Y yo que pensaba que López Obrador no era el Presidente…

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Acabo de leer el Paquete Económico para el ejercicio Fiscal 2014 que el Ejecutivo entregó al Congreso (el cual probablemente ni leerán los Diputados, votarán por bloque y aprobarán). En resumen esta propuesta es populista, provocará efectos inflacionarios no necesarios y una vez más, cargará la mano a los cautivos en lugar de hacer lo que sería justo: expandir la base para que seamos TODOS los que pagamos los impuestos que mantienen al gobierno.  Seguramente saldrá AMLO a las calles a protestar también este paquete (porque el señor no pierde excusa para tratar de mantenerse vigente y seguir chupando del sistema como lo ha hecho por mucho tiempo) pero el paquete parece inspirado en la lectura a profundidad de su libro “La mafia que se adueñó de México… y el 2012” (Sí, sí lo leí), plagado con recursos para atacar a las clases productivas de México y exentando de responsabilidades a los acarreados que llenan las plazas cuando hay mítin político y sí, suman MUCHOS votos.

Estoy de acuerdo en:

  • El chicle no es alimento.
  • Gravar las bebidas saborizadas con azúcares añadidas es una idea a considerar en un país que sufre de diabetes, sobrepeso y obesidad (aunque le van a sacar la vuelta cambiando la fórmula y ya).
  • Establecer impuestos mayores a combustibles que hacen más daño.
  • Medidas para desincentivar el consumo de cigarro y la entrada de cigarros “pirata” al país.

Pero las burradas de este paquetito por mucho superan a los aciertos:

