Public reaction to the arrest in Guatemala of Javier Duarte, the fugitive ex-Governor of Veracruz, has abounded in skepticism, with more than a million postings on each of Facebook and Twitter in Mexico. He has become “the El Chapo of the PRI,” as columnist Carlos Marín noted. One reporter twittered ironically about the self-congratulatory messages the PRI establishment sent out: “This is PRI-istas applauding PRI-istas for the arrest of a PRI-ista who diverted public moneys for PRI-ista election campaigns.”
Many have called the arrest a “negotiated surrender.” They say that Duarte agreed to give himself up and stay silent about the many politicians complicit in his crimes, in return for a light sentence and protection from prosecution for his wife and other family members. They cite the bizarre smile on Duarte’s face in the custody of the Guatemalan authorities and the fact that his wife, who was clearly involved in many of the transactions to divert public funds, was not arrested. “This is nonsensical, to say the least,” comments Marín. “The same people who were saying the government was protecting him a few days ago are now saying that the whole thing was a charade.”
One of these was Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was also roundly mocked for calling Duarte a “scapegoat,” implying of course that Duarte was innocent.
A new quarterly poll by GEA-ISA for March 2017 provides good insight into Mexican political perceptions. While the bottom line for candidate preferences are similar to other polls, following are some of the highlights that come from a more comprehensive survey.
Net favorable/unfavorable ratings of presidential contenders
- Ricardo Anaya (PAN) is the only potential candidate with a net positive approval rating: +1%.
- Andrés Manuel López Obrador has a net negative rating of only -1%. This is very different from his previous two runs for the presidency.
- All others have large net unfavorable ratings. Politicians are a very discredited breed in Mexico.
The performance of the Enrique Peña Nieto government
- The evaluation worsened along every dimension surveyed, compared to both Nov. 2016 and March 2016. Only 19% approve of his performance as President (down 25% in one year), and 77% disapprove.
- His greatest accomplishment as President: Nothing (43%). His biggest mistake: the gasoline price increases (18% ).
The campaigns for Governor of the State of Mexico officially kicked off just after midnight on Monday morning, with the three leading candidates holding large public meetings.
A new poll in El Financiero, shows PRI candidate Alfredo Del Mazo back in the lead with 32%, recovering from the public’s strong reaction to the January gasoline price shock. The PAN’s Josefina Vázquez Mota — who doesn’t really have roots in the state — is holding steady at 26%. Delfina Gómez of Morena has risen strongly to tie her, taking votes from the PRD, which continues to fade. (These percentages exclude undecided voters — 32% of those surveyed.)
In his kickoff, Alfredo del Mazo promised to make the state the safest in the country, with more security video cameras and panic buttons on public buses (the frequent target of robberies and hijackings) and to expand further social programs, including giving housewives a “pink salary.”
PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota promised to put an end to “the corrupting PRI,” and to find a place for the state’s ruling families next to the fossils in the history museum. (Edomex is one of five states where the PRI has never lost the governor’s palace.)
Morena candidate Delfina Gómez also promised to break the PRI’s monopoly in power, saying she “knew the pain of hunger. ”
All three parties are bringing the full force of their national organizations to bear — and in the case of the PRI, also the federal government. Cabinet secretaries have been in the state an average of three times per week for the past seven months, for ribbon cuttings or to give away everything from washing machines to chickens under the banner of “social assistance.”
The stakes are clearly highest for the PRI. A loss would probably be a stake in the heart for their hopes of keeping control of the government in 2018, and strip President Peña Nieto of whatever small prestige he still commands.
Sources: El Universal, Reforma, Milenio
The arrest yesterday of Édgar Veytia, the attorney general of the state of Nayarit, by U.S. agents will cause major political damage to the PRI, both in the state and nationally. Veytia was arrested on a previously-sealed indictment on federal charges of trafficking heroin, meth, cocaine, and marijuana. The U.S. is also seeking to seize at least US$250 million in assets.
