30 September 2006

El Clasico kicks off today

Club Deportivo Guadalajara - better known as Chivas and perhaps Mexico's most beloved squad - squares off against its archrival and the villain of Mexican futbol, Mexico City's Club America. The lacks a bit of the passion of previous years, mainly due to Chivas long-time malaise - not withstanding last year's fluke run to the semi-finals where it lost in the final minute to eventual champion Pachuca. Chivas hasn't won the Mexican league since 1997. It's Los Angeles-based sibling has fared poorly in two seasons of existence in the MLS.

America, a 10-time champion, wins regularly and fields a star-studded roster, although no player quite commands attention like temperamental striker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who despite his skills, is viewed as a bad team player and was left off of the 2006 World Cup squad. (He's also considered one of Mexico's biggest nacos.) To use an American sports comparison, America is the Raiders, a team famed for its winning ways - well, not this season - rowdy fans and bad guy image. Boosting its loathsome image, broadcasting empire Televisa owns the team. The network heavily promotes the club and weens generations of fans on America propaganda through its kids programs - or so I'm told. A Grupo Reforma poll last year said America was Mexico's most popular team with Chivas ranking a close second.

Chivas, on the other hand, are the defacto national team; it only dresses Mexican players. Team officials figure 25 million fans follow the team in Mexico and another five million fans are in the United States. The squad also boasts a large fan base in Mexico City. In many ways, cheering for Chivas is a way of the provinces going against the powerful and influential capital. An old saying says, "In Mexico, you vote for the PRI, pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe and cheer for the Chivas." Basically, they're the good guys of Mexican soccer.

29 September 2006

Wal-Mart to enter Mexican banking business

Away from the fuss raised by supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who invaded Mexican Wal-Mart stores earlier this week to protest supposed voting pressure exerted on employees, the retail giant announced plans to enter Mexico's banking banking industry. The move could shake up a rather staid industry that many Mexicans distrust - and in the case of Lopez Obrador and his supporters, absolutely loath - and whose services are often hard to access due to tight lending policies and sky-high fees.

For Wal-Mart the extension appears natural. It has more than 700 stores and restaurants operating under various brand names, including Bodega, VIPs, Superama and Suburbia. It's also Mexico's largest retailer. Banco Azteca, which offers services in Elektra outlets, could be the model Wal-Mart is copying. (Banks in groceries stores are common in Canada and the U.K.) It could be a welcome alternative to loosely-regulated credit unions, which provide easier terms and can be popular, but risky places to park money. (Witness the spate of credit union closures in Jalisco in recent years.)

As for Lopez Obrador's supporters going after Wal-Mart, the company is just the latest villain in the presidential candidate's charges of election fraud. (And a prime target for the American left in the upcoming mid-term elections.) The company, Mexico's biggest private-sector employer, apparently urged it employees to vote in the July 2 election. And in the view of Lopez Obrador supporters, the company instructed workers to back the conservative National Action Party (PAN). Despite the general "cleanliness" of the election, tales - and rumors - of misdeeds are common.

In PAN states like Jalisco, workers in a number of industries complained of coercion after the election, saying they were told how to vote.

It could work the other way in PRD bastions, too. In Mexico City, rumors abound of vendors being dragooned into pro-Lopez Obrador protests - at the risk of losing their spots in tianguis markets. Despensas, gifted by all parties, haven't disappeared either.

Of course, in the days of one-party rule, unions told members how to vote - and bucking the instructions brought consequences.

27 September 2006

Tomato King makes more news

Andres Bermudez, a.k.a. The Tomato King, recently captured a congress seat for the National Action Party (PAN) after two embattled years in the Jerez, Zacatecas mayor's office. Bermudez, who almost always dresses in black cowboy clothing, made news most recently for not taking off his large hat while addressing congress. (Opposition lawmakers jeered him.) The offence, on the scale of things that go on in Mexico's somewhat disfunctional congress and senate, is rather minor, but it's kept him in the news.