  • Dice que promueve la equidad del sistema tributario. Pero ataca a la clase media, media alta y alta sin tocar a la clase media baja y baja que es la base de la pirámide.
  • El cine es cultura. Un concierto no.  IVA a conciertos… por alguna razón. Exención de IVA al cine pero pongámosle IVA a una presentación artística en vivo (con excepción del circo por alguna razón). En resumen, a Peña Nieto le gusta mucho el Circo Atayde y la saga de Scary Movie. Odia cuando viene Yanni.  
  • Eliminación del IDE.  Supongo que hay que facilitarle el lavado de dinero a los amigos… La verdad es que un IDE a depósitos de más de $15,000 sí es ridículo pero la solución no es eliminar el impuesto sino elevar la base de $15,000 que es una transacción bastante común a un monto mayor (por ejemplo $100,000)
  • ¿Tienes casa? ¿La quieres vender? Hazlo antes del 31 de diciembre porque en el 2014, si la vendes 16% se va directo al gobierno. Así que pagas por tener casa (predial) y pagas por deshacerte de ella (eliminación de exención a la compra, renta y pagos de hipoteca de casa habitación). ¡Es más, pagas por pagarla! (pagos de hipoteca). El tema de pagar impuestos por renta seamos honestos, todos los renteros e inquilinos le van a sacar la vuelta a través de arreglos informales… y pues sí, ¡que viva la irregularidad!
  • ¿Quieres tener a tus hijos en una escuela decente? ¡El gobierno quiere tu lana! Así es, si ya de por si te partías la madre por tener a tus hijos en una escuela privada (con colegiaturas altas, aportaciones, costos de uniforme, materiales y todo lo demás), ahora te la van a poner más difícil: ¡IVA para las escuelas privadas! Aquí hagamos una pausa especial porque el tema lo amerita: tus impuestos ya pagan por la educación pública del país y a tasas mayores que muchos países desarrollados. El porcentaje del PIB que se va a educación en nuestro país es mayor que el de Canadá, Costa Rica y Australia pero todos sabemos que ese dinero nunca llega a los salones de clase y por ende, la calidad de la infraestructura y de los maestros en el sistema público están del nabo. Por eso muchísimos mexicanos literalmente nos partimos la madre para buscar una mejor oportunidad de desarrollo para nuestros hijos. Mis impuestos (y los tuyos a menos que vivas en el DF) le pagan la escuela a muchos que evaden o simplemente porque forman parte de la economía informal, no declaran ni pagan impuestos. No nos quejamos porque entendemos la necesidad de contar con un sistema público, a pesar de que el mismo esté plagado de vividores (SNTE, CNTE y miles de “servidores públicos” de la SEP). No nos quejamos y buscamos que nuestros impuestos se destinen a MEJORAR al sistema público pero hasta que esto no suceda, hasta que no hagan una limpia completa y arreglen su desmadre, no me pidan que sacrifique el futuro de mis hijos. No me dejen sin opciones y no me roben más de lo que ya lo hacen. No sean descarados y desalmados.
  • ¿Tienes mascota? ¡No le compres pareja y no le des de comer! Mientras que en los países desarrollados la gente que tiene mascota recibe incluso incentivos fiscales para prevenir que sus calles se llenen de perros y gatos callejeros, en México te van a cobrar IVA por adquirir una mascota y por alimentarla. Yo no tengo mascota. No me gustan las mascotas y no quiero una… pero no entiendo la necesidad de joder a la gente que sí la tiene.
  • Mayor tasa si tus servicios de gas no son de Gas Natural. Las tranzas de Gas Natural Fenosa hacia consumidores no requieren mayor escaparate que el que ya muchos conocemos y sin embargo, el paquete fiscal promueve una mayor tasa impositiva si en tu casa o industria consumes gas butano. La excusa es medioambientalista. La razón real es política.
  • Adiós al Secreto Fiscal. La SCHP se atribuiría en este paquete, el derecho a publicar tu nombre, denominación, razón social y RFC y calificarte como “riesgoso para celebrar actos mercantiles o de comercio” si considera que no cumples con tus obligaciones fiscales. Esto en papel suena decente PERO el problema es que los registros de la SCHP están plagados de errores. Durante dos años estuve dando clases en una universidad y trabajando como empleado en una empresa. En la universidad bajo un programa estaba por nómina y en otro por honorarios. Mi declaración por ende, era complicada y por ello, siempre me apoyé con contadores para emitirla correctamente y asegurar que cumplía con todo lo requerido por el SAT. A pesar de haber cubierto todas mis obligaciones fiscales, a la fecha me llegan notificaciones que dicen que les debo dinero. Cuando me he acercado a Hacienda para buscar clarificación, nunca han podido encontrar lo que según ellos les debo PERO me siguen llegando notificaciones. Quienes me atienden me dicen “seguro es un error del sistema porque no nos debe nada”… y año con año, las notificaciones siguen llegando. ¿Van a publicar mi nombre a raíz de su ineficiencia?
  • Si ganas más de 500,000 pesos al año, tu ISR de 30 a 32% y si eres un pequeño empresario, también te van a torcer.  El ISR está conceptualmente mal. Entiendo perfectamente la lógica y justicia colectiva detrás de “el que más gana, más debe de pagar” PERO eso no quita que el sistema escalonado del ISR que existe en México es una estupidez. Explico:El que gana más YA paga más sin tener que ponerle diferentes tasas porque su base gravable es mayor. Es decir, el sistema escalonado jode dos veces al que más gana: le quita más porque su base gravable es mayor Y porque le aplica una tasa mayor. Y si por alguna razón (inexplicable para mí) estás a favor de un sistema escalonado, como quiera el ISR en México está mal, ya que aplicará la misma tasa impositiva del 32% a quien gana 42,000 pesos al mes, que la que aplica a los multimillonarios del país.
  • Y quitarle el tratamiento especial a los Repecos, desincentiva a los emprendedores de México. Gracias, Peña Nieto… sólo eso nos faltaba.
  • ¿Querías deducir impuestos? ¡Lástima Margarito! “Se propone limitar el monto máximo de las deducciones personales realizadas por una persona física al año a la cantidad que resulte menor entre el 10% del ingreso anual total del contribuyente , incluyendo ingresos exentos, y un monto equivalente a 2 salarios mínimos anuales correspondientes al área geográfica del Distrito Federal”.

