Welcome to Progressive Army and MexElect’s live blog coverage of the first debate of the 2018 Mexican Presidential Election, as Ricardo Anaya Cortés, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and José Antonio Meade Kuribreña face off tonight. Join us here for live blog coverage and discussion beginning at 9 pm ET. MexElects will stream a pre-debate show on their Facebook page at 8:30 pm ET, as well as a post-show with analysis after the debate at 10 pm ET there as well.
Gearing up for our live pre-debate show on the MexElects Facebook page (I know, I know, Facebook), which is scheduled to start in 15 minutes. There, we’ll give you the background on the candidates, the issues to be covered tonight and the format of the debate. Of course, we’ll do that here too, but as we’ll be rushing to translate the Spanish, it might be somewhat more concise.
Welcome to tonight’s debate! We’re just two minutes away from Mexico’s first of three presidential debates. The election is Sunday, July 1st.
The first topic will be public safety and violence, a key topic in a nation that has been torn apart by a “war on drugs” since 2006, with hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, the independent candidates, goes first. The question is what will you do to combat violence and what makes you think it will work when other measures have failed?
Hi folks: Here is some of the basic info we covered in the live segment. First, the parties and candidates. For the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Jose Antonio Meade; for the National Action Party (PAN) and Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD) Ricardo Anaya; for MORENA Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The Polls: 48% Andres Manuel Lopez Obredor (AMLO)
26% Ricardo Anaya
18% Jose Antonio Meade
5% Margarita Zavala
3% Jaime Rodriguez Calderon “El Bronco”
Jaime Rodríguez starts right off with an attack on the other candidates for not knowing what it’s about to confront violence personally. We have to hire experts. Sergio Sarmiento notes that violence has gone up during his term as governor Nuevo Leon. Rodrgiuez blames the federal government for increased violence nationally. No more just using pistols to fight crime; we need to use technology. We’re going to have the first cyber-police, an FBI that answers directly to the president.
AMLO goes next. He says he was successful as mayor of Mexico City in reducing crime. He talks about reducing homicides and other violent crime. Denise Maerker talks about his proposal for providing an amnesty for certain people involved in drug offenses. AMLO says amnesty is not impunity, that we have to attack the causes of crime, poverty. He mentions convening a panel of experts, including Pope Francis.
Anaya says that amnesties don’t work; it has been tried in Colombia. He also disputes that crime went down in Mexico City under his government. Meade says AMLO supports criminals, and has become a puppet of them. AMLO responds, saying that the current strategy hasn’t worked under both the PRI and PAN: over 300,000 deaths in the last two governments. We have to do everything to achieve peace.
El Bronco’s opening on confronting violence with experts and technology seemed pretty lame. Not surprisingly, all the others, are going after AMLO on his suggestion that an amnesty of some sort might be necessary to stop the violence associated with the War on Drugs. AMLO seemed to do okay in his response.
Jaime Rodríguez says now is not the time for populist proposals in a brief rebuttal. Anaya answers the questions next, mentioning a million victims over the last two governments. He attacks AMLO’s amnesty plan, and states that in his book he will explain his plan.
Azucena Uresti asks about his statements that we were better with Calderón (the PAN president 2006-2012). Anaya says that yes, things were better economically, but not in terms of violence. A new strategy is necessary, requiring culture, sports, and a new police strategy. He also mentions having an independent prosecutor for corruption.
Rodríguez Calderón says the problem lies with the political parties (as he’s the independent candidates). Now it’s Meade’s turn to answer the original quesition. Meade talks about impunity, how few cases are resolved in the judicial system. In the first 100 days, he wants reforms in the criminal code, a new agency for crime investigation.
Sarmiento asks about the large rise in crime in the Peña Nieto administration. What happened? Meade said it went down from 2012-2014 then went back up. Prevention, dissuasion and an attack on impunity are necessary, and the PRI has failed on the three fronts. He says he supports the Interior Security Law, which allows the army to carry out policing functions on the streets. He does not support drug legalization, saying it’s a very partial solution.
Again, Anaya sounds pretty lame: sports and culture to combat narco violence? Meade sounds like a technocrat: a few changes in the judicial system more security but don’t wait for anything creative like de-criminalization of drugs or legalization. Oh yes, and a return to family values.
The next question is for Margarita Zavala. She says she will defend Mexico from corruption, the abuse of political parties, AMLO, Trump. She will reinforce policing, investigation, attack impunity, feminicides, the disappearance of children. Values need to be reinforced. Denise Marker asks about the increases in defense budget and security under her husband’s administration. Can this be resolved with police? Zavala says that of course police need to be reinforced, but not only.
Meade talks about rebuilding family values, making sure arms and money don’t get to delinquents. AMLO interjects, talking about the fall in crime in his administration and the rise in crime in the PRI and PAN. Anaya says AMLO will scare off investment, an expected attack line.