Bermudez was also chosen as the PAN leader in congress. He told reporters after being chosen, "Of course I'll keep being the king of tomatoes!" and promised to give all of the media members trips to Disneyland "so that there they can fulfill their dreams and declare Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador or Mickey Mouse president ... whoever they want!"

He gained fame, of course, by inventing a tomato planting device that supposedly earned him a fortune and then returning to Zacatecas from California to start a political career. Although now a panista, Bermudez originally ran for mayor under the PRD banner in 2001. The left-leaning party later rejected him as a candidate in 2004.

26 September 2006

Sanmiguelada update


Two local men were shot - one in the abdomen, the other in the leg - following last Saturday's Sanmiguelada, San Miguel de Allende's annual running of the bulls. The victim shot in the stomach was apparently sent to Leon for medical care. According to people in the area (much of this "news" was obtained from second-hand sources) gang activity is to blame and the shooter, 16, is known.

All of this has some civic officials questioning what the Sanmiguelada has become. Many people complain about the influx of drunken fresa kids, but this dust up was between locals.

The economic impact - for some - is hard to deny; one nightclub charged a 450-peso cover on Saturday night, hotels were reportedly full. The estimated 20,000 visitors supposedly spent $1.5 million over the weekend - none of it in liquor stores, which were closed due to a ley seca (dry law) that forbade retail booze sales. Public drinking was rife, though. (Visitors brought their own stuff.)

A total of 53 people were injured, according to the local Cruz Roja. (Figures vary, but I'll go with what the Cruz Roja said.)

Oaxaca update

For the latest information on the situation in Oaxaca, please visit this online discussion hosted by Planeta. It's a great source on what's been going on and reading the perspectives of people who actually live in Oaxaca.

The news flowing out of the state has mostly been unfavorable, but according to people I've spoken with in both Oaxaca city and the coast, it's safe to visit - even though the U.S. and Canadian governments advise agaisnt travel - and locals are going about their lives as best they can.

24 September 2006

Sanmiguelada: lots of hype, drinking ... and shootings?


Bulls, being taunted and teased by want-to-be toreros raced around a circuit in central San Miguel de Allende yesterday afternoon in the annual Sanmiguelada, the colonial town's version of Pamplona, Spain's running of the bulls. After being crushed in a narrow spectator area and nearly being bowled over by a motley group of runners - naco punks, dare I call them - who insisted on leaving the course through a tightly-packed section, dodging angry bulls would have been more fun, safer and a lot more comfortable than standing for hours, pressed against a brick wall.

The event, which draws college-age students from across Mexico, grates on many locals, who populate a rather genteel spot - fiesta de los locos and weekly excess fireworks day excluded - that mostly attracts people from north of the border. (After two people were shot in a post-race dust up, it could become even less popular.) Numerous coffee shops and boutiques shut down yesterday. Public drinking was ubiquitous - despite a ley seca (dry law). The eye candy, however, was impressive and the night life: active.

But on the whole, the event is largely over-rated. I wrote a more descriptive piece on the Sanmiguelada for today's edition of The Herald Mexico.

Annual event re-examined

El Universal
September 24, 2006

SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Gto. - Like most of the revelers in San Miguel de Allende on Saturday for the annual running of the bulls, U.S. exchange student David Darmitzel and four friends came to the colonial city on a lark, leaving Mexico City late Friday night and sleeping in a park due to a lack of hotel space.

"We´ve got our fuel ... we got an hour of sleep," he boasted while sipping a can of Red Bull, a caffeine-laden energy drink, two hours before the event started.

"We´re fearless."

An estimated 20,000 tourists descended on San Miguel for the annual Sanmiguelada, the Guanajuato town´s version of Pamplona, Spain´s annual running of the bulls. In addition to partying hard, most of the young visitors mainly stood in crushing crowds on the sidelines, watching local youngsters taunt and evade angry bulls, although a few tourists also participated. The annual influx swells the coffers of locals bars and hotels; the local tourism office figured visitors spend US$1.5 million.

