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  • Files link TV dirty tricks to favourite for Mexico presidency: The Guardian Mexico’s biggest television network sold prominent politicians favourable coverage in its flagship news and entertainment shows and used the same programmes to smear a popular leftwing leader, documents seen ...
    Posted Jun 7, 2012, 6:01 PM by Elección 2012 México
  • Mexican students protest against Televisa and presidential candidate, social media a key player. Mexico. Election campaigns are everywhere. There are four parties contesting the presidential chair PAN, PRD, PRI, PANAL; President and many other positions as congressman, senators, governors, etc. will be elected ...
    Posted Jun 7, 2012, 5:45 PM by Elección 2012 México
  • Mexico's woman presidential hopeful jumps in polls Ruling party presidential hopeful Josefina Vazquez Mota, the first woman candidate of any of Mexico's three main parties, has cut into the lead of front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto ...
    Posted Mar 4, 2012, 8:02 AM by Elección 2012 México
  • Three parties, three candidates in Mexico With a decisive primary victory Sunday night, Josefina Vazquez Mota became the first woman to represent a major party in the Mexican presidential election, which backers hope will excite voters ...
    Posted Feb 6, 2012, 8:33 PM by Elección 2012 México
  • Mexico conservatives back woman presidential candidate Voters from Mexico's ruling conservative party selected their first woman presidential candidate on Sunday, choosing a former education minister to battle the opposition's nominee, who has a big ...
    Posted Feb 6, 2012, 4:56 AM by Elección 2012 México
  • Mexico candidate Enrique Peña Nieto is not off to a good start First, he struggled to name a single book he'd read, except for "parts" of the Bible. Then he couldn't quote the minimum wage nor the price of the ...
    Posted Jan 8, 2012, 8:17 PM by Elección 2012 México
  • Mexican election favorite, Enrique Peña Nieto, dents image with gaffes For over two years Enrique Peña Nieto has lorded it over rivals as hot favorite to become Mexico's next president. But just weeks after he launched his campaign, that ...
    Posted Dec 22, 2011, 8:52 AM by Elección 2012 México
  • Manlio Fabio Beltrones withdraws from PRI's primary election Manlio Fabio Beltrones has dropped out of the PRI primary, clearing the way for Enrique Peña Nieto’s candidacy. The news comes two weeks after the PRD united behind Andrés ...
    Posted Dec 2, 2011, 7:13 PM by Elección 2012 México
  • Andrés Manuel López Obrador is officially the candidate of PRD and left parties Andrés Manuel López Obrador is officially the candidate of the left as of November 16th, 2011. He and Marcelo Ebrard had agreed that the winner of a poll of active ...
    Posted Nov 21, 2011, 6:42 PM by Elección 2012 México
  • Enrique Peña Nieto offers the opening of Pemex to private investment A full count of ballots from the Michoacán race from November 13th shows that the PRI’s Fausto Vallejo won by 52,233 votes. The PAN’s Luisa Maria Calderón ...
    Posted Nov 21, 2011, 6:37 PM by Elección 2012 México
Showing posts 1 - 10 of 11. View more »

Files link TV dirty tricks to favourite for Mexico presidency: The Guardian

posted Jun 7, 2012, 5:43 PM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Jun 7, 2012, 6:01 PM ]

Mexico’s biggest television network sold prominent politicians favourable coverage in its flagship news and entertainment shows and used the same programmes to smear a popular leftwing leader, documents seen by the Guardian appear to show.

The documents – which consist of dozens of computer files – emerge just weeks ahead of presidential elections on 1 July, and coincide with the appearance of an energetic protest movement accusing the Televisa network of manipulating its coverage to favour the leading candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.

The documents, which appear to have been created several years ago, include:

• An outline of fees apparently charged for raising Peña Nieto's national profile when he was governor of the state of Mexico.

• A detailed media strategy explicitly designed to torpedo a previous presidential bid by leftwing candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador, who is currently Peña Nieto's closest rival.

• Payment arrangements suggesting that the office of former president Vicente Fox concealed exorbitant public spending on media promotion.

While it has not been possible to confirm the authenticity of the documents – which were passed to the Guardian by a source who worked with Televisa – extensive cross checks have shown that the names, dates and situations mentioned largely line up with events.

There is also evidence that actions suggested in the proposals did take place. The allegations come at a crucial time for Peña Nieto, the candidate of the ideologically nebulous Institutional Revolutionary party: recent opinion polls show his substantial lead beginning to erode as Televisa's role as political kingmaker has become a central issue of the campaign.