Now the second part of the question starts a “free-for-all” with the candidates. Sarmiento asks why the PAN/PRI governments haven’t provided security for the price. Anaya says due to a failed strategy: instead of just arresting one person at a time, in Italy, they arrest 150 a day and stop the financial flow. Meade says narco expanded its activities, and that a streategy just designed to attack them on the streets needs to be accompanied by investigation. AMLO says his approach is fundamentally different. There’s violence because there has been no economic growth, jobs, well-being and without those, there can be no peace. 53.4 million people in poverty, an increase of 4 million. Mexico is a “factory of poverty.” They’re cutting their mikes off when they run out of time, which makes it difficult.
For my lights, AMLO is the only one who sounded different, ie, addressing the underlying sources of rising crime: poverty and lack of employment. All the others variations on a theme: strengthen the state, police, courts and army in fighting narco violence.
Bronco says there are no welfare programs in Nuevo León, and they’ve reduced poverty 20%. Zavala says that drug traffickers have a lot of money; it’s not a question of poverty as AMLO says. Meade says it’s a question of prevention, presence with police and armed forces, and investigation. Bronco talks about militarizing schools to protect students (????). He blames corruption and again attacks political parties. Anaya again attacks AMLO’s amnesty idea, saying it didn’t work in Colombia and El Salvador. AMLO says again that the problem is lack of economic growth and jobs, that you can’t attack violence with violence, fire with fire. Give opportunities of study and jobs for young people. Again refers to his success in reducing crime as mayor of Mexico City.
The next question is combatting corruption and impunity. Meade says it’s a problem that makes society, there will be no “estafas maestras” in his government. Judges will be independent. Public servants will have to provide financial declarations. Maerker asks what went wrong with the Peña Nieto government. Meade evades the question, going back to financial declarations and his previous answers. He will be the first president with immunity, he says.
The Bronco says it’s important that the president be independent and not depend on Congress. We have to “cut off the hand of those who rob” in government. Does he mean literally cut off their hand? Azcuena asks. Yes, literally, he says. She asks about his record of impunity during his gubernatorial administration. Bronco blames it on corrupt judges; anybody got buy an absolution in this country, he says. Azucena asks about how he got on the ballot and he says his candidacy is legimate. Have you ever lied? Azucena says. You promised you’d be governor for six years and you’re not. Yes, and I’m paying for that, he says.
AMLO talks about how corrupt politicians rob $500 billion pesos a year. The corrupt politicians rob much more than politicians. We will get rid of it, he says. Peña Nieto says its part of the culture and I don’t agree. The Mexican public is good and we’re going to get rid of corruption. I will govern by example from above to below, like you sweep the stairs. Eliminate all the privileges, so the government is no longer in the service of the mafia in power. Reduce elite salaries in government to increase the salaries of the poor. Sell off the presidential jet and fleet of planes.
Anaya refers to the video-scandals when AMLO was mayor, when some members of his government were caught in corruption scandals. Meade says no one knows how AMLO earns his living. Again ganging up on AMLO. Bronco says how can you offer what’s not yours to give yet – you haven’t won yet.
Zavala returns to the idea of values, a very PAN conservative buzzword. We have to bring dignity back to politics. She will be “implacable” against corruption. Sarmiento mentions that corruption did not end in her government’s administration. Zavala dodges the question, going back to her point about strengthening a culture of legality. With an independent anti-corruption agency (which Anaya already proposed).
Anaya goes back to attacking AMLO, saying many who approved the bank bailout FOBAPROA are now candidates in his party. He says there aren’t enough medicines, etc., because of the budget being robbed. He wants the president to no longer be protected by immunity. Maerker mentions that there has been systemic corruption also in the PAN and that he himself has been accused of corruption of selling an industrial building through phantom enterprises. Anaya says there is no accusation against him. Maerker presses him on the issue, and he says he will upload all the information exonerating him. Zavala says she is transparent in her declarations, unlike Anaya and AMLO. Bronco says there already is an anti-corruption czar in Nuevo León. Meade returns to the AMLO attack. AMLO says for some reason they’re all attacking me.
As someone who has never seen AMLO debate, and recognizing that all of the other candidates have been going after him, he is sticking to message.He is not the most forceful speaker but he has not made any major blunders. Moreover, he is rising a bit to the occasion as he addresses directly some of the challenges. It is also pretty obvious that he is being cut off more than other candidates.
AMLO returns to corruption, saying that corruption and impunity can be eliminated if there’s the will to do so. He mentions the Odebrecht scandal, how the president’s administration received dirty money from the company. Anaya says there are corrupt people in AMLO’s own future cabinet, like Poncho Romo. Meade goes back to the idea of independent judges, as if that shouldn’t be obvious. AMLO says he’s in favor of a independent corruption czar, but what they don’t want is to continue with the farce of pretending to attack corruption when nothing is done.
Bronco returns to the attack on AMLO (this is getting rather tedious). AMLO responds, but he continues to be cut off, because he’s going over time. This, however, will likely be perceived by the public as an anti-AMLO conspiracy. They shouldn’t be cutting off the candidates’ microphone when they go over time – there are other ways to get them to wind down.
