The 'Assassination' Saga; Checking the Tea Leaves

Q&A Alert: Campaign Conexión will host its first guest commentator a little later today: Jorge Castañeda, who served as secretary of foreign affairs at the start of Vicente Fox's term, will join us at 1:30 p.m. to entertain your questions. You can start firing away now.

And now back to the campaign. Tuesday was a tough morning for the presidential candidates to break onto the front page (PDF) with World Cup soccer and local Mexico City elections dominating news coverage.

The presidential campaign story that did make it onto Page 1 was more on the assassination/not-an-assassination scandal. El Universal got the scoop with details on telephone calls that appear to support allegations that businessman Carlos Ahumada masterminded a phony attempt to assassinate his wife (no, this is not a typo).

This story started last week as a bubbling financial scandal -- Ahumada was all set to release video tapes that he said would show pals of Andres Manuel López Obrador accepting payoffs.

That morning, someone shot up the SUV that Ahumada's wife and children were riding in. She initially said the incident was so terrifying, she decided not to release the tapes. But now investigators are probing whether this was all a setup, a twist that could put a dent in AMLO's popularity and boost his leading opponent, Felipe Calderón.

El Universal got copies of Ahumada's jailhouse calls. You can listen to the audio tapes here. But be forewarned, the calls include some profanities in Spanish.

Encuestas, Up, Down, All Around

The good thing about polls (or encuestas, in Spanish) is that there's something for everyone. That's especially the case in the final three weeks of the presidential campaign here to succeed Fox.

After dominating the polls for nearly two years, AMLO, candidate of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), fell behind last spring. Analysts blamed his dip in the polls on his arrogance (skipping the first debate) and failure to answer tough ads by Calderón, the candidate of the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

But over the past two weeks, the race has tightened to a virtual tie. Some surveys say Calderón helped himself in last week's two-hour debate, showing a polish and command of substantive policy matters. But such results still fall within the margin of error.

Milenio, a left-of-center paper, covered the top half of its tabloid front Tuesday with its poll results, not surprisingly giving a comfortable lead to López Obrador.

The U.S.-based La Opinión, conducted its survey in the three days following last week's debate and also gives Calderón a narrow edge. In the broader sense, the Financial Times reads the tea leaves in Latin America and concludes things are looking up for moderates.

Q&A With Castañeda

This year's presidential contest almost had an independent candidate in the race -- Jorge Castañeda, a well-known intellectual and former Mexican cabinet member, announced in 2004 that he planned to challenge Mexican law requiring candidates run on a party ticket.

In October 2005, the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights recommended Castañeda be allowed to pursue his candidacy, but the Federal Electoral Institute rejected the recommendation, saying it could not rewrite the law.

Since then, Castañeda has been visible on the talk show circuit and busy writing for academic journals. He has been highly critical of the leftward shift in the region, singling out Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Bolivia's Evo Morales.

He is the author of "Utopia Unarmed: The Latin American Left After the Cold War" and "Compañero: The Life and Death of Che Guevara."

Here's some homework for tomorrow's chat with Castañeda. The discussion is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET, but you can submit your questions now.

By |  June 14, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  Campaign Conexión
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