By RICARDO CASTILLO
The last lap of Mexico’s 2018 general elections begins today, Tuesday, June 12, with the four presidential candidates meeting in Mérida, Yucatán, for the third and final debates organize by the National Electoral Institute (INE.)
As expected, unusual moves are happening. The most notorious is the turn of events stemming out of a stumping speech by the “For Mexico to the Front” three-party coalition candidate, Ricardo Anaya. About two weeks ago, Anaya visited the Ibero-Americana University, where he told students that, once he is elected president, he will form a special office to investigate President Enrique Peña Nieto’s “corruption” moves and jail him if found guilty. The students applauded the proposal.
A background note on the private Ibero-Americana University is that, in 2012, when Peña Nieto was a candidate, he was chased off campus by hundreds of students who opposed him. When Peña Nieto’s speech was interrupted, he told the audience that he was going to take a break to go to the bathroom, which he did. But instead of going to the toilet, Peña Nieto and his entourage briskly walked out of the facility with the students chasing after him.
This time, Anaya began his speech by telling students “and I promise I will not go to the bathroom,” getting a laugh and applause from the crowd at the school auditorium.
Then last week – and here comes the shocker – a video of anonymous origin was sent to several Mexican television stations in which Juan Barreiro – the brother of Manuel Barreiro, who is accused of money laundering for Ricardo Anaya – tells a spy with a hidden video camera about how the “triangulation” of money for Anaya’s campaign was conducted and how, if elected, Anaya would benefit the Barreiro brothers.
The video was not so anonymous for Ricardo Anaya. He immediately issued an irate accusation against Peña Nieto for masterminding the ploy in response to his speech at the Ibero-Americana University. Immediately, both Interior Secretary Alfonso Navarrete and the president’s spokesman, Eduardo Sánchez, denied any involvement in the release of the anonymous video.
Both government officials told reporters in separate press conference that President Peña Nieto is sticking to his promise to stay out of the electoral process.
But opposing candidate José Antonio Meade, upon arriving in Mérida for Sunday’s debate, immediately accused Anaya of being a “vulgar thief” and worse as a prelude to Tuesday night’s debate. Anaya retorted, calling Meade “a dead fly” – an expression in Mexican argot describing a hypocrite who poses as a harmless “mosca muerta.”
You might wonder, what does this all mean? It means that the real electoral war is now one between Anaya and Meade. In fact, in the midst of the video scandal, polls frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has remained above the fray. Anaya tried to smear AMLO by accusing him of siding with Peña Nieto to knock him out, but López Obrador simply responded: “Leave me out of it.”
In the latest poll carried out by Mitofsky Consult issued on Sunday, June 10, AMLO had a solid lead of 37.2 percent, while Anaya was in second place with 20.3 percent and Meade in third place with 17.1 percent. Trailing way behind at the end of the poll was independent candidate Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez, with a hopeless 3.2 percent.
Now Anaya and Meade will have to struggle during the last leg of electioneering, which will end on June 27. Both are holding on to the theory that last minute gains will give either or both a chance to catch up with AMLO’s apparently insurmountable lead, and whatever comes out of the debate will mark the pace for the final sprint.
As for the issues on the debate, there are themes that will allow each of the four contenders to show off. AMLO definitely has his usually staple speech on poverty and inequality. Meade, a former Treasury secretary, can do very well on the topic of economic growth, and Anaya can shine with subjects such as sustainable development and climate change.
As for the after-debate results, this columnist will have a summary of opinions and reactions to how each of the contenders did while in Mérida.
Read them here on Wednesday June 13; until then, hasta mañana!