¿Algún país que acepte a un mexicano errante que ya no quiere darle un peso más de impuestos a su gobierno? Ahí me avisan… porque yo ya no quiero aportar valor en un país que no lo valora. Es bien triste llegar a esta conclusión porque de verdad que quiero, es más adoro a mi patria pero todos tenemos nuestros límites. Si mínimo viera que mis impuestos trabajan a favor del país, otra cosa sería pero ya estoy harto de llenarle los bolsillos a los “servidores públicos” y sus amigos. Su descaro me desmoraliza. 

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Peña Nieto’s Challenges: From Teacher Strikes to Energy Reform

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Peña Nieto’s Challenges: From Teacher Strikes to Energy Reform“, published on August 29th, 2013. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

The first nine months of Peña’s administration have kept the press busy and all of the country’s eyes and ears focused on what will happen next. He’s been characterized as bold, action-oriented and dynamic but clearly, not a team player.

He was celebrated by many (yours truly included) in February when he presented an ambitious and much needed education reform but disappointed just as many after having this effort easily thwarted by militant and disgruntled unionized teachers from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), which has taken Mexico City hostage in the last week to avoid needed secondary laws to enact the reform passing through Congress.

The inability to prevent and the lack of resolve to disperse a non-justified blockage of Congress as well as a blockade of the city’s main arteries—including those giving access to the airport and the Zócalo—has proven once again that political leaders are taking decisions not based on the greater good, the rule of law or the citizenry’s interests, but on a political agenda serviced by interest groups holding more power than they should and unable to cooperate with each other.

Mismanagement of this situation could soon spark violence and create a larger-than-ideological divide. The affected citizenry in Mexico City will only stand so much. In a recent poll by BCG-Excelsior, 52 percent of Mexicans stated that they are so fed up with the CNTE’s irrational resistance to the education reform and their militant actions that they would justify use of public force to disperse the picketers.

And while the teachers take to the streets, both Peña Nieto and the city’s government cower out of taking necessary action because of the political cost it would imply. Mexico City is not the only thing that’s paralyzed because of this—a broken education system puts the nation’s future talent pool at risk.  

The other current hot topic in the president’s agenda is energy reform. As recently described by Christian Gomez on AS/COA, “the proposal includes constitutional changes that would open up Pemex, the 75-year-old state oil monopoly, to profit-sharing contracts and foreign investment.”

This new notion of natural resources no longer belonging exclusively to the nation poses a huge shift in paradigm. Reactions from the nation’s Left include accusations related to autonomy, national patrimony and the role of government vs. private investors in extraction and having access to revenues from one of the nation’s most important sources of income. The opposition understands that PEMEX’s inefficiencies and the plague of corruption need to be addressed but they propose that a problem should not be fixed by creating another one.

One of the most respected voices from the Left, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, has recently stated that both PEMEX and CFE (federal electricity company) can become highly productive without having to edit the Constitution and without allowing foreign and/or private hands in the nation’s riches. If national patrimony is challenged due to reforms to articles 27 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution, Cárdenas has warned he would call for nationwide protests and he would even take to the streets along with López Obrador’s Morena (National Regeneration) movement.

Given its current party composition, Peña can easily get approval for the energy reform in Congress but he would be naïve to think that this is the only hurdle he needs to jump and he is doing a terrible job at trying to get public buy-in to this proposal through vague infographics on TV.

If there is possibility for effective energy reform, an open and inclusive debate needs to take place. This topic is not one that his team should be discussing behind closed doors and the hard questions will require real answers, not 20-second TV spots.