Nayarit is holding gubernatorial elections in June. The long-dominant PRI is facing a strong challenge from a PAN-PRD coalition. Veytia’s long ties to the outgoing governor, Roberto Sandoval, will hurt the PRI’s chances both there and elsewhere. (Reportedly, the federal National Security Council never required Veytia to submit to the vetting procedures required by law of all senior security officials.) The arrest and indictment appear to have been complete surprises to the Mexican government.
Veytia is alleged to be a leader of the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), which has taken over control of trafficking in Nayarit, best known for the resort of Nuevo Vallarta, from the Pacific Cartel. A dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, Veytia flew every two weeks to visit his wife and family in San Diego. Sandoval nominated Veytia to become attorney general of Nayarit in 2012, and it was at that time (according to the U.S. indictment) that the large-scale trafficking began. As attorney general, Veytia commanded the state police and controlled actions of the local police. He has been the target of allegations of ties to trafficking over the years, as well as extortion rackets that have forced the sale of prime tourism properties.
Posted in Corruption, Drug wars, Elections, Justice, Security, US-Mex relations
Tagged CJNG, Nayarit, PAN, PRD, PRI, Sandoval, Veytia
The general in charge of human rights for the Army responded angrily to Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s criticism of the armed forces.
Starting with statements made during his NYC trip, AMLO has accused the military of complicity in the disappearance of the 43 students from Ayotiznapa and of participation in more than 100 “massacres” ordered by Presidents Calderón and Peña Nieto. He twittered that, “When we triumph, we will no longer use the Army to repress the people.”
The Army human rights spokesman, General Beltrán said:
Anyone who has proof of human of human rights violations committed by soldiers, as some public figures have alleged, must present them.
Digging in, AMLO has countered that he commands the full support of the rank and file, and ignored the complaints of the military leadership and politicians supporting them:
It’s very clear that the soldiers are the people in uniform; they are the sons of peasants, sons of workers…. In the 2006 and 2012 elections the soldiers — the troops — voted for change, they voted for us, and they will do the same in 2018. The soldiers will support change.
Columnist Salvador García Soto notes that picking a fight with the military leadership isn’t going to benefit any candidate and, “it brings to mind the popular saying that the fish dies by its own mouth. And this just might snag López Obrador.”
(Sources: El Financiero, SPD Noticias, El Universal)
Doubts are emerging about President Peña Nieto’s ability to keep control of the succession process, given the abysmal polling of the potential PRI candidates for the 2018 presidential election.
Until now, almost all have assumed that EPN would pick his successor using the “dedazo,” the big finger, that PRI presidents in the pre-democratic era exercised to indicate their successor. Indeed, EPN has maintained iron control of gubernatorial nominations through his term.
An anonymous PRI official told columnist Salvador García Soto,
We have to tell President Peña that the method for picking gubernatorial candidates until now won’t work to solve the succession issue inside the PRI. The president needs to innovate, open the process, and let many aspirants run in an open manner to help the PRI reposition itself in an adverse environment in which the other parties and candidates have big advantages.
According to García Soto, Presidencia’s last internal poll shows that all the potential PRI candidates finish a distant third against AMLO and any PAN candidate. The best positioned of the PRIistas is Health Secretary José Narro. In a trial ballot, Narro captures 19% of the vote, AMLO 29.6%, and Margarita Zavala of the PAN 24.3%.
These PRI dissidents are promoting the idea that the PRI National Assembly, scheduled to meet at the beginning of August, should decide the methods for selecting candidates for the 2018 races.
While AMLO has been using his visits to Mexican communities in the U.S. to portray a statesman-like image, he was effectively derailed by protesters in Queens, New York on Monday. Supporters and family members of the 43 students killed in Iguala in 2014 interrupted a town-hall type meeting, accusing AMLO (correctly) of close ties with the then mayor of Iguala and then governor of Guerrero at the time. (Both politicians were members of the PRD, and were politically backed by AMLO and his supporters.) In the face of the disruption, AMLO cancelled the rest of the Queens event; much of the rest of his agenda in NYC and Washington was hit by winter storm “Stella.” The images of the protesters shutting AMLO down is about the only impact his visit had in Mexico.