[I have used images obtained on the internet to illustrate this post - and have tried to give proper attribution to sources.]
Just kidding about the marriage proposal – but it seemed like a nice headline for today’s post, as I muse about Mexican politics.. I’m no political pundit, just a little gringa temporarily living in Mexico.
So I am spending today at home, trying to get a better understanding of Mexican politics in advance of the presidential elections this July but it’s a daunting task!
As I read and read, different articles about the candidates and the issues** – it becomes very clear that this is one of those things that makes you truly appreciate how complex a lot of the things we often take for granted are – such as a working knowledge of your ‘home’ political systems, and its domestic and foreign policy issues.
Of course, the basics are easy enough to understand – Presidents are elected for a one time only six-year term – (no re-elections here) and there are more than two major political parties. But the intricacies of this process, the sentiments surrounding it – and the true impact, and importance of the issues facing this nation are certainly too deep for a short-time resident like myself to really understand and comprehend on a deeper level.
I know who the candidates are – I watched the televised debate a few weeks ago, (and understood much of it) but of course, I couldn’t catch the nuances, or comprehend much of the deeper meaning, the context or the history behind their statements.
At this point, as an outsider looking in – I think that Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI party will win. Probably not for the reasons that residents vote for him – but because even to a foreigner like myself, he presents a nice, polished picture of what we expect politicians to look like. (Not always a good thing in my opinion – but people can look at him, his 1960’s gelled look and picture him as president – in a John Kennedy-esque way – he is young, well-groomed and certainly handsome. He seems smooth enough in his speech the other night, though a recent article (in English) leaves me doubtful as to his actual capabilities to govern this troubled but beautiful country**. I also have some misgivings about his party – they ran Mexico for a long time – (70 years) and I’m not convinced they did such a great job of it.
Despite being as ignorant as I am – I have my own favorite, Gabriel Quadri de la Torre of the New Alliance party – which just goes to show that you don’t really have to understand anything to hold an opinion. So, Mexicans take note, and be glad that they don’t let ignorant gringas like me vote..
But – as an outsider looking in, Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (from my very limited perceptions) seems a little less like a career politician and a little more like a college professor. Many people would argue that this is a handicap since it means he would be less effective, and less knowledgeable about actually navigating the system so to speak, but to a ‘southerner’ like myself – who is quite disgusted with the Ted Kennedys, the Robert Byrds, and all these other dynasty senators – it’s refreshing.. (I know that both of those American politicians are now deceased – but the mold of being able to be in politics just because you’ve been there, getting re-elected over and over and over still exists – just ask California politician, Jerry Brown.)
I like Gabriel Quadri de la Torre because he seems to be a man of science, a man of reason – not some oratory firecracker who just likes to stir people up – but then again – that’s probably why he’s trailing so badly in the polls. His platforms on alternative energy are forward thinking (but then – I grew up on a windfarm outside of Tracy, California – so of course, I would think so.) I was also interested in his position on Pemex, but frankly didn’t know enough about the situation to understand it – even after I asked several people here in Mexicali.. (I’m not sure they understood it either – they are in health care too – not analysts, not economists..) So I decided to ask one.
I asked an outside financial analyst & economist who specializes on oil and alternative energy resources for more input/ insight on the Pemex issue from both a national (Mexican) and international perspective. I also specifically asked -Is privatization the best thing for Mexico or does it just benefit outside investors? How does it impact the rest of the world?
This was his response [edited for length only]:
But then, like I said – I’m not sure if someone like me can even really understand the issues..
Take crime for example -we all heard about the headless bodies on the side of the highway – and we all know that the escalating homicide rate, and rampant violence among drug gangs is a big issue in the coming election. But can a foreigner like myself, (particularly one living in the relatively sheltered environment of Mexicali) really understand the impact of this runaway train of grisly murders that has gripped this nation during the course of President Calderon’s term? Of what it’s like to live in an area where people ‘go missing’?
Is it possible for me to grasp the intricacies of the candidates plans to address this issue – particularly in light of the history of corruption among Mexican police forces? What about political corruption?
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as issues are concerned. Just the idea of trying to govern a place like Mexico City (D.F) would send me into a panic – and that’s not even getting into the Pemex investment issues, endemic poverty and social security issues, or trying to bring the rest of Mexico into a technological age to make it more competitive with the rest of Latin America, and the rest of the World. With so many foreign trade opportunities, Mexico can and should carve out a better place for itself in the world – but how? (Maybe they will figure it out at the G-20 next month, who knows?)
My gringa criticisms of the other candidates are probably equally unfair, as they hinge on such limited (okay, absent) insight.
Josefina Vasquez Mota – National Action Party. I guess my main issue with her – is I find her a bit too Hilary Clinton and not enough Geraldine Ferraro. Plus her views on some of the issues are a little too conservative for me – particularly if she’s using the ‘woman power’ platform.. I am an old-school type feminist, which means I want equality, not special preference – so you can’t get my support by saying, “I am a woman, so if you are a woman, you should support me.” You can’t have it both ways – equality means an equal chance to fail.
If I want to be the best at something – I want to be the best person at it – not the best woman.. It’s kind of like all of those world records, and Amelia Earhart – she got a lot of ‘first woman’ but not a lot of first person.. That’s really second place. I guess in the 1930’s it was a big deal for a woman to do any of it, and maybe that’s the case in Mexican politics today (and the USA, for that matter) – but I still don’t think she should trade on her ‘womanhood’ to try to win an election.
Just be the best candidate. She certainly seems smart enough without all of that – but then again, maybe it’s inescapable. After all – I don’t hear people speculating that the other candidates have an eating disorder..
As for Andrés Manuel López Obrador (party of the democratic revolution, or something like that) – well – I guess he’s my second choice.. Since it’s impossible for Quadri to win, I guess I’d feel a bit more comfortable if Lopez was at the helm, because he seems to really care about the Mexican people (from what I’ve read about his previous work but I guess he also has a bit of a shady past..The whole ‘Legitimate Presidency’ thing kind of reminds me of the hanging chads episode down in Florida.)
** Of course, another significant issue for English speakers like myself – is always the use of language, and translational biases. It really hits home once you try to function in another culture and another language how strong semantics really are – and how easy it is to make a mistaken impression through incorrect word choice. So when I read these English language articles, I have to question how much of the information was slanted simply by the words the writers chose to use – even when translating quotes and candidate statements. Also some of the sources themselves for English language information are a bit sketchy..Kind of like if you read this blog for your Mexican election info..