In a country where newspaper readership is tiny and the reach of the internet and cable TV is still largely limited to the middle classes, Televisa – and its rival TV Azteca – exert a powerful influence over national politics.

Televisa, the largest media empire in the Spanish-speaking world, controls around two-thirds of programming on Mexico's free television channels. The documents appear to have been developed within Radar Servicios Especializados, a marketing company run by a Televisa vice-president, Alejandro Quintero.

Contacted by the Guardian, Televisa declined to clarify the relationship between Radar and the core company, or Quintero's role at the two companies without first seeing the documents. A spokesman refused to comment on the allegations without seeing the files. "We cannot give an opinion about imformation and/or documents we do not know," he said.

Many of the computer files seen by the Guardian were saved under the name of Yessica de Lamadrid, who at the time was a Radar employee and Peña Nieto's lover.

De Lamadrid told the Guardian that she believed the documents were forgeries. She said the promotional projects she worked on for politicians never put content up for sale.

One of the documents is a PowerPoint presentation which explicitly states its aim of making sure "López Obrador does not win the 2006 elections". That bitterly contested election saw the leftwing candidate lose a commanding lead and ended with him claiming he had been cheated.

It was apparently created just after midnight on 4 April 2005, hours before President Fox was reported to have met the heads of Televisa and TV Azteca.

Fox was facing growing criticism for an attempt to get Lopez Obrador, then mayor of Mexico City, impeached over a minor planning dispute. The document outlines short-term measures for controlling the backlash, a period of national mourning for the recently-deceased Pope John Paul II to distract attention from the growing row. The next day Fox declared a day of mourning for the pontiff.

Longer-term strategies proposed to "dismantle the public perception that Lopez Obrador is a martyr/saviour," by boosting news coverage of crime in the capital and revisiting old corruption cases involving his former allies. The plan also envisaged "promoting personal stories of crimes suffered [in the capital] by showbiz celebrities" and "urging the inhabitants of the Big Brother house" to do the same. Some Televisa celebrities did just that, both on showbiz programmes and in the Mexican version of Celebrity Big Brother broadcast that May.

The document also advises that scriptwriters of a popular political weekly satire show called El Privilegio de Mandar should make the character who represented López Obrador appear "clumsy" and "inept." The final episode of the show, broadcast immediately after the 2006 elections – when the result of a recount was still pending – ended with a non-humorous speech by an actor calling on López Obrador to accept defeat.

A former Televisa employee, who is not the source of the documents, told the Guardian that they attended meetings within the company where the anti-López Obrador strategy was discussed. "There was a strategy and there was a client who paid a lot of money," the source said.

Most of the other documents are strategies and associated budgets apparently aimed at promoting political clients through TV adverts and programmes.

They include three Excel spreadsheets titled "Enrique Peña Nieto: Budget 2005-2006" apparently created at the start of his term as governor of the state of Mexico.

All three spreadsheets detail nearly 200 news reports, interviews and features. The earliest version puts the total cost of these services at 346,326,750 pesos (about $36m at the time, or £23m today). The latest includes a "50% rate reduction".

A paper document containing the same figures seen by the Guardian was cited by López Obrador during the a presidential debate last month, in which he repeated claims that Peña Nieto was a TV product. Peña Nieto and Televisa suggested the document – first published in the left-leaning news magazine Proceso in 2005 – could have been a forgery.

The document was obtained by investigative journalist Jenaro Villamil who has always refused to reveal the identity of his source. In the past Televisa has accused Villamil of being on a mission to smear the company.

Asked if the state of Mexico had ever paid for coverage on Televisa, Peña Nieto's campaign team refused to comment. In a written response, David López, who is Peña Nieto's head of communication and previously held the same post at the state of Mexico, said: "During Enrique Peña Nieto's term as governor of the state of Mexico (from 2005 to 2011) no contract existed of that kind." Lopez added that "all the publicity contracts for the communication of government activities and the sums involved have been transparent and put on the internet."

Mexican politicians have long been criticised for spending lavishly to promote the achievements of their administrations, amid suspicion of creative accounting that masks the real cost to the public.

Media expert Raúl Trejo said the kinds of practices detailed in the document did not appear to be illegal under Mexican law, but, if true, would be unethical. The only document detailing services apparently delivered refers to a TV campaign ahead of President Fox's fifth state of the nation address on 1 September, 2005.

