Mexico, Opinion

XOCHITL’S PROBLEM

I just turned 66, and like Ana Belén sings, I grew up with the Beatles and “like you, feeling the blood boil.” I lived my entire childhood and adolescence in Mexico, years that marked me forever. For what I had as much as for what I missed.

When I think about my home, it’s still the one where I lived with my parents and siblings in Bosques de Echegaray, north of the city. And I still remember, like a little song, the telephone number that ended in 5120,and the nights smelling the smoke of tacos al pastor. That was my happy place. Almost every day I played soccer on the street with neighbors, and the bloody knees were proof that we lived intensely. But a school with priests who beat students, a corrupt and larcenous government and a very repressive society wound up defining my surroundings.

I grew up in a country with no democracy and few freedoms. The presidents were virtually appointed, a powerful censorship blocked open discussion of important issues, the government and military could murder students with absolute impunity, like the Tlatelolco massacre of 1968, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which dominated the country, was guided by a famous phrase, “a politician who is poor is a poor politician.”

I left Mexico in 1983, shortly after the president nationalized the banks in a fit of anger and promised “I will defend the peso like a dog.” After José López Portillo left the presidency with a totally devalued peso, people reportedly barked when he went into a restaurant. But I never lost contact with the country where I was born. As a journalist, I covered the giant electoral fraud in 1988, the murder of Luis Donald Colosio, the two appointments that put Ernesto Zedillo in the presidency, the financial crisis that followed, the end of PRI hegemony, the arrival of democracy in 2000 and the white house that Enrique Peña Nieto received from one of his government’s contractors – and then had to return.

There are many other examples. But that’s the PRI that Xóchitl Gálvez has forged an alliance with in order to win the presidency of Mexico this year. With friends like that …

“How can you ask your supporters to vote for something like that,” I asked Xóchitl shortly after she announced her candidacy.

“What I have said is that I am politically color blind. I don’t belong to any party. That is clear. I have established three rules: No thieves. I am not going to allow corruption. No lazy people. That means 100 percent real workers. And no pendejos. Only capable people. I have made that clear.”

But Xóchitl’s problem is not just the PRI. It’s also the National Action Party, known as PAN.

“Was Felipe Calderón a bad president. Can you say that?” I asked her in the same interview.

“He had a bad strategy on security,” she told me.

“Was he a bad president?” I insisted.

“On economic issues he did not do badly. I believe there is better data on the economy. But on the issue of security the result was not positive. And in that sense, it did not produce the expected results.”

“I see that you do not want to distance yourself from Calderón.”

“See, all presidents have good and bad things. Even the one we have now.”

The problem with presidential candidate Xóchitl Gálvez is the PRI and the PAN – and her refusal to break with them. Her candidacy rose out of those two parties, which symbolize the start of Mexico’s narco-violence, in the case of the PAN, and the corruption, frauds, inequalities and abuses of authority that marked Mexico under PRI rule from 1929 until 2000.

How can she accept the support of the PAN, which ruled Mexico 2006-2012 and whose highest law enforcement officer, Genaro García Luna, was accused in the United States of collaborating with drug traffickers. How can she form an alliance with a party like the PRI, which was responsible for innumerable electoral frauds and whose leaders became wealthy through corruption for decades.

We have all seen the surveys that place Xóchitl Gálvez far behind Claudia Sheinbaum, the candidate for the ruling Morena party. And part of the explanation is that millions of Mexicans witnessed the PRI abuses and PAN narco-violence, and although they might prefer Xóchitl over Claudia, they would not morally allow themselves to vote for a PRI-PAN-PRD alliance.

It is an almost physical rejection. Many people would like to have an alternative to Morena, its concentration of power, its militarization of the country, the tens of thousands of murders and the way it governs. But they will never vote for the PRI. The memory of disasters is too strong.

If Xóchitl wants to win the presidency, she has only the nuclear option – to break with the PRI and PAN, the parties that started her candidacy. Their leaders claim that it is a new PRI and a new PAN. But there’s no evidence of that supposed rebirth.

It’s the same colors as always. There’s a contradiction between a candidate who promises to be independent and “politically color blind” and two parties still seeking power to avoid becoming irrelevant. After all, it was the bad PRI and PAN governments that led to the rise of Morena.

There is still time. The presidential debates are a key opportunity, with a national audience, to make radical announcements and proposals. What is not clear is whether she’s ready to make the only moves that would allow her to win – to distance herself from two parties with long and sad histories in Mexico.

While Sheinbaum’s up-to-now winning strategy has been to stay as close as possible to the ideas and programs of President López Obrador – to the point where sometimes it seems there’s no difference between the two – Xóchitl’s strategy must be to break as soon as possible with the PRI and PAN.

She would win more that way, instead of subjecting her campaign to old and worn political structures that have nothing more to give.

Will she do it?

By Jorge Ramos Ávalos

Image by: Wikimedia

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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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