Monthly Archives: May 2009

Who is next?

In this column, Salvador García Soto asks, “Who is next?”

The spectacular and highly publicized assault by the government of Felipe Calderón against two PRD governors (Amalia García and Leonel Godoy) and one from the PAN, Marco Antonio Adame, sharing the common theme of narcopolitics, could be just a prelude for an even bigger coup that is being prepared in Los Pinos in order to reposition the image of the President and aid his party in the elections. …. During the two top level meetings that took place in the PRI and the PRD, one before and the other after the Michoacanazo, the same questions were floating in the air:  ‘Who is next on the Los Pinos list? Is there a black list?’ ….During the PRD meeting it was heard say … that the next governor in the sights of the feds is Eugenio Hernández of Tamaulipas. Other sources in both parties talk of the governors of Veracruz, Fidel Herrera; of Coahuila, Humberto Moreira; of Durango, Ismael Hernández Deras; and of Chihuahua, José Reyes Baeza, as the ones who might come next in the federal offensive. More than a few think that there will be two spectacular coups ordered by Calderón before the July 5 elections: the fall of a governor and the capture of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. (Universal 5/30/09)

Poll: PRI lead holds steady

Reforma poll 05.29.09

Reforma poll 05.29.09

A Reforma nationwide poll published 5/29 shows the PRI holding a 37% -31% lead over the PAN in the run up to the July 5 Chamber of Deputies election, with the PRD trailing at 16%. Among the minor parties, the Green Party (PVEM) has 6% and the Workers’ Party (PT) has 4%. The vote shares exclude the 25% of respondents who are undecided. The dominance of the two major parties increases if only probable voters are considered, while the spread between the top two remains about constant.

Of those surveyed, only 41.7% said they would definitely vote if the elections were held today. Only 28% of respondents said they believed the campaign messages of the parties, and 69% said they did not. In terms of the credibility of the parties, 67% agreed with the statement that the campaigns were based more on attacks than proposals, and a similar share said that they would vote for the party they considered ‘less bad.’

Probable voters only

Probable voters only

Gordillo crony resigns as head of National Lottery

Miguel Ángel Jíménez resigned as head of the National Lottery, eight weeks after taking a leave of absence. Jiménez is under investigation for using Lottery funds to buy favorable coverage for the PAN in the paper Diario de Yucatán. The one-time congressional leader of the PANAL party and associate of Teachers’ Union leader Elba Ester Gordillo is under investigation by the Ministry of Public Function. The Government proposed congressman Benjamín González Roaro, another gordillista, as the new Lottery head. However, the PRI and PRD representatives in the leadership council in Congress united to refuse to authorize a leave of absence, normally a routine step, effectively blocking the appointment until September 1. (Universal 5/26, 29, Excelsior 5/29)

Massive drug sweep in Michoacán strikes PRD hardest

In an unprecedented operation, federal police and the Army arrested 30 state and local officials in Michoacán for giving protection to the La Familia cartel. Those arrested included ten mayors (6 from the PRI, 2 PRD, and 2 PAN), a judge, and several police chiefs. The most prominent state official arrested was Citlalli Fernández, the former Secretary of Public Security of the state and close advisor to  Governor Leonel Godoy. The arrests were a deep blow to the PRD, which views Michoacán as one of its key bastions. Godoy was not given any advance notice of the sweep; only the next day did Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont state clearly that neither Godoy nor his predecessor, Lazaro Cárdenas Batel, was a target. PRI and PRD leaders met urgently with Gómez Mont the next day. PRD party president Jesús Ortega said, “We made clear to the Secretary that the PRD will not allow an issue of such importance as public security … to be used for electoral purposes.” This was the first time during the Calderón government that PRD leaders have visited the Ministry of Government offices.  (Universal 5/27, Excelsior 5/29)