The document describes an "agreed fee" of 60m pesos (around $6m) covering the production of six TV adverts featuring Fox, as well as media training for five of his ministers and a series of interviews with them. The Guardian has verified that at least three of the interviews took place. The section which could prove most controversial refers to arrangements for payment, which suggest deliberate manipulation to conceal the extent of spending. The document says that "as agreed" the presidential office has been billed directly for only 3m pesos, adding that invoices for the remaining 57m pesos will be sent out when "the presidential office tells us which other parts of the government to bill for what services."

The files also contain proposals, budgets and promotional material involving several other politicians including the former minister of Tamaulipas state, Tomás Yarrington accused by US prosecutors of laundering money for the Gulf drugs cartel. Yarrington's lawyers have denied the allegations of money-laundering.

Another politician mentioned in the documents, former senator Demetrio Sodi, said he had no knowledge of a promotional strategy drawn up by Radar shortly before his unsuccessful bid to become mayor of Mexico City.

Sodi said it was unlikely that the document was a forgery, but insisted that he had never paid for favourable coverage. He suggested the document might have originated among people who, unknown to him, wanted to support his candidacy.

None of the other politicians named in the documents would talk to the Guardian. The current wave of protests against perceived media dirty tricks was triggered on 10 May when Televisa first ignored an anti-Peña Nieto protest at a private university where he was giving a campaign speech – and then gave wide coverage to accusations that the protest was staged by non-student troublemakers.

One protester at a recent demonstration carried a placard proclaiming: "Not even my mother manipulates me like Televisa."

As the protests against alleged media bias gather pace, Televisa has become keen to prove that its coverage is balanced. It now covers the protest movement in detail, and the anchors of its main news shows recently put Peña Nieto through a gruelling interview. The network has also announced that it will broadcast the next presidential debate on 10 June on its most popular channel, which during the first debate was reserved for a talent show.

The former Televisa employee said that while the network was happy to promote Peña Nieto when "he was the best product," this did not necessarily mean long term commitment. The source pointed out that prior to the dirty tricks campaign against him, Lopez Obrador was on very good terms with the network."Never lose sight of the fact that this is a business. The loyalty is to the position, not to the person."

By Jo Tuckman, The Guardian, June 7, 2012

Mexican students protest against Televisa and presidential candidate, social media a key player.

posted May 22, 2012, 10:45 AM by Unknown user   [ updated Jun 7, 2012, 5:45 PM by Elección 2012 México ]

Mexico. 

Election campaigns are everywhere.

There are four parties contesting the presidential chair PAN, PRD, PRI, PANAL; President and many other positions as congressman, senators, governors, etc. will be elected on July 1. Social networks have been an important gauge of the social pulse, and even before initiated the campaigns oficially, on twitter and facebook, some candidates were contesting popularity.

But as social networks are useful to make campaign in favor or against any of them: Enrique Peña Nieto, Josefina Vazquez Mota, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Gabriel Quadri, also served to demonstrate the  media manipulation in Mexico. While we read a thing on the Internet, or watch videos about an electoral event,  in newspapers and television news programs claim others (or do not bother to discuss many topics), surveys are inflated in many newspapers by giving  total percentages up to 113% (yes, mathmagicians!).

But in the same way, social networks help to replicate the disgust of society to a campaign increasingly turbid and in which broadcasters have played an evident part of the game. The first case was that the transmission of the presidential debate was not mandatory for the 2 national television broadcasters, many twitter users protests against this. The reasons: that every person should be able to see the debate, to make a choice based on criteria. Television networks didn’t care, one of them Canal de las Estrellas show a talent program with children named “Pequeños Gigantes”, the other one, Canal13 TvAzteca, a football match. An even the owner and president of the last one, Ricardo Salinas twitted: “If you want to watch debate, watch it on Televisa, if you don’t, watch football in Azteca. I’ll give you the ratings tomorrow”.

The second case (although there are several others), is the visit that presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto made to Universidad Iberoamericana few days ago, and  unleashed a maelstrom that has not stopped and took several students from various universities in Mexico City to march against Televisa and this candidate today.

What happened? At the Universidad Iberoamericana, EPN appeared to present his proposals and sustain a dialogue with the university community, as other candidates made the same appearances in other institutions. But this time, the feeling of disgust and rejection was palpable against this character, who avoided answering questions directly, and between protests,  the candidate and his team, were forced to “fled out” of the place.