But many residents and some business owners grouse about the event´s impact on the town, bemoaning the excessive public drinking and the spring-break style of tourism being promoted in a place that normally attracts a somewhat genteel crowd - to both visit and reside.

"Of the local people, maybe 50 percent are against it," said Dr. Roberto Maxwell, director of the Cruz Roja. "I call this the weekend of sex, booze and drugs."

To maintain order and cut down on injuries, the municipal government brought in 160 additional police officers from neighboring towns and imposed a ley seca (dry law), which outlawed retail liquor sales and public drinking prior to the event. Furthermore, bars couldn´t open until 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Dr. Maxwell attributed a decline in injuries over the past decade to the crackdown, although liquor-company sponsorships were virtually everywhere, including the downtown course.

Fifteen years ago, more than 200 injuries were reported. After 47 were injured last year, this year´s preliminary figure was 53 injuries.

"The most common thing is that people are injured by their fellow runners," Dr. Maxwell explained. "It´s rare that someone gets gored."


Many of the Sanmiguelada participants run every year and learn to survive the stampede-like frenzy unharmed. Adán Canelo, 17, a student in Celaya, Guanajuato, said the best way to avoid injury was "not to get close to the bull."

While according to many spectators, the bulls in this year´s event were somewhat less aggressive than before, a number of participants failed to heed his advice.

For local youths, running with the bulls has become a rite of passage, according to Antonio Rivera, a taxi driver, who ran three times as a teenager.

"A lot of the young people here participate," he said, adding, "Most of the adults enjoy watching it at home on television instead."

According to Guillermo González, general manager of the San Miguel Tourism Board, the Sanmiguelada started 33 years ago after a group of friends, including the then-mayor, organized the first event for both recreational reasons and as a way to promote the town. Virtually no one attended the first Sanmiguelada, but it slowly grew in popularity, becoming a weekend for students to invade the town.

"A lot of young people come because it´s the cool thing to do," said Blanca Hinojosa, 21, a university student from Monterrey, while sipping an enormous margarita in Mama Mía, a bar near the Jardín in the center of town.

Like many visitors, she came ready for anything, including the ley seca.

"We brought our own stuff. We came prepared," said Hinojosa.


Thrill seekers brought in by the Sanmiguelada prompted many coffee shops and boutiques to close early. Estela González normally waits on tables each Saturday at La Buena Vida, a bakery cafe, but she was given the day off.

"We sell baked goods ... but young people only come looking for beer and alcohol," she explained.

"They all come looking to use the bathroom for free."

Detlev Kappstein, owner of Berlin, a restaurant-bar, said his usual clientele stays home during the Sanmiguelada and that to keep order in his establishment, he planned to work as a bouncer this weekend. Still, he understands why some business owners welcome the Sanmiguelada.

"Most of (the visitors) are kids with money," he explained.

"They come with their parents´ credit cards."

Guillermo González played down some of the complaints, saying, "The tourists mostly come for the (post-Sanmiguelada) bullfights and the nightlife." (Unlike in Pamplona, the bulls in the Sanmiguelada are not killed afterward in a bullfight.)

"It´s one day. It´s not similar to the beach ... like spring break," he added.

Some restaurant employees concurred.

"San Miguel is a tourist spot," said Alejandro Reséndiz, a bartender at Mama Mía.

"This is how the economy works."

22 September 2006

The Sanmiguelada

This Saturday, San Miguel de Allende hosts the 33rd-annual Sanmiguelada, its version of Spain's legendary Pamplonada, which, of course, features daring participants dressed in white, running through the streets with angry bulls. Needless to say, injuries are common - 47 last year - and tourists flock to San Miguel for the festivities, which, surprise, surprise, involve heavy drinking.

Many locals grumble about the influx of some 20,000 20-something Mexicans and foreigners. Numerous businesses plan on closing up shop tomorrow, preferring not to deal with drunk revelers, who don't spend money in coffee shops and boutiques and only are looking for the bathroom. (Portable toilets were finally installed for this year's event.) The municipal government, however, said the tourists spend at least $1.5 dollars over the weekend in hotels and bars and at the post-Sanmiguelada bull fight. (Normally, novice matadors fight in San Miguel, but not this weekend.) The taxes generated during the event subsidize other fiestas - including the patron saint holiday on Sept. 29.

