"You're fired!" Rafael Acosta - aka, "Juanito" - said that in so many words to his stand-in, Clara Brugada, after he took over the Iztapalapa borough offices last week.
Juanito, of course, is the elected borough chief of Iztapalapa, who ended a leave of absence that he took after taking his oath of office Oct. 1. Brugada, meanwhile, was the judicial director of Iztapalapa and, for 59 days, the acting borough chief. She was borough chief until Juanito took back his office. He subsequently fired Brugada from her judicial director post and relieved many of her closest collaborators in the Iztapalapa government, too.
The return of Juanito to his elected post - a move that broke a non-binding promise made in public June 16 to step aside for Brugada if he won the July 5 election - has revived an ongoing political soap opera over control of the capital's most populous borough. It also deepened divisions in the country's political left and exposed some of the more unseemly staples of Mexican political culture.
Juanito - to recap - was registered as the PT candidate in Iztapalapa, while Brugada was registered as the PRD candidate. The electoral tribunal disqualified Brugada in June, but López Obrador - who is staunchly backed by the PT - co-opted the Juanito campaign, and had Juanito swear an oath that he would take leave after winning the election in favor of Brugada.
Juanito won, but had second thoughts and ultimately turned on López Obrador.
He acknowledged his sly acts at a press conference last week, saying that he "pulled a coup" on the "López Obrador mafia," and that the Brudada camp would accuse him of just about anything to win his ouster.
"Juanito is accused of everything," he told reporters. "If Clara Brugada gets pregnant, they're going to say it was Juanito."
NOT GOING QUIETLY
For her part Brugada refuses to go quietly. Her supporters - many culled from the so-called "frentes" that agitate for housing and run political machines in run-down areas of Iztapalapa - have occupied the esplanade outside the Iztapalapa borough offices since Juanito's return and have blocked access to the building on at least once. They even prevented Juanito from lighting the borough's Christmas tree on Dec. 4 - or so Juanito said after canceling the event.
Flanked by the Frente Popular Francisco Villa - the same frente linked to the pirate taxi business in Mexico City - Brugado marched Dec. 1 from the Zócalo to the Mexico City Assembly (ALDF). Arms locked, her followers chanted slogans to the effect of, "Juanito go to hell," and waved acerbic placards that demanded Juanito's ouster.
Brugada and her allies branded Juanito, "Crazy" - something they failed to fully recognize when they struck a deal with him to take office and then take leave.
Chamber of Deputies rabble rouser Gerardo Fernández Noroña branded Juanito, "A presta nombre," or someone that lends their name or license to another person to circumvent the law. (In fact, Juanito was a "presta nombre" for López Obrador, but withdrew his consent.)
PRD Assembly spokesman, Alejandro Sánchez, went so far as to say Juanito should be ousted because he was not "morally apt" to hold office. His comments drew a sarcastic response from La Razón columnist Adrián Rueda, who pointed to Sanchez's standing within the PRD's IDN faction - the same faction founded by ace organizer Rene Bejarano. Bejarano, of course, was caught on tape in 2003 stuffing wads of cash from a developer into a suitcase. (Bejarano was exonerated on all charges stemming from the incident.)
Brugada loyalists in the ALDF have filed a motion that would remove Juanito from his post due to "ungovernability" in the borough. The measure needs two-thirds support to pass in the ALDF.
The motion seemed improbable, considering that its backers decried similar attempts in 2005 to strip then-mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador of his immunity from prosecution - a process known as the desafuero - and prevent him from running in the 2006 presidential election.
An ALDF committee is studying the removal of Juanito and is expected to report back by the end of December. Juanito's critics allege that his entering the borough office through a back door - and thus not having a proper transfer of power ceremony - bringing a locksmith to gain entry to the borough chief's office and not presenting a report on the state of the installations that he took over are serious enough transgressions to support his ouster.
They also accused the PAN of being behind Juanito. The man that launched Juanito's improbable run to the borough office, López Obrador, meanwhile, blamed a familiar whipping boy: former president Carlos Salinas. He blamed his latest target, State of Mexico Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto, too.
During a radio interview with Joaquín López Dóriga, López Obrador denied allegations that he coveted Iztapalapa because of its more than three-billion-peso budget, saying that he only cared about the "wellbeing" of residents in the capital's most downtrodden borough.
Juanito has accused López Obrador of wanting to use Iztapalapa's budget as his "piggy bank" to finance another presidential run in 2012.
The PAN, meanwhile, has denied being behind Juanito, but his ascent has stirred some discomfort for the No. 2 party in Mexico City - one that generally performs well in the wealthier parts of the capital and does poorly in places such as Iztapalapa.
Juanito appointed Alejandra Nuñez, a former head of markets in the borough of Miguel Hidalgo under then borough chief Gabriel Cuevas - who is now president of the Federal District committee in the Chamber of Deputies - to Brugada's old job. But Nuñez ran into controversy almost immediately as it was revealed that she never fully disclosed her full net worth during her time in the Miguel Hidalgo post.
Mexico City comptroller almost immediately found Nuñez unfit for her position - an act of "unusual efficiency" for the comptroller, according to Rueda.
Cuevas and other Panistas seemed to waver on the issue, saying that that Juanito couldn't ensure governability in the borough.
The PAN also appeared to come out in favor a position outlined by the PRI - which has eight members in the 66-seat ALDF - that said it would back neither Juanito or Brugada and would prefer a third option.
That might just come to pass as analysts say that the Brugada supporters in the ALDF lack sufficient support to depose Juanito. One report in the El Universal political gossip column, Bajo Reserva, suggested that some in the PRD viewed Brugada a poor political operator; she lost her grip on the borough to Juanito - a former vendor, actor and waiter.
Juanito picked up one improbably endorsement, however. The business group Coparmex-DF said Juanito should govern since he won the election - even though it's highly doubtful its members would have trusted Juanito to so much as wash their cars prior to his turning against López Obrador, whom business groups savaged with attacks in the 2006 election campaign and branded a danger for Mexico.