The videos of testimonials, show students protesting only with their voices: “Ibero doesn’t like you” “Out, out” “Coward” or “Murderer” (the latter related to the Atenco case), and this event, instead of rising the voices in national media, seems like the party gave guideline to them, to minimize the protest and even say that students were actually vandals in favor of other candidates like Josefina Vazquez or Andres Manuel Lopez. 

On Twitter and Facebook, and Internet channels, clarification has been made many times, that all were students at the Ibero, who acted willingly and to prove the creation of several HT #somosmásde131 #YoSoy132 among others, as well as #EPNLaIberoNoTeQuiere.

Today, students from different universities, some of them very recognized, promoted a walk from their institutions to the facilities of Televisa, this company is accused by students -and great part of society- of wanting to impose the PRI candidate for President of Mexico. With slogans such as: “Students united, will never be defeated”, “We are not 1, we are not 10, corrupt media count again”,” Mexico wake up”, and many of them hold their Student ID, to prove they are actually students, not hoolingans or part of a political party.

The HT #yosoy132 was placed as TT, national and global scale, since the information for the HT  was not only in Spanish, but in English and French.

By: Alexandra Ximenez, PulsoSocial, May 18, 2012

Mexico's woman presidential hopeful jumps in polls

posted Mar 4, 2012, 7:58 AM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Mar 4, 2012, 8:02 AM ]

Ruling party presidential hopeful Josefina Vazquez Mota, the first woman candidate of any of Mexico's three main parties, has cut into the lead of front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto ahead of July's election, an opinion poll published on Thursday showed.

Pena Nieto had the support of 36 percent of those surveyed compared to 29 percent for Vazquez Mota and 17 percent for leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, according to the survey in newspaper Milenio.

Vazquez Mota, from the conservative National Action Party (PAN), said on her Twitter feed she was excited about the findings, the first to show a single-digit gap between the two leading candidates.

"The job now is to work tirelessly and in close contact with the people. I am given confidence by, and feel gratitude for, everyone who expressed their opinions in this poll," Vazquez Mota told local radio.

Her support jumped by 8 percentage points from a similar poll in January while support for Pena Nieto, a popular former state governor from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), dropped by 5 points.

Lopez Obrador's support remained unchanged from the previous poll. He narrowly lost in 2006 to President Felipe Calderon and contested the election results with months of street protests.

The PAN chose Vazquez Mota in February, hoping she can pull independent women and young people away from Pena Nieto, who has led since last year.

Visibility

The Milenio poll, conducted by the firm GEA/ISA, attributed the uptick in support to Vazquez Mota's visibility during the party primaries in which she competed with two other rivals for the nomination.

"The PAN campaign boosted Vazquez Mota's media presence, now we will see if that can be upheld," said Ricardo de la Pena, president of GEA/ISA.

The candidates are in a quiet period before official campaigning begins on March 30.

Support for Calderon's PAN party has slipped as the government struggles to control drug violence, bolster the economy and ease gridlock in the country's legislature.

The centrist PRI is hoping Pena Nieto, 45, can bring a new face to the party, which ruled Mexico for seven decades before it was ousted by the PAN in 2000.

In the GEA/ISA survey, 1,000 people were questioned between February 17 and 19. It had a margin of error of 4 percentage points, as did the January poll.

Other surveys still show a wide gap between Pena Nieto and Vazquez Mota.

Polling firm Consulta Mitofsky last week said the PRI candidate had 40.6 percent support against Vazquez Mota's 24.7 percent. A survey in El Universal newspaper also showed a 16 percent difference between the two rivals.



Edited by Xavier Brand, Reuters, March 1, 2012

Reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Mica Rosenberg

Three parties, three candidates in Mexico

posted Feb 6, 2012, 8:33 PM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Feb 6, 2012, 8:33 PM ]

With a decisive primary victory Sunday night, Josefina Vazquez Mota became the first woman to represent a major party in the Mexican presidential election, which backers hope will excite voters weary of the drug violence and political gridlock of her party’s leader, President Felipe Calderon.

Still, even with Vazquez Mota, many Mexicans see the July 1 election as a race among flawed choices: the popular former mayor of Mexico City with a messianic self-regard; a telegenic leading man who wrote a book but has been vague about which books he has read; and a perky, gal-next-door type who does a lot of smiling but has been blank on specifics.

Three parties, three candidates in Mexico

Hard as it might be to believe, many Mexicans are even more cynical than Americans when it comes to their politicians.

“Six years ago, the atmosphere previous to the elections was one of enthusiasm; there were conversations with friends, debates, a combative interest,” said Guadalupe Loaeza, a popular columnist for the Mexican news daily Reforma. “Now, it is the opposite; there is disappointment, hopelessness, weariness, incredulity, distance, uncertainty.”