Anaya says that any PRI ex-governors that are in prison are due to a transition of government to the PAN. Now Meade and Anaya are going at it about corruption. Anaya recites a list of PRI corruption cases, even showing a picture of Meade with the corrupt ex-governor Cesar Duarte of Chihuahua, who’s in hiding in the US.
The next question is about democracy and pluralism. She says only 56% of Mexicans believe in democracy, down 15% in one year. Politicians make promises, but then don’t fulfill them. Zavala says she’s not going to get involved in give-away programs, like Anaya and AMLO. Azucena says how is she going to be different from her husband’s administration? She’s her own person, she says. I’m doing my own campaign, without money or spots. She opposes same-sex marriage.
Meade says that all of his programs are costed. He doesn’t agree with the idea of a “citizens’ observatory” to ensure that promises are fulfilled; that’s Congress’ job, he says. Azucena says the PRI is the party that is most rejected by the public, with the most governors under investigation. Meade says that he is a citizen and his only commitment is with Mexico. So why did he take Armando Ríos Piter into his campaign, accused of corruption? I’ve known him for years, he’s honest, Meade says.
Bronco says he is consulting citizens, and that citizens can call him. Maerker asks about the irregularities in his signature collecting process, with photocopies, false signatures. Is it just mischief? Isn’t that part of a culture that makes people lose faith in politics. Bronco says that the other candidates sent people to do those things. Maerker presses him on the point, and Bronco blames the INE’s app, saying that it didn’t work. Very much a Trump strategy to make up extravagant lies, knowing he mostly won’t be called on it. He apologizes for prior comments about “fat women”. He believes in marriage, so much so that’s been married three times.
Zavala challenges candidates to give back their public financing. Bronco says he will. AMLO says that half of their public financing is being given to earthquake victims. Anaya says that they’ve given more to earthquake victims. He’s also in favor of recalls, as long as its legislated, and makes a snide aside about Chávez and Venezuela.
This part of the debate is so soft that everyone can sound caring and concerned about the marginalized and the vulnerable. The general point is that no one is landing any knock out blows against AMLO.
Anaya talks about the historic debt with indigenous communities, with migrants, with the children who go to bed hungry, and all types of discrimination must be condemned. Meade says that AMLO is wrong that $500 billion pesos will be saved by attacking corruption. Zavala talks about women who earn less for the same work, or indigenous women who are discrminated against. Anaya says it’s unacceptable that 7 of 10 women have suffered some form of violence.
AMLO talks about leading a movement to transform Mexico, that he’s the leader of a mass movement. That every two years, he will submit himself to a recall election: the people elect leaders and the people can remove them. Will he accept the results of the election, Sarmiento asks. Yes, says AMLO, if there isn’t fraud or the buying of votes. The mafia in power are specialists in frauds, he says.
Bronco says the true origin of all problems is corruption, and that AMLO didn’t want to give public financing back. Anaya says he also supports recalls. Meade opposes them every two years; it will tire out the country. Zavala says recalls don’t matter; it’s whether common people are benefited by government policy.
I thought AMLO handled the idea of a recall vote quite well. It plays to his strength: that the people are ultimately the arbiters of power and should have the right to recall any government which misrepresents their interests.
AMLO says that they didn’t sign the “Pacto por México” with Peña Nieto because this was when they agreed on increasing taxes and gasoline, and the privatization of PEMEX. We are going to sign an agreement to place honesty above all. Anaya says he made deals with people like Elba Ester Gordillo, the former head of the teacher’s union who is under house arrest.
AMLO talks about reconciliation, justice, and moving forward. Meade says AMLO has dedicated his political career to dividing the country, that he is ambitious. AMLO responds that Meade is lying about his having three apartments, and that the PRI and PAN are really one party: the PRIAN. Anaya says that AMLO was originally a member of the PRI himself.
Zavala has really not shone tonight; she sounds over-caffeinated and marginal to the main discussion. The Bronco as well, sounding absurd at times in his statements, but with a Trump-like use of over-the-top statements.
Meade hasn’t advanced his cause at all tonight; Anaya, who is the youngest, was the most comfortable in this very artificial medium.
Closing statements. Bronco says its time to get rid of all the political parties without pension. Zavala says she’s in favor of freedom and justice, that she is the real option. Anaya says the future of a generation is in play. He is trying to position himself as the only candidate who can defeat AMLO and attract tactical voting. AMLO says there have been three great transformations in Mexico: independence, reform laws and revolution; this will be the fourth. His will be a government that will no longer be at the service of a rapacious minority. Meade says that he believes in a prosperous Mexico that is inclusive and moves forward.
And with that, the debate ends. We’ll be going live on our Facebook page in a few minutes for a bilingual recap. Join us there!
AMLO did okay in his final statement. However, his assertion that his will be a government representing the poor and the rich and against the small minority of corruptos was disappointing. Granted, this has been an ongoing theme and likely appealing to many, but the idea that you can solve Mexico’s problems without a frontal assault on class inequality seems naive.
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