Peña’s government has been characterized by a “my way or the highway” attitude which is an easier temptation to fall into than trying to build consensus in a country as complex and fragmented as Mexico. This dictatorial style is only possible because of the fact that PRI has a stellar position both in Congress and in the State governments to push its agenda forward, something neither former Presidents Fox nor Calderón had. However, Peña would do well in understanding that his constituency is not limited to the political parties or even the power elites.

Organized teachers have already proven what they can do in Mexico City given enough motivation. Sparked by national patrimony rhetoric, larger, non-organized social mobilizations could easily flare up in different key cities in Mexico and cause larger havoc. As former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza recently wrote, “these red flags, so to speak, are especially relevant given the influence and disruptive potential of many of today’s social movements. The eruption of mass street protests in Brazil is just one recent example of a government being forced to change direction on a policy initiative and find a way to rapidly and constructively respond to the desires, often inchoate, of a newly emboldened and empowered population. It’s a cautionary tale that begins with frustration and finds expression in mass action.”

Even when theoretically, Peña could powerball his reforms forward, both him and the PRI need to wake up and understand that they cannot be the only voice to determine the nation’s destiny. Vargas Llosa sarcastically called the previous PRI era “the perfect dictatorship” but today’s Mexico will not stand for a return of that so-called “perfect” model. Peña needs to learn to play well with others.

Pero el bono sexenal nunca se traspapela…

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NOTA PUBLICADA HOY EN ELNORTE.COM, comentarios personales entre corchetes.

Dejan San Lázaro dándose regalazo

Cd. de México  (1 de junio 2012).- Los siete grupos parlamentarios que integran la Cámara de Diputados [No el PRI, no el PAN, no el PRD. TODOS] se repartieron un regalo de fin de legislatura por 230.3 millones de pesos, cuya distribución en cada una de las bancadas se hará a discreción.

De esta bolsa, al PRI, como partido mayoritario, le tocarán 98.5 millones de pesos; al PAN 60.5, al PRD 32, al Partido Verde 14, al PT 10.3, al Panal 7.7 y a Movimiento Ciudadano 7.3 millones.

El monto de 230.3 millones es una asignación extra integrada a las partidas de “subvenciones”, fijas y variables, que se dan a los partidos políticos y cuya comprobación de gasto se hace sólo con la firma del coordinador parlamentario, o quien él designe, sin que tengan la obligación de justificar en qué se gastaron los recursos [QUE HUEVOTES, ¿NO?].

En este caso, el argumento para entregar los recursos fue que se necesitaba apoyar las “labores legislativas” [¿CUALES?] de las bancadas , cuando ya no hay actividad parlamentaria en la Cámara baja, y para saldar el finiquito de los trabajadores de cada fracción.

 
El coordinador de los diputados del PAN, Carlos Alberto Pérez Cuevas, señaló que ignoraba la aplicación de los montos entregados a su fracción porque tomó el cargo a fines de abril, y la autorización de los mismos se hizo en febrero y marzo, cuando el coordinador era Francisco Ramírez Acuña.

“Sobre cuántos empleados se van o no se van, ese es un tema de mayor detalle, (por) que todavía no ha acabado la Legislatura”, manifestó.

Cuestionado sobre el tema, el vicecoordinador del PRI, José Ramón Martel, dijo desconocer el destino del dinero y cuántos empleados hay en su fracción.

“No te puedo contestar en cuanto a datos específicos del número del personal, no soy el director de personal de la Cámara, no soy el administrativo de mi fracción”, dijo.

Heliodoro Díaz, Diputado del PRI e integrante del Comité de Administración, explicó que la referencia a atender pasivos labores en las bancadas se refiere a los finiquitos del personal que durante los tres años laboró para cada fracción parlamentaria.

Sin embargo, el legislador no respondió cuántos empleados en total serán liquidados, e incluso dijo desconocer cuántas personas serán liquidadas en la bancada del PRI. [En síntesis, aquí nadie vio, nadie supo. Que rápido aprenden de nuestros candidatos presidenciales a deslindarse de todo...]

