Game Changer? Surprise Female Candidate Emerges In Mexico's Presidential Race

Op-Ed: The governing PAN made history last weekend by becoming the first major Mexican party to select a female presidential candidate. Although PAN trails in the polls, Josefina Vázquez Mota – a conservative deputy – could certainly shake things up ahead

Mexican presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota.
Mexican presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota.
Ricardo Alemán

With less than five months to go before Mexico's next presidential election, the governing PAN party has finally chosen a candidate: Josefina Vázquez Mota. The choice is as historic as it was surprising. Historic because the conservative deputy is the country's first major party female candidate, and surprising because most pundits expected PAN to choose Ernesto Cordero instead.

Cordero, a former finance minister, was widely hailed as President Felipe Calderón's personal preference. He also had the backing of numerous state governors. And yet when it came time for PAN members to cast their votes, a majority chose Vázquez Mota over Cordero and Santiago Creel, the party's third potential candidate.

Should this then be seen as a defeat for President Calderón? Not so fast – there's more here than meets the eye. It's true that Calderón threw his weight behind Cordero. What was less obvious, however, was that he also maneuvered on behalf of Vázquez Mota. In reality, he played both cards like a pro, so that no matter how things transpired, President Calderón could be seen as a winner.

Despite all the public support he offered Ernesto Cordero, Calderón didn't end up pushing things as far as he could have. It may have cost him politically, but the president could have used his considerable influence to insist PAN choose the finance minister. Indeed, he was also quietly pressuring the powers that be in PAN to back Vázquez Mota.

A mark of democracy

Things couldn't have worked out better for Vázquez Mota, who not only secured the nomination, but goes into the election as an unexpectedly legitimate candidate. Even though party leaders rallied behind Cordero, and even though there were widespread reports of election tampering (in favor of Cordero), Vázquez Mota still won.

The democratic process, in other words, worked – which looks great for PAN, since it was the only Mexican party to put its candidate selection process to a vote. PAN's rival parties – the centrist PRI and left-wing PRD – chose their candidates behind closed doors.

PAN's task now is to mend its internal divisions and present a unified front against the PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto, the favorite to win the July 1 election. Once Vázquez Mota is formally ratified as the PAN candidate, she has a real chance of shaking up the polls, of closing the gap with Peña Nieto and putting some distance between herself and the PRD candidate, former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

What Vázquez Mota offeres voters, above all else, is the chance to elect the country's first female president. Could she really win it? The race has really just begun and, as we've just seen, anything is possible.

Read the original article in Spanish

Photo - Wikipedia

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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