The campaign period for the Mexican presidential election to be held this Sunday July 1 officially lasts only three months, but it has seemed like an eternity. While the candidates criss-crossed the country slagging one another and repeating their talking points by rote, the non-Televisa media – and the U.K.’s Guardian – gleefully reported on the numerous scams and dodgy electoral practices of their respective parties. Polls published in the mainstream Mexican media continue to show the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto holding a significant lead over his closest rival, the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, despite López Obrador’s late surge. The ruling PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota ran a lifeless campaign and appears from all angles to be toast.
We feel no enthusiasm for any of the three main candidates. While Peña Nieto’s platform positions on major issues seem generally in line with our own, the reality is that he represents a party that institutionalized corruption for over 70 years in Mexico, and neither the candidate nor the party itself has shown any indication whatsoever of taking a new approach to government. In fact, much to the contrary. While López Obador is being touted with urgency by many as the “useful vote” to try to prevent the return of the PRI, his proposals and governing style represent a leaden return to the old fashioned Latin American governments of the mid-20th century, favoring cult of personality, discretionary handouts, state control of industry and institutionalized unions – basically, the system implemented by the PRI to run the country at their pleasure for most of the twentieth century.
Regardless of the outcome of the election, we would venture to assert that together with jobs and a living wage, what most Mexicans desire most is an end to the atrocious violence wracking the country as a result of drug trafficking and the current administration’s policies to combat it. Despite this topic being headline news on the T.V. and around the water cooler for the past five years, the presidential candidates did their valiant best to avoid it during the campaign. Well, the prize for the winner will be that he or she will no longer be able to avoid this national crisis, and if the new president does not show substantial progress in reducing the violence, at the very least there will be another change in ruling party in 2018.
If there is any positive takeaway from this year’s election campaign period, it is the increasingly influential role being played by grassroots organizations in shaping the national dialogue. The longtime television monopoly held by Televisa, now a duopoly with Television Azteca, served as a veritable media enforcer for the PRI in shaping public opinion. The recently emerged #YoSoy132 student movement should be commended for using its voice to urge voters to think independently and decide their vote based on analysis (#YoSoy132 has not endorsed any particular candidate, although let’s be real – most of them are for López Obrador). Similarly, Movimiento por la Paz con Justicia y Dignidad (Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity) led by poet Javier Sicilia has been unrelenting in its effort to keep the human cost of the drug wars from being swept under the rug by the politicians. Regardless of one’s political orientation, free and open exchange of information and a free press are indispensable for democracy and healthy economic development, and that is most certainly what we desire for our country.