¿El efecto QuadriNader?

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En el 2000, Ralph Nader fue candidato presidencial en Estados Unidos por una coalición de partidos verdes. Ese fue el año del controvertido resultado en la contienda que llevó a cuestionar el sistema de colegio electoral en Estados Unidos y acabó poniendo a George W. Bush en la presidencia. Era evidente que Nader no tenía posibilidades de ser elegido PERO su participación sí fue instrumental para (sin que fuera su objetivo) quitarle votos a Al Gore y poner en evidencia una vez más, lo poderoso que puede ser el razonamiento del “voto útil”. De haber sido una batalla entre dos candidatos solamente, Gore no sólo hubiera obtenido la mayoría del voto popular sino también la presidencia.

Ayer presenciamos el primer debate presidencial de las elecciones del 2012 en México. Aunque fue entretenido en su momento, no quiero meterme en los siguientes temas a profundidad (por ahora):

  • La edecarne Playmate del IFE
  • El formato pobre en términos de tiempos y sistema de elección de preguntas
  • La pésima producción del programa
  • La marihuana que parecía haberse fumado la presentadora Lupita
  • Las pobres elecciones en corbata de 2 de los candidatos

Esto es lo que sí quisiera discutir:

Prácticamente todos los medios y redes sociales están repartiendo puntos positivos entre Quadri y Vázquez Mota. Aparentemente quien más provecho le sacó al ejercicio fue Gabriel Quadri, que se pone después de un par de horas de argumentos y propuestas, en el mapa electoral. No, Gabriel Quadri no será Presidente PERO ayer sí ocurrieron un par de cosas que vale la pena considerar:

  • Es muy probable que el PANAL mantenga su registro. De ser así, el intelectual habrá hecho su chamba y la maestra estará muy agradecida.
  • Los jovenes que habían perdido esperanza en la contienda regresarán a las urnas para darle su voto al “candidato hipster.” Creo que su mayor apoyo vendrá de personas que de otra manera no hubieran votado o hubieran anulado su voto que de gente que haya cambiado de candidato preferido.
  • La composición porcentual del resultado en las elecciones habrá cambiado significativamente ya que probablemente Quadri superará el estimado de 1% de los votos.
  • Quadri tiene garantizado un futuro político si quisiera tomar la opción. Con o sin el PANAL, el candidato mostró madera para tener posibilidades de ganar una posición en la Cámara de Diputados o hasta el Senado.

Nadie puede negar que la estrategia de Quadri funcionó. Es cierto, es más fácil ser el candidato al que nadie va a pelar ni atacar cuando estás en un debate… pero en las elecciones pasadas Roberto Campa estaba en una situación similar y no la supo aprovechar. En lo personal Quadri no me impresionó pero puedo entender por qué a muchos sí. Fue uno de dos candidatos que trajo propuestas a la mesa en lugar de palabras vacías. Entre los cuatro es definitivamente el más elocuente y al no tener trayectoria política pasada, no tiene cola que le pisen.

Despúes de lo que vimos anoche, la verdader pregunta interesante es: ¿será la participación de Quadri una versión mexicana del efecto Nader y de ser así, a cuál de los otros candidatos le perjudica más su éxito en el debate de ayer?

Estimados y siempre valorados visitantes de este espacio, ¿qué piensan al respecto?

De antemano les agradezco su participación y compartir este post para que tengamos buena muestra en esta discusión.

Mexican Electoral Politics Hit Rock Bottom

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexican Electoral Politics Hit Rock Bottom”, published on Apr. 17th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

The 2012 electoral process is the most uninspiring we’ve seen in recent history. Therefore it’s no surprise that Mexican society is increasingly disenfranchised with the political system. In fact, trust in the political elite is at an all-time low. Where interest groups saw possibilities of working hand in hand with the government in 2000 and 2006, the division between those governing and those being governed grows day by day.

