By RICARDO CASTILLO
In the ongoing Mexican election campaign battle, it’s supposed to be time for the lull before the storm.
Except, it isn’t.
During this intermediate period between the pre-campaign that came from Dec. 14 to Feb. 11, pre-candidates made known their intentions of running for office. Right now, in the “inter-campaigns” period, the now officially nominated candidates are not allowed to debate.
This is leading up to an open “dirty war” campaign by the presidential contenders.
President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) handpicked candidate José Antonio Meade. However, things for the party seem to continually be going astray where it counts, and that’s in the different polls being carried out by independent pollsters and newspapers.
All of the polls place Meade in third place, far behind the other major candidates. In fact, the emergency sirens at the PRI central offices rang loud and clear two weeks ago when the daily conservative newspaper Reforma published a poll that gave front-runner Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) 33 percent of the vote, followed by Ricardo Anaya of the National Action Party (PAN), with 25 percent, and, last and also least, Meade, with 14 percent of the voters’ preference.
This led some political observers to believe that Peña Nieto would replace Meade as the candidate, but that did not happen. In fact, to the contrary, Meade was not only confirmed by the PRI, but also by two minority parties, the Green Party and the National Alliance Party, as their candidate.
Still, at the president’s incumbent party, there has been a definite shift in gears and a significant altercation in what’s called “political engineering” as Peña Nieto asked several old, very experienced PRI electoral hackers to step in and push Meade’s poll numbers at any cost.
Over the past week, this shift in direction has become very evident. For the last few months, the PRI had aimed its “dirty war room” tactics against the leader, AMLO. But now, with men such as Manlio Fabio Beltrones and Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong pushing Meade politically, you can feel that the PRI is back to its old tricks with a new target of its attacks.
The noticeable change is that instead of focusing on AMLO, the party is now aiming its smoking guns at the runner-up, Anaya, who is also the candidate of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement Party, under the general title of Front for Mexico.
Based on the old Mexican political theory that “the horse that catches up with the pack will then go past the leading race leader,” PRI tacticians want to knock out Anaya first, and then go after AMLO. For this, the PRI is using all the unscrupulous political apparatuses it has in its tool house, including filing charges with the nation’s Attorney General (PGR) on allegations of fraud and money-laundering against Anaya over the sale of a piece of land in Querétaro City last year.
Immediately, Marko Cortés, who leads the PAN representatives in the Chamber of Deputies, denounced the suit as “the inadmissible and shameful use of the institutions of the Mexican state such as the Attorney General of the Republic to attack Ricardo Anaya, who happens to be about the only one competent to defeat AMLO and the PRI government next July 1.”
Deputy Cortés blasted the “untidiness” with which the Attorney General carried out the “investigation” with astounding speed “while it has not been able to advance on PRI-government corruption cases such as the Odebrecht case,” in which Emilio Lozoya, the former Pemex director in Brazil, was accused by the Odebrecht contractors as having received $10 million in bribes, half of which allegedly went directly to Enrique Peña Nieto’s presidential campaign last 2012.
Not only that, Cortés called upon the PGR to check out the former secretary of Social Development (Sedesol) and current secretary of the Territorial and Agriculture Development (Sedatu) Rosario Robles, who is being accused by Claudia Corichi of the Superior Auditor of the Federation of “resources deviation.” In fact, Corichi has presented six accusations against Robles, which the PGR is not investigating because those files “are reserved to not interfere with the ongoing investigation.” Of course, what the PAN is complaining about is that while the PGR uses accusations against their 39-year-old presidential candidate, Anaya, it “protects” Robles from prosecution.
Deputy Marko Cortés even accused candidate Meade of diverting 2 billion pesos of public funds while at Sedesol that had been earmarked to help Mexico’s poorest through “fraud-laden mechanisms.” This has exposed the Enrique Peña Nieto administration as a government that “will be remembered as the six-year term of corruption,” he said. Cortés demanded Meade answer before a court of law for “his shameless theft of the nation.”
A reality check here: Mexico’s political dirty war is just getting started. Mexicans and foreign observers alike will have to wait for the best – or worst, depending on how you look at it – which will no doubt come with the “real electoral campaigns” that officially kick off on March 30, which is still five weeks away.
Until then, bear with the not-so-fictitious dung wars.
DONALD TRUMP’S 50-MINUTE PHONE TALK WITH Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto last Tuesday, Feb. 20, was made public Sunday, Feb. 25, by the Washington Post.
The gist of the Post’s report was that the “testy” chat finally got on Trump’s nerves, making him “lose his temper,” according to a Mexican official. Trump allegedly became “irascible” as Peña Nieto refused to accept his demand to make a public statement to back up Trump’s promise to his supporters that he’d build the wall along the border and that Mexico would pay for it. No dice for The Don, but also no welcome ceremony for Peña Nieto at the White House during a trip that had been programmed for the next week or so.
About the only chance the two presidents have to meet again will be during the framework of their participation in the Americas Summit next April in Lima, Peru.