Is This The Man To Clean Up Mexico?
Sunday's presidential election in Mexico is "a referendum between honesty and corruption," says leftist underdog candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
MEXICO CITY – "This election is a referendum between honesty and corruption." That's how candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) sums up this Sunday's presidential election in Mexico. What's at stake is nothing less than the future of the nation, he believes.
López Obrador served as mayor of Mexico City between 2000 and 2005. A year later he lost the presidential election by barely half a percentage point to Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). He cried foul, claiming colossal fraud. For months he mobilized his forces and, in a symbolic ceremony, "assumed" leadership as Mexico's "legitimate president." In the end, however, he would have to wait six years for another run at Los Pinos, as Mexico's presidential residence is called.
Polls show him trailing Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). López Obrador is confident, nevertheless, that he'll win on Sunday. He spoke with Clarín on Monday.
CLARIN: Your campaign has centered around the fight against corruption. Is this Mexico's biggest problem?
LOPEZ OBRADOR: Yes, without a doubt. That's why we'll create an anti-corruption ministry. Citizen committees will be set up to oversee every government contract. When people talk about structural reform, they tend to forget that the first thing needed is to end the corruption that hinders growth. This election is a referendum between honesty and corruption.
Is it really reasonable to expect that an apparatus of this nature, one that survived for 70 years under the PRI and another 12 under PAN, could really be dismantled?
I stand by my record, which includes 30 years of social struggle. During all that time I was committed to three things: to not steal, to not betray and to not lie.
López Obrador seems convinced by his own words. And despite the fact that Mexico's image abroad is of a country awash with the violence of its drug wars – which have left more than 60,000 dead in the past six years – he insists that corruption remains the biggest challenge for this nation of 112 million people. "I won't back down. There won't be impunity for anyone," he says sternly.
Recent polls have Peña Nieto (43%) well in front, with a 12 to 15 percentage point lead over López Obrador. Nevertheless the PRD candidate strongly believes that he'll win. "The polls are rigged by the media to broadcast the idea that the elections are already decided," he said. "But we have other polls that show us two points ahead of Peña Nieto."
Will you accept the official outcome of the election?
I receive information from all over the country about how the PRI is buying votes. But a few things have changed. There's more clarity about the need for free and clean elections. We'll be following closely what happens in every voting center, with 450,000 people monitoring what takes place. So I'll accept what the people decide.
For López Obrador, who was briefly involved with the PRI at the beginning of his political career, Peña Nieto embodies corruption and despotism. Peña Nieto is described by some as the "political godson" of ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), considered by many to be the great demon of Mexican politics.
How would you tackle Mexico's violence problems?
My program focuses on creating jobs and improving education, as well as fighting against corruption and carrying out fiscal reform to provide more money to social programs that help keep young people from turning to crime.
A few weeks ago, posters began appearing in various cities showing López Obrador kissing Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez – a clear attempt to discredit the PRD candidate and sow fear among the population. "That's part of the dirty campaign they've run. A sign that they're afraid they'll lose," said López Obrador. "I don't know Chávez. In my whole life I've never even spoken with him on the phone."
Read the original story in Spanish.