street Journal did on the eve of President Clinton's ascension into power. That paper, as well as RightWingers at the Heritage Foundation, foresaw "socialist" Clinton ensuring economic demise. Then, when he declared "class warfare" by raising the top marginal rate to 31% to 39%, they again argued that Clinton's policies would ensure a global meltdown.

Richard, AMLO left Mexico City with an approval rating of over 80%, according to scientific polls. Obviously, more than the "intellectual" class warmed up to him.

As to how familiar I am with Mexico, I worked in the financial sector in Mexico City for many years, and my parents were born and raised in a small town in Nuevo Leon, which I have visited often.

Posted by: Richard | June 22, 2006 12:06 PM

Richard,

Stop the name-calling. Comparing me to Christian fundamentalists and the Wall Street Journal are fighting words, you surely must know that...
Of course 80% of Mexico City residents like him, he subsidized their living with our (ALL of Mexican's, not just the residents of Mexico City) taxpayers money. The country cannot afford that on a national scale. If you work for fiancial markets, surely you must know that.
Ask your parents and relatives in Nuevo Leon (I am from Monterrey) what they think of AMLO. If they like him, they are in the 15% or so of people of northern Mexico who like him.
I would vote PRI if they had Beatriz Paredes or another such figure as standardbearer, but with Madrazo I decided until recently I would vote for Patricia Mercado. But an AMLO victory I find so distastesful I am willing to put up with Calderon.
No Rovian name-calling, OK?

Posted by: Gabriel | June 22, 2006 02:39 PM

No Rovian name-calling??!!!

Yet, you support the candidate who initiated a SwiftBoat-like campaign against AMLO, with the help of Dick Morris.

Also, how can anyone from the "left" support a candidate who espouses a "flat tax", an intellectually-bankrupt concept perenially championed by the Right.

Here you have a country that collects 11% of GDP in taxes, a country that allowed Roberto Hernandez to sell his bank to CitiGroup for over 10 Billion dollars without paying one penny in taxes, and Calderon believes that people like Hernandez should pay less in taxes, not more.

And you are willing to support him?

As to my relatives, of course they support AMLO, as most educated citizens in Nuevo Leon do. As to your 15%, we'll see. Don't be surprised for AMLO to do better in Nuevo Leon than Calderon in Mexico City.

Finally, your arguments against AMLO's fiscal policy mirror those that the Right put forth against President Clinton's. Yet, the most successful Treasury Secretary in the US since Hamilton, Robert Rubin, would find much more to like in AMLO's program, than he would in Calderon's policies.

Posted by: Richard | June 22, 2006 03:22 PM

What part of "relecutantly"" don't you understand? I never said I liked Calderon, and have never voted PAN in my life.
The flat tax thing is an absolute idiocy, and yes one of the biggest problems is the rich not paying taxes. But how is that solved by blaming them for everything under the sun? Echeverria (AMLO's closest precedent) managed to ruin the country with the same policies and rhetoric that AMLO uses.
Rubin or Blair would be appalled by AMLO's program, don't kid yourself. Blaming "complots" and "empresarios" for the ills of the country is ludicrous, and is exactly what Rubin's "New Democrats" and Blair's "New Labor" reject about their predecessors. If there were some sort of modern leftist like Rubin or Blair (minus Iraq) in Mexico, I would vote for him (and especially a her).
As for "most educated citizens in Nuevo Leon", I am a Stanford graduate and former professor at both University of Monterrey and Monterrey Tech (though I am now in Southern Methodist University) I still go to these several times a year to give talks or lectures there and in MARCO and other museums. THERE IS NOT ONE "EDUCATED" (whatever you mean by that) regiomontano that is for AMLO (except perhaps my American-born brother, who is an unrepentant Nader voter).
Calderon has been playing dirty (and frankly, started it), and shame on him for that but AMLO has responded in kind, so a pox in both their houses on this.
AMLO's heart is in the right place, though, I grant you that. But so is Bush's and look at where that took us... it will be a generation to get over the disaster of his presidency. A rich country can afford that, a poor one cannot.

Posted by: Gabriel@Dallas | June 22, 2006 11:13 PM

Gabriel, you're a manipulator from the right and you'e in Dallas! What an idiot you are to be here. You're as much a leftist as John Kerry was a Democrat.

Lopez OBRADOR will WIN the NORTH! Massive events, 50 thousand people or more have occured in the north and at least 30% of Northern folks will vote for AMLO. PAN and PRI are losing because they thought Mexicans were fools, but fools we're not.

As for the article, Washington Post needs to leave Washington and come to Mexico, to see the disappearing middle class.

If the USA wants the stupid Right to win in Mexico, make the middle class richer, not poorer. That's you leasson. If you want to keep all the money for yourselves, Gringos, support from Latin America won't come. We'll create our money without your help, USA.