The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes referred to this year’s candidates as “small.”

But, hopefully, lively.

For friends north of the border who want to follow the race, here is what Mexicans are saying — in interviews and on editorial pages — about their presidential candidates.

Enrique Peña Nieto

For the past three years, Enrique Peña Nieto, the former governor of the state of Mexico, has been the leading candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party and for the presidency.

Peña Nieto, according to the polls, is up by 20 points. But in recent months he has been fumbling the ball.

The candidate with the movie-star looks, who is married to a soap opera star, was asked at the Guadalajara International Book Fair in December what three books have most influenced his life. He stumbled, confused titles and authors, and finally asked his aides for help.

The “oops” moment was widely compared to Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s misstep during a 2011 Republican presidential debate in which he was unable to name the governmental agencies that he said he wanted to eliminate. He subsequently dropped out of the race.

On the popular Internet debate forum of the Mexican news site Political Animal, Javier Garza, editorial director of El Siglo in Torreon, compared Peña Nieto to former U.S. president George W. Bush: “A politician without much content.”

Peña Nieto probably dreams of being a Bush, and not a go-back-to-Texas Perry.

Peña Nieto didn’t help himself when, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, he couldn’t recall the price for corn tortillas, seen by ordinary Mexicans as a crucial economic indicator. When he flubbed, he explained that he wasn’t the “lady of the house.”

Yet, as a political observer pointed out, “how dumb can you be with a 20-point lead?”

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was the rock-star populist, pragmatic, lefty mayor of Mexico City who lost the 2006 presidential election by a razor-thin margin to Calderon. “Amlo,” as he is known, threw a fit, declared himself the “legitimate president” of Mexico and blocked the streets of the capital with months of demonstrations.

Suddenly, he wasn’t so popular.

Now, he is back, declaring himself the candidate of “peace and love.”

“The unstable radical pretending to be the voice of reason. Old wine in a new skin,” Duncan Wood, director of international studies at Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, said on Political Animal.

“He really believes that he’s been called to uplift ‘have-nots.’ This makes him a combination of do-gooder and village scold,” said George Grayson, a professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and author of a book on Lopez Obrador. “Like Jesus, he expects his followers to relentlessly commit themselves to his teachings.”

Josefina Vazquez Mota

The least-well-known candidate is Josefina Vazquez Mota. She served as Calderon’s education minister but tangled with Elba Esther Gordillo, the head of the largest union in Latin America, who controls the perks and patronage of more than 1.5 million teachers.

“Josefina is the one that seems to have a better image thanks to years of work to build her current candidacy. But despite these years she is almost unknown,” said Jose Carreno, a researcher at the Technological Institute of Monterrey.

“She seems to be an intelligent woman who has been presented as a quinceañera doll,” given to 15-year-old girls on their birthdays, said Maria Elena Morera, head of Citizens for a Common Cause, a nonpartisan civic association. At first you like her, then you don’t, said Morera. “She gives the same answers over and over — without losing the smile, of course.”

By William Booth, The Washington Post, February 6, 2012

Mexico conservatives back woman presidential candidate

posted Feb 6, 2012, 4:55 AM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Feb 6, 2012, 4:56 AM ]

Voters from Mexico's ruling conservative party selected their first woman presidential candidate on Sunday, choosing a former education minister to battle the opposition's nominee, who has a big lead in the polls.

National Action Party (PAN) voters threw their support behind former party congressional leader Josefina Vazquez Mota, pushing aside Ernesto Cordero, a close ally of President Felipe Calderon.

Jose Espina, who organized the vote, announced Vazquez Mota was ahead with 55 percent support with around 87 percent of the votes counted, more than enough to secure the party nomination. Cordero came in second with 38 percent.

National polls show Vasquez Mota is the PAN's best chance against Enrique Pena Nieto from Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for most of the last century, but she trails him by 20 percentage points.

"Today we end a primary and start a new journey, a journey to defeat the real adversary of Mexico, who represents authoritarianism and the worst anti-democratic practices, who represents the return to a corrupt system," Vazquez Mota said before a cheering crowd of supporters at her victory party.

"This adversary is Pena Nieto and his party," she said, flanked by her primary opponents, who pledged their support.

The PAN is the last party to pick its candidate before the July 1 presidential election. The PRI dispensed with a primary and left-wing parties chose Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is third in polls even though he nearly won the 2006 presidential contest.