To keep law and order, more than 150 police officers from other towns will help patrol San Miguel and the municipality imposed "Ley Seca" (dry law) that forbids retail liquor sales and public drinking - which apparently is allowed at other times.

21 September 2006

Interesting tequila figures

Originally uploaded by David Agren.
According to figures released by the Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera, tequila comprises 45 percent of all hard liquor sales in Mexico and production grew by 19 percent over the past year. Tequila consumption outside of Mexico also continued to grow; sales jumped by 22 percent last year.

Although a beverage commonly associated with campesinos, outlaws and macho revolutionaries, women and men drink tequila in equal numbers.

20 September 2006

AMLO's antics splitting the Mexican left?

At about the same time as Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was being proclaimed the "legitimate president" of Mexico by a "National Democratic Convention," PRD founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas blasted the disgruntled presidential candidate for hurting the Mexican left and damaging the country's institutions, which Cardenas' own protests and struggles, no doubt, helped to establish.

"The institutions have to be respected," Cardenas told a Spanish newspaper in an interview published on Monday (and republished in the Herald Mexico yesterday).

"The path of confrontation, of breaking and disrespecting the constitutional order, won't bring the nation better results."

(Lopez Obrador recently said, "To hell" with Mexico's institutions, after the tribunal adjucting election complaints dismissed his coalition's allegations of fraud.)

In an open letter penned late last week, he expressed discomfort with a perceived lack of tolerance for dissent on the part of Lopez Obrador.

"It worries me profoundly, the intolerance and demonization, the dogmatic attitude that prevails around Andres Manuel for those of us who do not accept unconditionally his proposals and who question his points of view and decisions," Cardenas wrote.

(Lopez Obrador took heat during the election campaign for not heeding his team's advice and continuing to stick with an ineffective strategy, even when polls showed his campaign slipping.)

And Cardenas isn't the only member of the Mexican left attacking Lopez Obrador. Patricia Mercado Castro of the upstart Alternativa Party portrayed herself and party as a modern and responsible alternative to Lopez Obrador's coalition throughout the election campaign. She accused Lopez Obrador of "building dependency."

Author Carlos Fuentes also took issue with Lopez Obrador's tactics and the selective nature of the candidate's allegations of fraud. He questioned why Lopez Obrador would call the presidential race fraudulent, but not object to the congressional and senate results, in which the left-leaning Coalition for the Good of All made impressive gains. (It even displaced the PRI as the second-leading group.)

"There could have been fraud in the Chamber of Deputies, there could have been fraud in the Senate, but there wasn't. ... There was only fraud for the presidency of the Republic. How strange, no? I don't believe it."

Like Mercado, who also accused Lopez Obrador of reviving old PRI practices, Cardenas showed discomfort with a number of ex-PRI functionaries in Lopez Obrador's inner circle - especially Manuel Camacho Solis, a former member of Carlos Salinas' cabinet and a figure in the 1988 fraud.

A former co-worker once complained to me prior to the election: The PRD is like a garbage can for the PRI's worst politicians. Being in Jalisco, he pointed to the PRD's local slate, which was full of recent party-switchers, including gubernatorial candidate Enrique Ibarra.

Grupo Reforma columnist Sergio Sarmiento - who is not on the left - once opined that previously, one couldn't be on the left in Mexico without being a democrat. Those times seem to have changed. Institutions were supposed to be the country's salvation from calamities like 1988.

