By MARK LORENZANA
On Wednesday, Jan. 18, Mexican public opinion polling agency Electoralia released the results of an unofficial survey that showed Manolo Jiménez Salinas of the Va Por México Coalition — composed of the of the centralist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) — leading the pack among the gubernatorial candidates in the Mexican state of Coahuila, with 38 percent. Trailing Jiménez Salinas by a mere 2 percentage points at 36 percent was Armando Guadiana, the standard bearer of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) ruling party, the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena).
A distant third in the survey was Morena satellite Labor Party (PT) candidate Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, with 20 percent. Meanwhile, at the tail end of the pack, Democratic Unity of Coahuila (UDC) and Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM) standard bearer Lenin Pérez Rivera and Alfonso Danao de la Peña of the Citizen’s Movement Party (MC) got 5 and 1 percent, respectively.
The biggest story, however, for anyone following the developments in the upcoming Coahuila gubernatorial elections, is the defection of Mejía Berdeja from Morena — where he served under López Obrador as undersecretary of public security, resigning from his post on Friday, Jan. 20 — to join the PT.
What triggered the defection was Morena choosing Guadiana — who has a greater political presence in Coahuila — over Mejía Berdeja. This was, apparently, the result of an internal selection process within Morena that had Guadiana winning, which AMLO had to respect — albeit, perhaps, begrudgingly.
According to a report by business-focused Mexican daily newspaper El Economista on Sunday, Jan. 22, until a few weeks ago, Mejía Berdeja was seen as the strongest candidate for Morena, due to his closeness to the president, but then the reported results of the internal poll decided the former undersecretary of public security’s fate.
Ricardo Monreal, leader of the Morena majority bloc in the Senate, criticized Mejía Berdeja’s resignation from his post and his subsequent defection to the PT as its official gubernatorial candidate in Coahuila.
“The elections in the State of Mexico and Coahuila will be contested. Overconfidence turned into arrogance is not a good start. Morena has prepared well for the elections in the northern state (Coahuila), and the PT and the PVEM are essential to succeed. Unity is key,” Monreal wrote in his official Twitter account, hours after Mejía Berdeja announced his decision.
For his part, Mario Delgado, the national president of Morena, had asked Mejía Berdeja to accept Guadiana’s candidacy or be considered a traitor.
And despite the reported closeness of Mejía Berdeja to AMLO, the resignation of the former and his bolting to another political party has seemingly left a bad taste in López Obrador’s mouth.
“Ricardo Mejía left and he didn’t even say goodbye; he just sent me a piece of paper,” said López Obrador in one of his daily morning press conferences at the National Palace in Mexico City. “Like any citizen, he is within his rights (to run under another party). Of course, if he is going to be a candidate, naturally he will no longer be working with us. He will no longer serve as undersecretary.”
Some political analysts see this friction within Morena in the selection of its Coahuila candidate as playing directly into the hands of the Va Por México Coalition.
According to Roy Campos, president of public opinion consultancy firm Consulta Mitofsky, in 2021, in Coahuila, the PRI-PAN-PRD alliance beat the Morena-PT-PVEM alliance by 18 to 20 points. Of the seven federal electoral districts, the PRI won five and Morena-PT-PVEM won two.
“So from the outset, the PRI-PAN-PRD alliance was going to be the favorite, although we have to wait and see what happens in the campaigns,” Campos said.
And whatever happened to Morena Senator Monreal’s declaration that unity between Morena, the PT and the PVEM is essential to succeed? Instead of uniting for this upcoming election, the three parties splintered and decided to field their own respective candidates.
Campos said that he believes that this time, the differences between the three parties — and by extension, their candidates — were just too much to overcome, at least on the local level.
“Not even the pressure of their national leaders could make the PVEM and the PT ally with Morena, which gives us an idea of how the local differences are for this upcoming elections,” said Campos.
Campos even pointed out that there had been evidence that Mejía Berdeja was in negotiations with both the PT and the PVEM — before finally going with the PT — after the Morena national leadership decided that its candidate would be Armando Guadiana.
Speaking of Guadiana, he is reportedly “very close” with, and has even been a partner of, Alonso Ancira, owner of the Altos Hornos de México (AHMSA), who was arrested 2019 in Spain — but was freed in 2021 a mere two and a half months after being extradited to Mexico — for his alleged involvement in a $3.5 million money-laundering scheme related to the sale of an Agro Nitrogenados fertilizer plant to the state-run Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) under the previous administration of former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
The PRI and Va Por México Coalition candidate Jiménez Salinas, incidentally, was in the headlines recently as he spoke to the media about the economic situation in Coahuila, and the crisis facing AHMSA — which has its corporate offices in Monclova, Coahuila — saying that the families depending on jobs at the AHMSA should be given particular focus.
One important thing to consider, as well, as the election in Coahuila nears, is the electoral violence in that state. One prominent example was in 2018, when former Piedras Negras Mayor and PRI candidate Fernando Purón was shot in the back of the head by an unknown assailant after a debate with other candidates.
Whoever wins the gubernatorial seat, though, has his work cut out for him regarding one of the biggest problems in Coahuila — the frequent mining tragedies that have plagued the state. In the most recent, on Aug. 3 of last year, 10 miners were buried 60 meters underground, after the flooding of the El Pinabete mine in Sabinas. Almost six months later, the bodies of the victims have yet to be recovered, and their relatives and loved ones have not received justice from either the government or the coal-mining company responsible for the tragedy.