Vazquez Mota's victory over Cordero is an upset for the party bosses who often have the final say in choosing candidates.

Former interior minister Santiago Creel, who was third in the primary race with 6 percent, lost in the 2006 primary after Calderon rallied the party machine in his favor.

Calderon's supporters threw their weight behind Cordero to drum up votes for him.

But Vazquez Mota, who would be Mexico's first female president if she wins, gained steam with the backing of lawmakers she led through Congress. Rising popular support made her the favorite for grassroots party supporters.

"I voted for Josefina. Men have made a lot of mistakes in government, so let's see what the women can do," said retiree Joaquin Cervantes, casting his vote at a polling station.

Vazquez Mota, 51, said on Friday at one of her last campaign rallies that she would not back down from Calderon's fight against drug cartels if elected.

"I want to tell you, I am not afraid!" she told a cheering crowd of thousands of supporters in the central state of Tlaxcala. "Courage has nothing to do with gender."

While there is growing disenchantment with the rising death toll from Calderon's war on drugs, with more than 47,000 people killed in the last five years, 83 percent of Mexicans still support using the army to combat traffickers, according to a 2011 Pew Global Attitudes survey.

The PRI accuses Calderon of using his prosecutors to smear the party with links to drug traffickers. Last week, reports surfaced of a probe of three former governors on money laundering charges, feeding popular ire.

Reuters, February 6, 2012

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, writing by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Stacey Joyce and Christopher Wilson)

Mexico candidate Enrique Peña Nieto is not off to a good start

posted Jan 8, 2012, 8:17 PM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Jan 8, 2012, 8:17 PM ]

First, he struggled to name a single book he'd read, except for "parts" of the Bible. Then he couldn't quote the minimum wage nor the price of the omnipresent tortilla.

The man who would be the next president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, is not off to a good start.

For months, the election of Peña Nieto had taken on an air of near-inevitability. The handsome politician with the TV star wife consistently leads polls by seemingly insurmountable margins.

But with the campaign now taking shape in earnest, Peña Nieto has stumbled badly in a series of embarrassing, well-publicized gaffes that raise questions about his mettle as a candidate.

Mexicans will vote in July to replace President Felipe Calderon, whose six-year term has been plagued by violence and drug cartel warfare that have left as many as 50,000 people dead. Many voters are looking for a change. Calderon is barred by law from seeking reelection.

Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico with an iron fist for seven decades until being unseated from the presidency in 2000, has positioned itself to return to power. Maintaining that it has reformed from its corrupt ways, the PRI has won several governorships and legislative offices to rebuild a formidable party machinery and push laws favoring its election bid.

Leading that bid is Peña Nieto, until September the governor of Mexico state, the nation's most populous. With other parties divided, smarting or in disarray, Peña Nieto has seemed unbeatable, his youthful appeal meant to target a new generation of voters with little memory of the PRI's dark past.

But amid his stumbles, Peña Nieto has shown no ability to improvise and muster a quick comeback to rescue himself.

His troubles started in early December at the renowned International Book Fair in Guadalajara, where he was presenting his own book, "Mexico: The Great Hope."

Asked to name three books that had influenced him, the candidate hesitated, stammered and looked to aides for help. Struggling, he eventually said he had read "parts of" the Bible. Then he named a Mexican work of fiction from the last decade, "La Silla del Aguila" (The Eagle's Throne), but got the author wrong. He attributed it to a leading historian, Enrique Krauze, but it was written by Mexico's most famous living novelist, Carlos Fuentes.

"What happens is when I read books, the titles don't always stick," Peña Nieto said by way of explanation.

The flub went viral, and Peña Nieto quickly became the butt of many a joke among rivals, on social networks and in the media. It seemed to confirm a widely held notion of the candidate as pretty but shallow. Some called it his "Oops moment," alluding to U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry's inability to remember which three government agencies he would close.

It was Fuentes himself who perhaps delivered the most bruising criticism.

"This gentleman has the right not to read me," Fuentes told the BBC Spanish-language service. "What he does not have the right to is to be president of Mexico, based on ignorance."

Peña Nieto later tried to make amends, explaining in Twitter messages that he felt embarrassed but was so busy with politics he didn't have a lot of time to read.

His case was not helped by his teenage daughter Paulina, who re-tweeted a message that criticized "a bunch of jerks who are part of the prole [proletariat] and only criticize those they envy." Prole is a derogatory term referring to poor people. The snobbish tinge of the missive did not go over well in a country with such an enormous class divide. (She too later apologized.)