19 September 2006

Mexico's Fox Avoids Potential Independence Day Conflict

DOLORES HIDALGO, Mexico -- Perhaps hoping to avoid conflict and a political storm at the Sept. 15 independence celebrations in Mexico City's Zocalo (main square) -- the usual site of such festivities -- President Vicente Fox bolted for Dolores Hidalgo in his home state of Guanajuato to deliver the annual grito, a reenactment of parish priest Miguel Hidalgo's call for independence from Spanish rule. Stormy conditions, though, followed the president. The skies opened less than an hour before the 11 p.m. ceremony began, soaking the revelers gathered in the town center. Later, lightning crashed while Fox delivered the grito from the doorway of the Nuestra Señora de Dolores parish church, the scene of Hidalgo's original act in 1810.

After walking through a rain storm from the Casa de Hidalgo to the parish -- shaking hands and kissing babies along the way like a consummate political campaigner -- Fox lustily yelled, "Viva Mexico!" before ending with the additional shouts, "Long live our democracy," "Long live our institutions," and "Long live our unity." All three shouts referred to the contentious July 2 election and the opposition movement led by presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, whose supporters Fox was avoiding by delivering the grito in Dolores Hidalgo. (Lopez Obrador said recently, "To hell with Mexico's institutions.")

The short sojourn, a face-saving measure on Fox's part, revived the tradition of presidents visiting Dolores Hidalgo, a city of approximately 40,000 residents located 270 kilometers northwest of the capital, in the final year of their sexenios (six-year terms). Prior to this year, former president Carlos Salinas delivered Dolores Hidalgo's last presidential grito. (Former president Ernesto Zedillo failed to make the trip.) Fox probably would have also skipped visiting Dolores Hidalgo during his sexenio if not for security concerns and the potential for conflict in Mexico City -- which the Interior Ministry said was a distinct possibility, according to press reports. Up until Sept. 14, Fox insisted he would deliver the grito in the Zocalo.

But by heading for Dolores Hidalgo, Fox ceded the Zocalo to Lopez Obrador and his adherents, who had been camping out in the giant plaza for the past six weeks. (They finally cleared out in order to allow the traditional Sept. 16 military parade.) Mexico City mayor Alejandro Encinas, a member of Lopez Obrador's Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and whose government openly abetted the street protests in the Federal District, instead delivered the grito in the Zocalo, where the following day, a well-attended National Democratic Convention declared Lopez Obrador the "Legitimate President" of Mexico -- even though the candidate only received the support of slightly more than 35 percent of the voters on election day.Analysts were split on their assessments of Fox's trip, with critics panning Fox for once again avoiding conflict.

"[Fox] has shown the fear he has of Lopez Obrador and his people," opined Grupo Reforma columnist Sergio Sarmiento, a critic of Lopez Obrador.

He cited other examples of poor leadership during Fox's lackluster presidential term, including the 2002 decision to abandon plans for a new Mexico City airport after machete-wielding farmers in nearby Texcoco objected, as well as his handling of the ongoing teachers' strike in Oaxaca state, which has morphed into near anarchy. (The teachers, abetted by radical sympathizers, are calling for the state governor's head. The strike, an annual occurrence in Oaxaca, started over a pay dispute.)

"The perception is that in the moment of truth the president was scared and ceded the public square to Lopez Obrador. That perception, of the president being defeated, is what will remain as the legacy of Fox's term," Sarmiento continued.

Others, including Lopez Obrador biographer George Grayson, were more charitable.

"It's a reasonable compromise. Fox goes to Guananjato (as other presidents have done on their sixth grito) and the military marches in the Zocalo," he wrote in an email.

"It would have been much more embarrassing if the president had been harassed at his appearance at the Palacio Nacional where the security is lousy."In Dolores Hidalgo, the cradle of Mexican independence, Fox found a friendly and appreciative crowd. He previously governed Guanajuato before successfully running for president. The state overwhelmingly backs his conservative National Action Party (PAN) and elected another PAN governor on July 2.

"[Fox] is well liked by everyone," said mariachi musician Luis Gutierrez, giving his opinion on the prevailing attitude in Dolores Hidalgo.Not surprisingly, he enthusiastically welcomed Fox's last-minute trip, saying, "With this, he's fulfilling his obligation to come and give the grito."

