Max Cortázar, the head of communications in the Office of the President since the start of the Government, resigned, capping a week of changes in the presidential inner circle. He is being replaced by his deputy, Alejandra Sota. Cortázar also headed communications for Felipe Calderón during the campaign and transition, and was his spokesperson when he was Secretary of Energy.
On Monday, Cortázar was named the new spokesperson for the PAN by party president César Nava. (Universal 7/17, Reforma 7/19)
The apparent victories of the PAN-PRD coalitions in the PRI strongholds of Oaxaca, Puebla, and Sinaloa vindicates the controversial strategy of President Felipe Calderón and PAN party president César Nava of forming state-level alliances with the PRD (and other left parties). In Oaxaca, coalition candidate Gabino Cué (originally from Convergencia) won 50% to 42% for Eviel Pérez, the protege of outgoing governor Ulises Ruiz. In Puebla, coalition standard bearer Rafael Moreno Valle won 52% to 41% for Javier López, the anointed successor to Mario Marín. Finally, in Sinaloa, coalition candidate Mario López Valdez (“Malova,” who until recently was a priista) beat Jesús Vizcarra of the PRI by 52%-46%. In all three states, this is the first time ever that anyone other than the PRI has ever won the state governorship.
Noted columnist Héctor Aguilar Camín, “Democracy is surprising, and defends itself well against predictions. The “unnatural” alliances of the PAN and PRD against the PRI have triumphed, far beyond what was expected. … The day, which had seemed for months like it would be a walk in the park for the PRI, has turned into a challenge for the party. It’s return to first place among voters happened, but in a competitive context that had seemed very unlikely.” (Milenio 7/5)
The coalition victories also strengthen the hand of PRD party president Jesús Ortega against Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who bitterly opposed the coalitions.
Another big winner would appear to be Teachers’ Union head Elba Esther Gordillo. The mobilization of the Union in favor of coalition candidates in Oaxaca, Puebla, and Sinaloa is being given credit for the PAN-PRD victories there. On the other hand, where the Union stood on the sidelines, as in Veracruz, the PRI won handily.
Finally, the success of the coalitions greatly increases the likelihood that the PAN and PRD will try to form a coalition for the State of Mexico gubernatorial elections in July 2011 — in what will certainly be viewed as the opening act for the 2012 presidential succession and a test for PRI front runner and current State of Mexico governor Enrique Peña Nieto. Failure of Peña Nieto to deliver the governorship of his own state would be a severe blow to his presidential ambitions and current aura of invincibility.
A Reforma national poll finds the PRI “alone in first place” in preferences for the 2012 presidential elections. “The PRI seems to be winning support nationally, including among sectors that were averse to them in the last election … younger voters, the more highly educated, and independents,” the pollsters write. Among the general population, Enrique Peña Nieto stands head and shoulders above his rivals in the PRI. López Obrador and Marcelo Ebrard are neck and neck in the PRD (although AMLO has a wide lead among party members). In the PAN, there is no clear favorite, with Santiago Creel, Josefina Vázquez, and César Nava each commanding only modest support. (Reforma 5/30)
Mario Guajardo, the PAN candidate for mayor of Villa Hermosa, Tamaulipas, was assassinated along with his son and an employee. Two assassins entered the offices of his company, confirmed his identity, and shot him. Twenty-two 9mm cartridge cases were recovered at the site. PAN leader César Nava blamed the drug cartels for the killing, and said that Guajardo had received several threats in recent days demanding that he quit the race. The PAN has been unable to field candidates in several towns in Tamaulipas because of threats from the cartels. (Universal 5/14)
With just six sessions remaining until the April 30th recess, Congress is expected to vote on a number of pending reforms and other legislation. Competition law reform and a new national security law are measures likely to come to a vote. The government is pressing for movement on political reform, but its fate seems uncertain without a consensus in the legislative commissions. In an op-ed, PAN party president César Nava said that the political reform should have at least five key elements: cut public financing for parties in half; reduce the size of Congress; give the federal electoral institute and federal electoral tribunal responsibility for organizing and adjudicating state and local races; allow independent candidates; and permit immediate re-election of congressmen and mayors. (Universal 4/18, 4/19, Excelsior 4/19)
After days of repeated public denials of a formal pact between the PAN and the PRI, César Nava confessed that such an agreement existed. A document signed by Nava on behalf of the PAN and Beatriz Paredes on behalf of the PRI last October committed both to not forming electoral alliances with ideologically incompatible parties (i.e., the PRD) in the state of Mexico through the July 2011 gubernatorial elections in this key state. Nava said the pact was void because the PRI reneged on backing the government’s original tax plan last fall. The agreement, which was witnessed by Fernando Gómez Mont and the chief of staff of Mexico State governor Enrique Peña Nieto, is highly embarrassing to both Nava and Paredes, but more to Nava. Columnist Ricardo Alemán concludes: “Nava is politically dead. When will they bury the corpse?” (Universal 3/8)
Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont resigned from the PAN (but not from the government) in protest of the party’s electoral alliances with the PRD. Gómez Mont has been publicly critical of the prospective alliances. At the meeting of the PAN central committee (CEN) yesterday, he made a plea to reject the alliance in Oaxaca, but the CEN voted 40-0 to go forward. The Secretary’s resignation letter to party leader César Nava said he was resigning for “reasons that I cannot disclose for professional discretion.” However, the press is reporting that Gómez Mont had given his word (and possibly a written pledge to Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto) that the PAN would not ally itself with the PRD in Oaxaca, in return for the PRI’s support for the tax increases in the 2010 budget. (Excelsior 2/11, Universal 2/11, Reforma 2/11)
Chihuahua Governor Reyes Baeza (PRI) said he was issuing a call to move the legal seat of the three branches of state government to Juárez from Chihuahua for as long as necessary until the city’s violence is brought under control. He demanded that the federal government provide another Ps. 3 billion in assistance to the state and called on President Calderón to come to Juárez to visit first hand the families of the victims. PAN party president César Nava called Reyes Baeza’s action “pure progaganda” and “illegal.” According to Reforma’s tally, there were 2,082 gang killings in Chihuahua in 2009, mostly in Juárez, and another 228 in the first five weeks of 2009. (Universal 2/7, 2/8, Reforma 2/7)
Despite the overwhelming vote in favor, all the parties immediately started attacking the tax package that was passed, and pledged to change it in the Senate. A firestorm started when PAN party leader César Nava said that the PAN voted for the package “because the PRI did not leave us any other alternative. Faced with their opposition, their closed-mindedness, and their rejection of the President’s proposal … we had to fall back on this alternative.” The PRI issued a statement condemning Nava’s attempt “to provoke a lynch-mob environment,” and threatened to reject the entire package in the Senate. The PRI leadership met Sunday night to define their position toward the tax package, but adjourned without a consensus. The Senate deadline for voting the revenue measures is Friday. (Universal 10/23, Reforma 10/26)
PAN party president César Nava proposed a constitutional amendment to cut public financing for parties by 50%. The parties currently receive government funding of about Ps. 3.1 billion pesos per year, and Ps. 4.5 billion in election years, based on an automatic formula linked to the minimum wage and the number of registered voters. PRI congressional leader Francisco Rojas rejected the proposal, saying the savings would be minimal. “[Nava] wants to deflect public opinion to the political parties instead of focusing on the lack of willingness by the federal government to impose austerity [and] on the high level bureaucrats who command extraordinary salaries,” he said. (Reforma 10/9)