The candidate's next faux pas came during an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Pais, when he could not say how much the minimum wage was. Nor could he quote the price of a kilo of tortillas, a staple in all Mexican working- and middle-class households.

Peña Nieto compounded his misstep, stating that he couldn't be expected to know the price of tortillas because "I am not the lady of the house," a comment seen as sexist and doubly insensitive.

Although these fumbles are unlikely to substantially erode his support, they do suggest that Peña Nieto is not the picture-perfect candidate that many here have thought him to be. It suggests that the PRI, on an uphill crusade to improve its image, also has work cut out for it in sustaining his candidacy.

By Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2012

Mexican election favorite, Enrique Peña Nieto, dents image with gaffes

posted Dec 22, 2011, 8:47 AM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Dec 22, 2011, 8:52 AM ]

For over two years Enrique Peña Nieto has lorded it over rivals as hot favorite to become Mexico's next president. But just weeks after he launched his campaign, that veneer of invincibility has started to crack.

The immaculately-groomed contender for the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, has stumbled through a series of gaffes since registering his candidacy on November 27, denting his commanding lead in polls.

Ridicule for the former governor of the State of Mexico began pouring out of online social media early this month when he struggled to name a single book beyond the Bible that had influenced him -- at an event where he was presenting his own book.

Days later, Peña Nieto lurched into further embarrassment during an interview by getting wrong the minimum wage and the cost of corn tortillas, a staple Mexican food. He then capped it with an offhand remark about housewives that upset some women voters.

"It's not worth voting for someone who doesn't know what a kilo of tortillas cost or what the minimum wage is," said Maria Teresa Olvera, a 44-year-old office janitor who backed the PRI in the 2006 election. "It's put a lot of doubt in my mind."

An increasing number of other voters feel the same way about the telegenic Peña Nieto.

A survey in Puebla-based newspaper Cambio showed the past month has hurt him. Some 37 percent of respondents said his inability to correctly name books that had shaped his thinking had lowered their opinion of him.

Support for the 45-year-old in a head-to-head contest fell from November by three points to 34 percent, the poll showed.

With leftist hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador gaining traction, this helped cut Pena Nieto's lead over his closest rival to just eight points from 13 points in November.

Peña Nieto carries the hopes of the centrist PRI which views itself as the natural party of government, having ruled Mexico for 71 straight years until it was ousted in 2000.

Reviled by many Mexicans as authoritarian and corrupt, the PRI was wiped off much of the electoral map in the 2006 presidential election. But its fortunes have revived behind the youthful appeal of a new generation headed by Pena Nieto.

Now the PRI almost wields a majority in the lower house of Congress and a Pena Nieto victory in July could help break the legislative deadlock that has hamstrung President Felipe Calderon's conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

The PAN has run Mexico since defeating the PRI in 2000 but its support has been hit by weak economic growth and a brutal drugs war that has killed more than 45,000 people in the past five years.

But if Peña Nieto's support continues to fall in a bruising campaign, it would give Lopez Obrador and the PAN's candidate, who has not yet been picked, a real chance.

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Peña Nieto's flubs have given fresh ammunition to his opponents, who like to depict the fresh-faced lawyer as a creation of the media, ignorant and devoid of substance.

Responding to the criticism, Peña Nieto said over the weekend that his adversaries were attacking him "out of fear."

"I may not remember the name of a book's author, but let it be clear, what I will not forget is the violence, the poverty and the desperation that Mexico is living through," he said.

Peña Nieto, who is married to a former soap opera star, has repeatedly pledged to tackle the poverty affecting around 52 million people in Mexico, or nearly half the population.

But he was still unable to give the minimum wage or the price of tortillas in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais last week. After badly undershooting both figures, he defended his statements by saying, "I'm not the woman of the house."

That led to a swift rebuke from his only female competitor, Josefina Vazquez Mota, the leading PAN presidential hopeful.

"I've been a cabinet minister twice. I've made important decisions, but I'm also extremely proud to be a mother and a housewife," she said. "Being a housewife should never ... be thought of as something pejorative or second class."

While governor of the State of Mexico, Peña Nieto gave few interviews, but his tilt for the presidency has pushed him out into the open, forcing him to think on his feet rather than relying on the scripted addresses that helped make his name.

Outside the governor's office, he has found a minefield.

One YouTube video showing Pena Nieto stammering, pulling faces and casting about for help in his struggle to come up with a book title has racked up 1.6 million hits. Other videos have since been uploaded to mock his command of English.