The boost to the local tourism economy was also appreciated. He said business for his nine-member group had improved this year when compared to previous editions of the grito.

"Whenever the president comes, a lot more people make their way here," he explained.Out-of-town-visitors always descend on Dolores Hidalgo for the fiestas patrias (Independence Day holidays), but the president's presence no doubt boosted their numbers. Emilio Turquie, a business consultant from Mexico City, who was on his way to Guanajuato city for a long weekend trip, took a detour through Dolores Hidalgo after hearing where the president would deliver the grito.

"If I were in Mexico City, I wouldn't have gone" to see the grito, he explained.As for the charged political atmosphere engulfing his hometown, he lauded the president for moving the grito instead of risking conflict."I think it was a very responsible act to come here and not go [to the Zocalo,]" he said.

Some long-time grito visitors said the rain and the security accompanying the president's visit dulled last Friday's festivities in Dolores Hidalgo.

"For me, the past years were better than today was," said Pedro Aboytes, a Cortazar, Guanajuato native, who has witnessed the last four gritos in Dolores Hidalgo.

"The party got spoiled."

Lopez Obrador's adherents, of course, ultimately spoiled Fox's final grito. At last Saturday's National Democratic Convention, Lopez Obrador spoke of revolution -- not unlike Miguel Hidalgo, who started the revolutionary process, but lost his life shortly thereafter due to strategic blunders. Lopez Obrador's strategy of disregarding Mexico's institutions could backfire -- PRD founder Cuauhtemoc Cardenas recently blasted Lopez Obrador for inflicting harm on the often-disparate Mexican left. But at the very least, his call for peaceful civil resistance and the establishment of a shadow government -- which will be inaugurated on November 20 -- will cause enormous headaches for president-elect Felipe Calderon, who columnist Sergio Sarmiento said "should be worried: It's clear President Fox will leave all of the work to him."

14 September 2006

Fox blinks - again

Due to a possible conflict with PRD supporters, President Vicente Fox will deliver the traditional Independence Day grito (shout) in Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato instead of at Mexico City's Palacio Nacional, ceding the grito's usual location to disgruntled candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who had already planned on usurping Fox by staging his own grito. (Mexican independence started in Dolores Hidalgo in 1810.)

Once again Fox folded in the face of potential conflict, something not lost on his detractors. So far this summer, he failed to act when protesters took over central Mexico City; he failed do anything in Oaxaca, where the teachers' strike has morphed into anarchy; and now, he's leaving town on the eve of Lopez Obrador's democracy summit, where the left-leaning former mayor of Mexico City is expected to be named the "legitimate president" of Mexico. (The summit takes place this weekend after the military parade moves through the Zocalo.)

Fox, a former Guanajuato governor, should have already delivered the grito in Dolores Hidalgo by now, following the tradition that presidents go to the self-described "cradle of independence" at least once during their mandate. But going now - just as Lopez Obrador's inner circle advised the president to do? (Lopez Obrador hasn't even received his "legitimate president" designation and he's already imposing on the current, elected president.)

So now what? The informe was scrubbed due to a revolt by PRD legislators. (Fox gave it via television.) President elect Felipe Calderon has kept an extremely low profile - perhaps out of necessity. And now the grito goes to Dolores Hidalgo. Will Calderon's swearing-in ceremony be moved too? It seems very likely - despite PAN comments to the contrary.

Update: This AP story explains some of the reasoning behind Fox heading for Dolores Hidalgo and the deal struck with Lopez Obrador by the interior ministry.

11 September 2006

Dolores Hidalgo: there's more than just the grito

Imagen 017

I recently passed through Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato and tried chicharron (pork rind) ice cream. (It tastes as good as it sounds.) Mexican independence put Dolores Hidalgo on the map - Miguel Hidalgo gave the first grito (shout for freedom) from the town parish in 1810 - but ice cream vendors have since set up shop in the town square, scooping up every flavor imaginable, from mole to avocado. Although lacking some of nearby San Miguel's charm, the upcoming fiestas patrias (national holidays) - and the ice cream - make it an ideal spot for a brief daytrip.