The age group most alien to the electoral process this year will be young adults. A recent UNDP-sponsored study carried out by the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM) posits that 7 out of every 10 voters ages 18-29 will not turn out to vote due to “disenchantment with Mexican democracy.” Enrique Cuna Pérez, the head of the sociology department at the UAM, points out that Mexican adolescents do believe in democracy but not in the way it is implemented in the country. “Young people are not shying away from democracy as a system, they are shying away from Mexican democracy. They consider themselves as democratic people. They understand the importance of voting but they are not willing to participate in Mexican democracy as it stands today,” says Cuna.

There are many reasons for this. For one, people are finding it harder to believe in and rally for the different candidates. The turn that political campaigns have taken—toward destructive criticism, finger-pointing and whining—is far from inspiring. Since the actual political platforms and proposals show nothing new, candidates are focusing on projecting their persona, trying to get people to believe in them, but they are doing it by saying “you can’t believe in the other candidates” as opposed to showing the country why they are fit to lead.

Enrique Peña Nieto, who according to the latest BGC-Excelsior poll leads the race at 50 percent of voter preference, is doing what he does best: photo-ops with as little speech as possible in the different states he visits. He continues to be the one to beat, though the reason is based more on publicity saturation than substance. Doing what his Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) does best, towns all over the country are now flooded with enormous billboards showing the candidate as a man of the people, hugging an over-eager supporter.

Josefina Vázquez Mota’s party, the ruling Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), has recently launched a tactical attack toward Peña Nieto’s credibility, running radio and television spots that label him a liar based on commitments made during his tenure as governor of Mexico state and presumably did not deliver on. While this may be effective in bringing Peña Nieto’s numbers down, the campaign does nothing to engage young voters or to build up a constructive conversation on the future of the country. The candidate will likely use the upcoming presidential debate to take a stab at Peña Nieto’s list of undelivered promises.

And Andrés Manuel López Obrador? He’s been gradually abandoning his more moderate stance and become militant and combatant. Slowly but surely, we start to see the López of old. Worried about the growing trend of this election becoming a two-person race and himself being relegated to a respectable—but distant third—player (the same poll places him dropping to 20 percent of voter preference, 9 points behind Vázquez Mota), he has chosen to go back to accusing “the system” of being against him and the PRI and PAN of working together to minimize his participation in the race. Most recent outbursts include saying that the upcoming presidential debate structure somehow favors the PRI candidate and that the current PRI-PAN confrontation over Peña Nieto’s credibility is “a smoke screen to detract attention from Peña Nieto’s campaign spending.”

But the presidential race is not the only reason young people have stopped believing in Mexican democracy. A lot of it has to do with the negligence shown by the Mexican Congress, which has hijacked President Felipe Calderón’s proposed structural reforms for political means and become completely stagnant. Add to this the level of impudence shown by all parties with regard to the candidates they’ve put forward for upcoming legislative elections and you start to see why a low voter turnout is likely in 2012.

The party lists include such individuals as Dolores Padierna, wife of René Bejarano who in 2004 was the subject of a video scandal showing him taking wads of cash from a shady Argentine businessman. There’s also Fernando Larrazabal, the mayor from Monterrey whose brother Jonás until recently presumably ran an extortion scheme charging casinos for their right to operate. Emilio Gamboa was the subject of a political scandal in 2006 due to a leaked phone conversation linking him to child pornographer Kamel Nacif.  With this representing part of the future of Mexico’s Congress, it’s no surprise that young voters want nothing to do with it. 

As a result, Mexican electoral politics have hit rock bottom. The political elite would do well to stop ignoring this important trend and work to regain the public’s trust. Otherwise, Mexico’s emerging democracy could prove to be more fragile than they think.

¡Por los abuelitos!

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Vistas tomadas de animación publicada en elnorte.com

Debo aceptar que me dio un poco de ternura la campañita en medios digitales. Jajajaja Quien sabe cuanto habrá pagado por salir en el sitio de elnorte.com pero por lo menos nos quedamos con el consuelo de que por el diseño del flash animado no se gastó ni un peso. ¡Bien por el candidato austero!