Posted by: Jennifer | June 23, 2006 12:59 AM

Easy, Jenn. You're on fire!!! As for Mr. Left Wing Gabriel, let´s just hope he can meet some of us regios (from Monterrey) who support AMLO. We're too many more than he can believe. Of course, it's hard to know it being as far from here as he is. By the way I don't agree with him when blaming AMLO 'cause he responded to Calderon dirty ways in the same manner. The guy had gone too far. Not only did he make personal and unsubstantiated attacks on his opponent, but he went after Elena Poniatowska as well. She is the bravest, most uncompromised and most honest writer in Mexico. She represents the best of all of us. These guys went after her because she asked the PAN in TV to start debating with ideas and not with insults. Accordingly, she then got insulted by these gentlemen. I don't know about you, but I don't want a president who bears this moral standards.

Posted by: Julio | June 23, 2006 02:05 AM

Jennifer,

If all you are going to do is shout and insult, then you must surely be one of those uncouth followers of AMLO (OK, even I get cheap shots, don't I?) You should keep them to yourself, at least until you know how to read and write properly.
VIVA CRISTO REY!!!

Posted by: Gabriel | June 23, 2006 10:05 AM

So, my friend from the "left" allows his true colors to shine.

Not surprising.

How wrong he is, thinking that President Clinton's economic team would not favorably assess AMLO's economic program. AMLO's program is basically President Clinton's: enabling market forces to work, but ensuring government involvement in the economy when necessary. Then again, my "leftist" friend probably opposed President Clinton's constant govt. "interference" during his Eight Years of Peace and Prosperity, as did the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. I imagine that my "leftist" friend also opposed President Clinton's recent statements condemming Bush's supply-side tax cuts.

Who are Calderon's followers in Mexico: the same people that support GWB in the US. Not very well educated, poor citizens that allow themselves to be manipulated by RightWing propoganda.

90% of the Mexicans I know that were educated in the States, and have returned to Mexico City, are actively supporting AMLO.

Finally, I am saddened by the fact that we hail from the same undergraduate institution, an institution that less than two months ago did not Bush to visit the campus. I am one of the 80% of grads of that school that consider themselves Center-Left, while you comprise the 20% that still believe in failed RightWing policies.

Posted by: Richard | June 23, 2006 10:40 AM

Clinton will be remembered by historians as a great president and one with the best economic policies that have ever been implemented. But he would never countenance direct payouts to large swaths of the population, or blaming private enterprise for the ills of the world (RUBIN WAS FROM GOLDMAN SACHS!!!). Handouts is what the worst of what the PRI did and what Tammany Hall did here too, and what AMLO intends to do, apparently. Again, good intentions, but all he will do is to produce more Bejaranos...
I grow tire of getting lumped with the WSJ, which in 8 years never managed a good word for Clinton. Can't you get it into your thick head? Being (reluctantly) for Calderon and working at Southern Methodist, therefore I must be a wingnut... guilt by association. PLEASE!!!
(and of course the Cristo Rey caption was in jest)
And I went to grad school at Stanford, not undergrad, and was proud of them for not having Bush over. Even here at SMU only students and administrators like him, not the professors.
And my whole original point was the regional diversity of Mexico and AMLO's and the PRD's lack of grasp of the regional complexities of Mexico, something which has been lost in calling me a wingnut... bunch of moonbats (OK, another cheap shot of mine...)

Posted by: Gabriel | June 23, 2006 11:09 AM

My friend does protest too much...)

President Clinton would never ever support the economic policies of RightWing Felipe Calderon. From an economic standpoint, nothing that FC espouses meshes with Democratic Party policy. Where to begin? First, Clinton would never support anyone that has made the flat tax the cornerstone of his economic program. Second, President Clinton would never embrace a candidate who believes that the wealthy are paying too much in taxes, as Calderon does.

What would Clinton think of AMLO's program? Where do I begin. First, Clinton would approve of AMLO's social security program, very similar to Roosevelt's. (please recall that the RightWing in this country also vilified the "communist" Roosevelt, when he began the program). Clinton would also nod approvingly at the Empowerment Zones AMLO created throughout Mexico City, which not only led to the development of marginal areas, but also to the construction of high-end condos in Polanco and Lomas.

I support AMLO b/c I believe that he is a pragmatic center-left politician who believes in the power of government. I support AMLO b/c I believe that he personifies the principles of the Democratic Party, the party of economic growth. And I am certain that, were President Clinton to cast his vote in the election, he would undoubtedly vote for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

We can agree on one thing.....Beat Cal...)

Posted by: Richard | June 23, 2006 01:36 PM

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