By RICARDO CASTILLO
Sunday night television is never prime-time viewing in Mexico. But last Sunday, May 20, ratings were through the roof on a double-header featuring first the Mexican Soccer League championship game between the Torreón Saints and Toluca Red Devils, and, later, the second of three presidential debates, this time featuring the “Fantastic Four” hopefuls. In case you’re interested, the Saints became champions. beating the Devils 3-2 after two home and away games 2-1 and 1-1.
But who won the debate held in Tijuana? Three out of four came out screaming “I am the winner.” Definitely Ricardo Anaya, 39, and the youngest of the contenders, showed again he’s an agile, talkative individual and this time he featured a Trump style of debating, coming near his targeted opponent, frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, for short. AMLO immediately countered the physical nearness by pulling out his wallet and tucking it into a different pocket claiming: “This thief wants my wallet.”
AMLO’s strategy worked as a way of shooing Anaya away. Incidentally, during the debate, AMLO also called him “Little Scoundrel Richie Rich” (Ricky Riquín Canallín), clearly a play of words on Ricardo Anaya’s name. “Canallín” is a rhyme of Anaya with “canalla” which means scoundrel.
Third candidate José Antonio Meade Kuribreña tried to come out strong against AMLO too, demanding to know why AMLO’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) voted in Congress against a bill about opening borders to migrants.
AMLO stopped him dead in his tracks. “You’re trying to provoke me,” the Morena candidate said, and declined tp answer, which made Meade stumble verbally for a second.
The fourth “Fantastic” in contest was independent candidate Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez, who is hopelessly way down at the bottom of the standings but is being granted by the debate organizer, the National Electoral Institute (INE), equal time in a clearly unequal contest.
For your information, according to the most recent polls, AMLO is way up on top by as many as 20 points and as high as 48 percent of the expected vote. Running in second place is Anaya, with about 29 percent and third is Meade, with about 14 percent of the vote. “El Bronco” Rodríguez is in fourth place, with a little over 2 percent. The remaining voters are undecided.
Needless to say, while AMLO later bragged that his opponents were trying to provoke him because they are “desperate given that I’m over 20 points ahead of them,” both Anaya and Meade claimed afterwards that AMLO’s lead was “hypothetical,” since, in the end, “there’s only one poll that counts” and that will be the July 1 election.
What became clear to most observers of the debate was that, even though Meade tried his best, he could only stand back and witness how AMLO and Anaya took center stage and turned the debate and the election into a two-men race.
Meade used the savvy he’s acquired as Foreign Relations and Treasury secretary to talk about the main issues at hand – Mexicans in the United States and deportees – but even in momentary brilliance, his shine was dulled by the two now-main contenders.
The debate was held for the first time in Mexican history copying the American townhall style of debating, with a select audience (42 guests) and the participation of six persons asking questions pertaining to the featured discussion themes. Monday Morning quarterbacks of the debate were split on the usage of the townhall style, with about half who liked it and half who didn’t.
The debate, staged at the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC) gym, was moderated by two opinionated television broadcasters, León Krauze of Univisión in Los Angeles and Yuriria Sierra of Imagen TV in Mexico City. Their questions were too long. “They posted more thesis than questions,” commented an observer.
By the way, if one goes by the number of times a name was mentioned, since most of the debate was related to migration, the winner would be U.S. President Donald Trump. Trump’s presence in his visit to President Enrique Peña Nieto on July 31, 2016, was the beginning of a nightmarish relationship between Mexico and the United States.
For candidate Meade, who at the time was Treasury Secretary and applauded Peña Nieto’s invitation to Trump, Trump continues to cast a shadow on both his candidacy and the Peña Nieto presidency.
The three other candidates hammered nails on the issue.
From what AMLO, Anaya and “El Bronco” say, there is no real way of dealing with unpredictable Trump. Meade sticks to his guns defending his protector and main promoter, Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray, whose relationship with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner now rules over Mexico-U.S. affairs.
Like in all debates, the question that remains in the aftermath of the debate is: Was there a winner? The general consensus the next day was that it was a stalemate and no doubt that things will continue pretty much as they have been until the third and final debate, to be held in Merida, in the Yucatan Peninsula (on the other side of Mexico) on June 12.
Until then, the “Fantastic Four” go back on the stumping trail, with AMLO leading the polls and Anaya and Meade hoping a miracle will happen to their campaigns do they can catch up and surmount the difference. If luck exists, they are surely going to need it.
But if there is another stalemate in the third debate in Merida, you can pretty much count on AMLO becoming the next president of Mexico.