'Don't Make Bets' on Mexico Race
Time is running out for Mexico's presidential candidates. Although voting takes place Sunday, July 2, election law prohibits any active campaigning in the final four days. Campaign Conexión wonders if that means a nap is in order Thursday?
In addition to the fact that the polls are all within a handful of percentage points of each other, the well-respected columnist accurately notes that this has been a volatile campaign, especially by Mexican standards, and it is a fragmented electorate. The outcome of the election may rest in the hands of women and younger votes, he writes.
More significant is the enormous interview with López Obrador, which dominates the top half of the front page and a full page inside Monday's paper.
In it, he responds (in a not-so-straightforward manner) to fears that if he is defeated his supporters will take to the streets in protest.
"When asked if he would head marches in protest if he is defeated, he said this could occur only if the process is tainted, presumably by allegations of fraud or vote-buying," he said. But, with a caveat: "I am not going to start a post-electoral movement unless we are certain that we were victorious."
Jittery about AMLO?
The prospect of a López Obrador presidency is causing consternation on both sides of the border.
"Some of Obrador's positions also make Washington uneasy," writes Danna Harman in the Christian Science Monitor. "All candidates have condemned the construction of more walls along the US-Mexican border, and have vowed to push for an immigration accord with the US. But Obrador, who has been in the US only once in his life and does not speak English, is the most critical of US policies. He has also threatened not to honor Mexico's agreement to drop tariffs on US corn and beans as stipulated by the North American Free Trade Agreement."
Recall that AMLO, as he is known, had led in public polling for the better part of two years until a series of sharp attacks in the spring by conservative Felipe Calderón and his ruling party, the National Action Party, or PAN. So it shouldn't be such a shocker that he appears to have pulled even again. López Obrador, argues analyst Denise Dresser, is a symptom of the serious economic and political problems in Mexico.
"It's no wonder that López Obrador receives the support he does. He is a providential politician created by a dysfunctional economic system. He exists and may win the presidency on July 2 because of everything that Mexico's business and political classes failed to do: create real opportunities for ordinary people by reforming Mexico's crony capitalism," she writes. "None of this is to suggest that López Obrador would necessarily deliver the bounty he has promised. He may have correctly diagnosed Mexico's ills, but he doesn't offer the right solutions. Much of what he promises smells archaic and has yet to reflect the challenges that Mexico's globalized economy faces."
A survey by Credit Suisse First Boston finds that a majority of investors believes López Obrador is on his way to victory. And foreign investors appear to like AMLO more than local money men.
"So what is leading local investors to be more cautious? There is more than a chance that it is simply wishful thinking. After all, Mexican investors do not like Mr López Obrador. They see him not as a modern leftist in the mould of Ricardo Lagos, Chile's former president, but rather as an authoritarian one who has little regard for Mexico's still fragile institutions."
Columnist Ken Emmond, who has lived in Mexico for more than a decade, does a nice job of summarizing the campaign. The election, he writes, comes down to sharp distinctions in economic policy, with López Obrador focusing on wealth distribution and Calderón emphasizing stability and growth.
The "Safe" Choice
Calderón, a mild-mannered 43-year-old who served less than one year as Fox's energy secretary, is offering himself in the final days as the safer alternative.
"Our adversaries represent an alternative of hate and slander," Calderón said. "They want to cheat Mexicans with lies that they will magically increase their wages."
The quandary for Calderón in this race has been similar to the dilemma that tied Al Gore up in knots through much of the 2000 campaign: Embrace the incumbent boss or be your own man?
Calderón, writes Letta Tayler in Newsday, "wants to capitalize on Fox's personal popularity and on free-trade policies that have created low inflation, recent economic growth of 5.5 percent and U.S. offerings that range from Krispy Kreme doughnuts to Wal-Mart. At the same time, Calderón desperately hopes to distance himself from Fox's failure to curb longstanding ills. Half the nation lives in poverty, and violence among warring drug cartels spills across the U.S. border. So do illegal drugs and an estimated 400,000 undocumented Mexicans each year."
One way Calderón is trying to get his message across is by spending, spending and spending. In the period ending June 23, the Calderón camp purchased more than 3,300 radio and television spots, compared to 2,800 by the López Obrador team and 2,000 by Roberto Madrazo's campaign. Calderón, according to El Universal, has spent 574 million pesos since January, while Madrazo has spent about 385 million pesos and López Obrador 250 million pesos.
Yes, It's the Economy
With apologies to James Carville, this election, like many in the U.S. and elsewhere, really does come down to pocketbook issues.
Some see signs that the Mexican economy has improved.
"Lost in all the publicity about poor Mexican workers besieging the U.S. border in search of better-paying jobs is one fact: From Tijuana on the border with California to Merida in the Yucatán peninsula, oil-rich Mexico is booming. Inflation remains low, economic growth is steady, and salaries are rising. The Mexican government has more than $76 billion in foreign-currency reserves, the most in its history."
Others fear the campaign and its aftermath will simply divide the classes further.
For one of the most in-depth explanations of the tensions here, read the Houston Chronicle's coverage. In the first installment of a two-part series, bureau chief Dudley Althaus zeroes in on the wide economic and cultural gaps the next president will face.
"Thought of a President López Obrador gives many wealthier Mexicans the shivers. The desperately poor likely will vote for anyone but the National Action Party'sCalderón, if they vote at all. Everyone else - from low-wage factory workers to a growing middle class that enjoys a boom in credit for houses, cars and appliances - appears up for grabs."
"Probably nowhere is the clash between north and south more apparent - and the election outcome more uncertain - than in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz," he writes. "The state ranks third nationally in both eligible voters and the number of immigrants heading illegally for the U.S"
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