Elections, Mexico

THE OTHER CANDIDATE

His name doesn’t show up on the polls, and most Mexicans don’t know who he is. But Jorge Alvarez Máynez wants to be the next president of Mexico.

He’s with the Movimiento Ciudadano – the Citizens’ Movement. And he believes he can defeat the other presidential hopefuls, Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez.

The announcement of his candidacy was a bit uncommon, and somewhat improvised. At a dinner with beer and micheladas, the young governor of Nuevo Leon, Samuel García – whose own presidential ambitions were rejected quickly – proposed one of his key collaborators. There was no public consultation. “I want to tell you that I am now handing the ticket to my compadre, Jorge Alvarez Máynez,” García told the crowd. “He was the coordinator of my campaign … Now he will be the image, the face, the pre-candidate and the next president of Mexico.”

And after a quick toast with beer. Alvarez accepted the challenge. “It will be a great honor for me to hold this ticket, and to let millions of young people know that they could not control us, that they did not get away with it. We are hanging tougher than ever.”

Was it a one man’s nomination? I asked Alvarez on a satellite interview about the way he was picked. “No,” he told me. “Not at all. The institutional requirements were followed.” But the followers of the Movimiento Ciudadano did not vote for you, I told him. He replied, “Well, it will be done at a national electoral assembly.”

In a country like Mexico, with a young and fragile democracy, it is important to know how presidential candidates are picked. And who picks them.

Why did you want to be president of Mexico?

“I think it is a broken country,” he told me, “which is going through its worst moments of recent history in terms of security, violence, impunity. And all that is made worse by the grave structural problem of inequality … and I think this is the time to launch Mexico toward the future, toward a new Mexico.”

Why not support one of the two other presidential candidates and help Mexico, for the first time in history, to elect a woman president? “Because they represent the exact opposite of what we believe,” Alvarez told me. “Mexico has a fresh option represented by the Movimiento Ciudadano, and of course I don’t believe the PRI and PAN parties represent that option.”

His new visibility has sparked criticisms. His official biography says he was a local legislator in Zacatecas, but makes no mention of the PRI. Yet Alejandro Moreno, national PRI president, has said the following about Alvarez: “Imagine his shame. Criticizing the PRI although he was a PRI deputy. He is not ideologically consistent, he does not have the capacity to defend principles and values.”

Alvarez, 38, is betting on the votes from young people and a generational change in the Mexican leadership. He studied international relations at a Jesuit university in Guadalajara and has masters’ degrees in public administration and constitutional rights. He founded the newspaper La Jornada Aguascalientes and is director general of the digital news media Tercera Vía. And it shows. He understands how the media works, and has spent the last days of the early campaign giving dozens of interviews, including this one.

If you don’t know him, you will. On the debates.

The National Electoral Institute has approved three debates for presidential candidates on April 7th and 8th and May 19th. Alvarez hopes to be there, But he wants more. “I am proposing we hold a weekly debate,” he told me, “to be able to consider ideas, proposals, and to rightly level the playing field in this contest.” The problem with that idea is that neither Claudia Sheinbaum nor Xóchitl Gálvez have any interest in “leveling the playing field” and hand over a percentage of their votes to a candidate who so far does not even show up on the polls.

What was going to be a historical presidential race between two women could no become a three-way contest. If they let him.

Mexico is a country of young people and a lot of violence. It is a nation of more than 37 million people 12 to 29 years old – about 30 percent of the population, according to the last census figures. And the principal challenge for the next president is to protect herself or himself from an assassination. More than 160,000 Mexicans have been murdered during the current six-year presidential term. And young Mexicans cannot have a productive future unless the violence is brought under control.

A country safe for young people. That is part of the new Mexico imagined by the other candidate, the one who is little known, Jorge Alvarez Máynez.

PS. This is part of a series of interviews with presidential candidates. I have already interviewed Xóchitl Gálvez and I hope to soon interview Claudia Sheinbaum.

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

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Jorge Ramos has been the anchorman for Noticiero Univision since 1986. He writes a weekly column for more than 40 newspapers in the United States and Latin America, and provides daily radio commentary for the Radio Univision network. Ramos also hosts Al Punto, Univision’s weekly public affairs program offering analysis of the week’s top stories, and Fusion’s AMERICA with Jorge Ramos, a news program geared towards young adults. Ramos has won eight Emmy awards and is the author of ten books, most recently, STRANGER - The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era.

A survey conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center found that Ramos is the second most recognized Latino leader in the country. Latino Leaders magazine chose him as one of “The Ten Most Admired Latinos” and “101 Top Leaders of the Latino Community in the U.S.”

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