Pena Nieto has moved to douse the flames of controversy fast - only to have members of his family start other fires.

Soon after Pena Nieto suffered his "reader's block" at a book fair in Guadalajara, his teenage daughter trapped him in a fresh sideshow when she re-sent comments on micro blogging site Twitter that described his critics as "proletarians".

So far, analysts believe the damage to his campaign is not critical. But his ratings are heading in the wrong direction.

Reuters, December 21, 2011

Manlio Fabio Beltrones withdraws from PRI's primary election

posted Dec 2, 2011, 7:12 PM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Dec 2, 2011, 7:13 PM ]

Manlio Fabio Beltrones has dropped out of the PRI primary, clearing the way for Enrique Peña Nieto’s candidacy. The news comes two weeks after the PRD united behind Andrés Manuel López Obrador on November 16th. The PAN is now the only major party yet to select its candidate, although Josefina Vázquez Mota has emerged as the frontrunner.

Mexican Senator Manlio Fabio Beltrones withdrew from the contest for the PRI nomination on November 21st, clearing the way for the long-favored Enrique Peña Nieto. The frontrunner and former governor of the State of Mexico formally registered his candidacy on November 21st. He told supporters: “Today in Mexico there is fear, but better times are coming.” (Hear more of his remarks in the video of his November 14th conference at the Mexico Institute).

A new Buendía y Laredo poll places him at 20 to 33 percent ahead of his nearest contender, depending on who the PAN ultimately nominates. According to the poll, the closest race would be with Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN).


By Katie Putnam, Mexico Institute on Elections, November 28, 2011

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is officially the candidate of PRD and left parties

posted Nov 21, 2011, 6:41 PM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Nov 21, 2011, 6:42 PM ]

Andrés Manuel López Obrador is officially the candidate of the left as of November 16th, 2011. He and Marcelo Ebrard had agreed that the winner of a poll of active and affiliated party members would be the nominee. In the poll conducted by Covarrubias y Asociados, 39 percent of respondents favored AMLO and 32 percent preferred Marcelo Ebrard. Twenty-five percent declined to choose between the two, and four percent were undecided. Ebrard, who at 52 is still considered young enough to bide his time, threw his weight behind AMLO.

The decision was unsurprising to many, given AMLO’s popularity within the party: 75 percent of respondents in a recent Mitofsky poll supported him over Ebrard’s 17 percent. However, the extent of party unity is remarkable; a few weeks ago, many observers doubted whether the two factions could come together. As The Economist notes, AMLO faces an uphill battle for the presidency, but the left has succeeded in the significant feat of fielding a single candidate.

López Obrador has promised to create four million jobs in his first 42 days in office and to return to army to its barracks within six months. The campaign officially begins in February.

By Katie Putnam, Mexico Institute, November 21, 2011

Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars


Enrique Peña Nieto offers the opening of Pemex to private investment

posted Nov 21, 2011, 6:36 PM by Elección 2012 México   [ updated Nov 21, 2011, 6:37 PM ]

A full count of ballots from the Michoacán race from November 13th shows that the PRI’s Fausto Vallejo won by 52,233 votes. The PAN’s Luisa Maria Calderón, who came in second, and the PRD coalition’s Silvano Aureoles, who came in third, conceded the race. The result, while expected to be close, surprised many observers: an October 26th poll by GCE had shown Calderón to be nine points ahead. She eventually lost by nearly three percentage points. The Mexico Institute’s Eric Olson has analyzed the concerns about violence that impacted voter choice, and what this could potentially mean for next year’s presidential election.

Enrique Peña Nieto, the frontrunner in the PRI’s internal race, criticized President Calderón’s strategy against organized crime as “insufficient.” Many believe his lead in the polls (by 23 percent, according to a recent Mitofsky poll) derives from his pledge to reduce violence linked to the current government’s attack on drug cartels.

Peña Nieto also made news this week when he told Bloomberg that opening Mexico’s state oil company, known as Pemex, to more private investment “would be my signature issue.” He noted that President Calderón failed efforts to achieve a major energy reform in 2008. “The most well-suited party to do a reform like this,” he said, echoing his comments at the Wilson Center about the security crisis, “is the PRI.”

Senator Manlio Fabio Beltrones,   the only remaining challenger to Peña Nieto for the PRI’s nomination, reportedly announced that he is “evaluating” whether or not to continue competing in the internal race. He told the press he would make a decision “soon.”

By Katie Putnam, Mexico Institute, 21 November 2011

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