Mexican Presidential Candidate Keeps Her Cool in LA

Mexican Presidential Candidate Keeps Her Cool in LA

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Photo by Agustín Durán/LatinoCalifornia

Traducción al español

LOS ANGELES – Dressed in a blue suit, both simple and elegant, presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota of Mexico’s National Action Party (PAN) left the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles the same way she arrived: smiling and greeting everyone, in the midst of applause. She typically maintained her cool and composure -- even when a member of the audience accused her of praising the strength of Mexico’s middle class, but not acknowledging the more than 50,000 people who have died due to violence in the last five years.

Moments earlier, the candidate had said she agreed that there was growth and strengthening of the more than 7 million middle-class families in Mexico who can now go on vacation more often, get car loans and send their kids to school on scholarships. But she did not condemn Mexico’s current policy against drug trafficking. She even stressed that she would not negotiate with organized crime, implying that if elected president she would continue the same policy initiated by fellow PAN member, President Felipe Calderon in 2006.

Under this policy, Calderon has deployed troops to Mexico’s drug trafficking hot spots, effectively militarizing the war on drugs -- a move that has actually led to an increase in bloodshed and violent deaths in Mexico. The question in Mexico’s July 2012 presidential election is: Will the Mexican people elect another member of PAN, or will their intolerance of the escalation in violence lead them to choose someone who might take a different approach?

“If [President Calderon] had not dealt with organized crime, it would have been like handing over complete territories, entire families and entire networks of corruption to drug trafficking and violence. I’ve also said that in my view ... I don’t think we should negotiate with criminals, but I think we have learned lessons, and I will do things differently because there are a lot of things that have not been done in the area of security. So, I greatly respect your point of view,” said Vázquez Mota in response to the comment by Agustín Constantino, one of those at her appearance.

“I’m not saying you should sit down and talk with the narcos, but you should recognize that the strategy [against violence in Mexico] so far is wrong,” Constantino told the candidate.

Interviewed during the presentation by journalist Sergio Muñoz Bata, and invited by the Aztec Foundation to talk about her life and her hopes for Mexico, Vázquez Mota did not disappoint and most of the audience seemed to like her.

She stressed the importance of education in Mexico, an issue she considers essential to improving the standard of living in the country. At the same time, she expressed concern over having an education union that is so closely tied to politics.

When asked if the current president was responsible for the violence in Mexico, the candidate voiced no criticism of Calderon's strategy. Instead, she responded with examples from her own childhood and the importance of family security, saying that she hoped that one day people would be able to trust Mexican police again just as she did when she was growing up.

Vázquez Mota also stressed that violence has been in the country for a long time and that someone had to confront it. President Calderon took that step, she said, precisely because he wanted to avoid a situation that could have been even worse.

Reporter Muñoz, who interviewed the candidate, suggested that violence in Mexico might simply be a matter of social communication: Other countries like Brazil and the United States have more victims of violence, but the way they measure and talk about the problem differs a great deal.

Meanwhile, he observed, Mexico has kept a running tally of violent deaths for the last six years, something that may make the country seem more violent, while masking other realities, such as the Mexican people’s achievements, hard work and success stories.

Other topics of concern Vázquez Mota discussed during the interview included the economy, security, the strengthening of public institutions at all levels and an emphasis on education.

At the end of the interview, some of the 150 attendees, including Mexicans, Americans and those interested in Mexican politics, agreed that the candidate’s career was admirable and applauded the fact that she didn’t lose her composure when faced with tough audience questions.

However, not everyone was persuaded to vote for her.

Pedro Ramirez, a student at the University of Southern California (USC), who is from Guanajuato, said he was impressed with the way Vázquez Mota expressed herself. Although he wasn’t sure he would vote for her, he said that she might be the best of the three presidential candidates so far.

Isabel Espinosa, also a student at USC and a Mexican citizen, said she liked Vázquez Mota’s political positions, but said Mexico needed a change -- not necessarily in political party, but in its strategy against violence.

Thalia Martinez, a Mexican citizen who lives in Mexico City, was more critical, saying the interview had confirmed for her that she would not be voting for Vázquez Mota. "She responded like any politician," said Martinez. "She answered every question, but she didn’t say anything."

Other Mexicans living in the U.S. who watched the interview stressed the candidate’s controlled way of answering questions, without getting upset or avoiding the subject. Like Espinosa, many audience members were left thinking they might even vote for her -- but only if she changed her party's policy on combatting violence in Mexico.

This article originally appeared in Spanish on LatinoCalifornia. LatinoCalifornia is a member of New America Media's Los Angeles media network the LA Beez. Read more at LABeez.org