20 July 2010

The job nobody wants

Former PAN president Germán Martínez and Dep. Josefina Vázquez Mota speak at a spring 2009 press conference.

Proponents of the suddenly popular and surprisingly cohesive PAN-PRD alliances have set their sights on taking the State of Mexico next year - and subsequently derailing the presidential aspirations of the outgoing PRI governor, Enrique Peña Nieto. But the proponents continue encountering a decided lacked of enthusiasm from any of the potential candidates, some of whom would prefer running for the presidency in 2012 instead of being relegated to a provincial backwater in Toluca.

Writing in the newspaper El Universal, columnist Salvador García Soto mentioned former UNAM rector Juan Ramón de la Fuente as the latest big name to demur on the possibility of running next year in the State of Mexico. The former rector, García Soto writes, is being courted by the coalition, but would prefer to run on the federal level as a "citizen candidate." (Mexico doesn't allow independent candidacies so "citizen candidates" are considered party candidates who lack party membership cards.)

García mentioned sporting goods retail mogul-turned-anti-crime fighter Alejandro Martí as another potential "citizen candidate" in the State of Mexico. Martí became prominent in the summer of 2008, when public outrage surged after it was revealed his teenage son Fernando Martí was kidnapped and murdered, even though a ransom had been paid.

PAN leader in the Chamber of Deputies, Josefina Vázquez Mota, has frequently been mentioned as a possible candidate, too. She recently let it be known she has no interest in running for governor of the State of Mexico, however - even though she is perhaps the best-known panísta in the state, which is the most populous in the country and surrounds Mexico City on three sides.

De la Fuente presided over the UNAM for much of the last decade. He took office in the wake of a student strike over a proposed tuition increase - which was unreasonably lengthened by the obstructionism of a small band of resident radicals, who tarnished the school's reputation - and led it back to reasonable levels of respect in national and international circles. (UNAM still charges no tuition.)

A psychiatrist by training, de la Fuente has been promoted as a possible unity candidate for Mexico City mayor in 2012 or president in the same year by some in the oft-disparate and oft-dysfunctional Mexican left.

Vázquez Mota has showed an equal lack of enthusiasm for running in the State of Mexico, even though the PAN's central leadership and operatives in the presidency - who are known to dislike her and have aspirations for other potential 2012 presidential candidates - have encouraged her to move to the state level.

The former education and social development secretary could buck that pressure, however. Vazquez Mota draws relatively favourable poll numbers and is running just behind Sen. Santiago Creel - another Los Pinos enemy - for the PAN presidential nomination. PRD leader in the Chamber and for Mexico City mayor Alejandro Encinas has also been mentioned as another possible State of Mexico candidate.

All of the potential opposition candidates poll far below Peña Nieto the 2012 race - and none seems to want his current job.

Peña Nieto, meanwhile, continued with the public works narrative of his administration by inaugurating a hospital Monday in Chalco, a sprawling metropolis founded by squatters on the southeastern outskirts of Mexico City. The hospital was the 500th project his government has taken credit for completing - and many of the media outlets that have tirelessly gushed over his administration were there to cover the event. (It must be asked how many of these outlets have pages sponsored by the State of Mexico government.)

He emerged from the July 4 gubernatorial elections in worse shaped than he entered, however. Peña Nieto campaigned hard in places such as Oaxaca, Puebla and Hidalgo with the idea that PRI governments in those states would back his 2012 presidential run - no doubt, using public funds. (The PRI lost in Oaxaca and Puebla, while the Hidalgo election is being contested to the electoral tribunal.)

But some in the PRI think the losses in other places might help to keep the State of Mexico in party hands as Peña Nieto will be less able to impose a preferred candidate through the "dedazo" - a practice that backed fired horribly on the PRI in Oaxaca and Puebla - and potential infighting in the state will thus be kept to a minimum.

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