Crime reporter murdered

Eliseo Barrón Hernandez, a veteran crime reporter for La Opinión in Torreón was kidnapped from his home in the presence of his wife and daughters. His body was found dumped in an irrigation canal, with signs of torture and 11 bullet wounds. One of the last stories he wrote was on the firing by the police chief of Torreón of 302 cops for ‘loss of confidence.’ (Universal 5/26, Reforma 5/27)

Government seeks to jump start tourism

President Calderón launched a Ps. 1.2 billion tourism promotion campaign called Vive Mexico to help re-launch the tourist sector after the flu outbreak. Accompanied by sports figures, artists, actors, businessmen, and public officials, the President said, “We will tell the world who we are: a strong nation, united, and with a unique identity. However hard, however difficult have been the tests through which we have had to pass,… Mexico is united and Mexico will go forward.”  (Universal 5/26)

PRI and PAN party leaders agree to debate

PAN leader Germán Martínez agreed to a challenge from his PRI counterpart, Beatriz Paredes, to debate the state of the nation and their respective parties’ policy proposals before the July elections. Martínez demanded a two-person debate, excluding the PRD and minor parties. No date or format has yet been agreed. This agreement follows on the heels of a call by Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont: “I encourage a debate in front of the nation by the principal political forces, and the federal government will be more than disposed to respond to its critics.”     (Universal 5/26)

New de la Madrid letter

Former president Miguel de la Madrid continued his public exercise in self abasement. His office distributed a one page letter sent to reporter Carmen Aristegui with yet another revision on his assessment of his successor. The letter read in part, “To weigh the government of Carlos Salinas it is necessary the take into account the important modernization that he promoted in various areas of national life.” (Universal 5/27)

Finance Secretary under fire

The publication Mexican GDP figures – a decline of 8.2% in the first quarter – and another reduction in GDP estimates for 2009 (to -5.5%) is undercutting the standing of Finance Secretary Agustín Carstens. The Bajo Reserva column asks,

“Who is making the official estimates [for GDP growth], and how is it possible to have a correction of 6 percentage points in GDP forecasts in only 15 weeks? …No other economy has had to make such a correction of this magnitude in its forecasts. It would seem that the management of numbers … is not a strong point of this Government.”

Two of the most sober columnists, Leo Zuckermann and Sergio Sarmiento, had columns on the same day questioning Carstens’ effectiveness, with both quoting his February 2008 statement about the impact of the U.S. economic recession on Mexico:

“I am confident that it will not give us pneumonia. I expect that it will give us a cold.”

Sergio Sarmiento, who has long been a critic of the adequacy of economic policy, noted:

“Today nobody talks of a ‘cold’ except in jest. If we want to continue with the metaphor, I imagine that the U.S. is suffering from an atypical pneumonia while Mexico is suffering from a case of H1N1 flu that hasn’t been treated in time.” (Reforma 5/22)

Leo Zuckermann catalogs all of Carstens’ statements about the economy from February 2008 on, along with the steady reduction in GDP expectations from 4% growth to the current forecast of a 5.5% contraction.

“I understand that the Finance Secretary is providing an optimistic vision of the economy in order to not deepen the economic fear. However, I believe that Carstens has abused optimism to the detriment of realism. He has consistently erred in his forecasts, and with this he has lost the credibility that a serious secretary of finance has to have. Taking into account Carstens’ past performance, can we truly believe that the Mexican economy will only fall 5.5% in 2009? (Excelsior 5/22)

PRI governors demand counterattacks against PAN

A meeting of the PRI governors and congressional leaders with party president Beatriz Paredes was a litany of demands that she be more combative against the PAN’s constant attacks.  Paredes was quoted as saying, “My strategists tell me that it won’t be productive to enter into a direct confrontation with the PAN. The moment we do so, the voters will perceive a radicalization and not see us as a serene party that has proposals and experience in government.” Despite this, the PRI (using the pseudonym Anton Chigurh) produced its first YouTube video attacking Calderón for his handling of the flu outbreak. (Universal 5/23, Reforma 5/25)