The story I wrote on the town is posted at The Herald Mexico site.

05 September 2006

Tribunal: Calderon won

Imagen 086

To no one's surprise, the tribunal adjudicating the July 2 election declared Felipe Calderon the victor, dismissing allegations of fraud and irregularities lodged by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who said in advance of today's ruling that he would not accept a negative decision.

Calderon faces a tough task governing - he won by a slim margin and waged a deeply-negative campaign. He also lacks PAN majorities in both the Congress and Senate. Lopez Obrador, who will probably be proclaimed the "legitimate" president after a Sept. 16 democracy forum in the Zocalo, could also generate headaches, depending on how motivated he and his supporters are.

Winners and losers (A follow up to a previous posting in early July)

Obviously, Felipe Calderon is the ultimate winner - he's now the president elect. It's remarkable that someone with such a thin resume - he finished third in the 1995 Michoacan governor's race and served as energy secretary for less than a year - could vault to Mexico's top job. At this time last year, he barely registered in the public consciousness and Lopez Obrador was riding high in the polls. In fact, former interior minister Santiago Creel was expected to capture the PAN nomination. But Calderon's team ran an effective - and deeply negative - campaign. It worked. The campaign was modern - Calderon would go on TV while Lopez Obrador would stump for votes in the sticks - and it capitalized on Lopez Obrador's mistakes.

The next biggest winner? President Vicente Fox, who unlike his predecessors, actively campaigned for the PAN from the presidency. A rather unremarkably politician, Fox knows campaigning and he actively railed against the perils of populism - read: he indirectly attacked Lopez Obrador. Short of having his wife succeed him, seeing Calderon take office is the best thing that could have happened for Fox. It gives him more of a legacy and Fox will no doubt view this as a thumbs up for his lackluster administration.

And perhaps, at least I gather this from interviews with PAN supporters - at least in Jalisco and Northern Mexico - the Republic's good macroeconomic climate that Fox helped usher in might have kept enough voters from casting ballots for Lopez Obrador's agenda of change. Comments like, "We're not getting ahead, but at least we're not going backwards ... we always used to go backwards," were common - and often uttered by not-so-wealthy PAN voters.

Francisco Ramirez Acuna

Paco, as the Jalisco governor is not-so-affectionately called, astutely backed Felipe Calderon early on - at a time when the PAN establishment was openly pulling for Santiago Creel. Ramirez, bucking conventional wisdom, went against his predecessor Alberto Cardenias - the former Jalisco governor and environment secretary - in the primaries. His reward? Watch Ramirez take a place in Felipe Calderon's cabinet.

Ramirez has presided over a very lackluster regime in Jalisco, taken an endless number of foreign junkets - conveniently being away when controversy surfaces - and spoken sparingly with the media. He also refused to show a constituent a copy of his pay stub, openly violating transparency laws.

But like Fox, Ramirez will be succeeded by a fellow panista, former Guadalajara mayor Emilio Gonzalez Marquez.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador

He led the race for months and watched it slip away - and instead of acknowledging mistakes, he cast himself as a victim and floated somewhat bizarre conspiracy theories. His protests and winner-take-all approach potentially hurt his movement and party. Worse, it reinforces the message of the PAN attack ads - that he truly is "a danger for Mexico" - and suspicions he's not a democrat.

Democratic Revolution Party (PRD)

If I wrote this on July 2, I would have declared the PRD one of the election winners. The PRD made record gains in the Congress and Senate and nearly won the presidency, but by blocking the informe and having the PRD-led Federal District government abet the street blockades, the party is hurting its long-term prospects and falling into stereotypes of not being a responsible left-wing option. The partly seemingly is nothing more than Lopez Obrador; why else would it follow him to these lengths? And Cuauhtemoc Cardenas; where is he? He is the party founder.

Mexican democracy

Enrique Krauze spells out the threats to Mexico's young democracy in an excellent Washington Post column.