¡Por los abuelitos que no son ni hombres ni mujeres!

Mexico’s Presidential Race: Running on Air

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico’s Presidential Race: Running on Air” , published on Feb. 15th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

—-

The stage is finally set for the presidential race between Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN), Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD/PT) and Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI/PVEM). What is about to unfold in the coming months is a barrage of party propaganda and news media stories designed to pull the undecided electorate toward one or the other candidates, but the actual content of the messages will surely show the lack of political consciousness in Mexico.

The product of a school system in crisis, a large portion of Mexico’s constituency is comprised of uneducated voters. Moreover, for those lucky enough to have gone through formal schooling, two essential things are missing: development of a widespread civic/political culture and embedding the capacity for critical thinking.  With regard to elections, Mexicans’ decisions have traditionally been based on a simplistic understanding of what candidates represent, if we like the way they talk and even their looks.

 A very young and sensationalist media also works against the creation of a politically informed voter base. Mainstream newspapers and TV networks are more interested in covering and making fun of the latest verbal gaffe by one of the candidates than really doing an in-depth analysis of the actual platforms they are running on. And the worst part is some of the current candidates have caught wind of this so their campaign focus will be less on substance and more on giving the media what they want in order to get more exposure. A secondary concern is the actual proposals and solutions to the country’s biggest challenges.

Of the three candidates, the only one who has provided public discourse with a somewhat clear and consistent direction is López Obrador. To be fair, his campaign is six years ahead of the other two but that doesn’t excuse the fact that Vázquez and Peña have been unable to effectively communicate what they stand for and what their governments would seek. They might not even be trying to do this, as they’ve found they can try to win the election through other strategies.  

Today we know that López Obrador opposes the neoliberal model and his macroeconomic policies are less focused on healthy management of public debt and more on building infrastructure. In his presidency, public spending would likely go up via populist programs, less worried about sustainable finance (the way his administration ran Mexico City). We know he opposes the military’s involvement in the war on drugs and gang-related violence, though we are not yet clear on his proposal for an effective alternative. Because he includes it in his rhetoric, we are clear on his views on supporting the agricultural sector and the ever-pervasive and violent SME (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas), a union which represents employees of a public company that doesn’t exist anymore. His foreign affairs policies would likely skew away from the globalization dynamic and steer more toward regional bloc building with Latin America. Somewhat ironically, being open about his platform has done very little to help AMLO gain support. According to a recent poll, his numbers have been stagnant since October 2011 despite heavy campaigning.

Josefina Vázquez Mota will use her political background and take advantage of the gender-role dynamics to position herself as the modern, socially-focused candidate. We will likely see her include education and jobs as the cornerstones of her campaign but her views on the economic model might only be inferred from her allegiance to the PAN party. On her official website, the closest thing to an actual political platform is an invitation to build a national plan through social inclusion and civil participation. Her public appearances follow suit, with statements on how we must build the nation together but lacking substance. Vázquez’ popularity has recently jumped in the polls, catapulting her as the viable alternative for voters who wish to keep the PRI from coming back to power and (at least for now), relegating López to a distant third place position. Her role in the race is being questioned by the media not for her position on any of the issues but by raising the question “is Mexico ready for a woman to be President?”

The leading candidate is still Peña Nieto but his numbers have been on a tailspin due to a series of statements that validate López’ criticism against him for being a “product” or “junk food” candidate. Of the three, Peña is the one whose positions on anything are still a complete mystery.  His public speeches have been empty and unclear. Besides representing the return of PRI to power, Mexicans have no idea what he stands for or his value proposition. He apparently opposes the ruling party’s recent administration but his platform called “An Effective State” provides nothing new, different or innovative that has not already been pushed forward by Calderón’s administration.

Why is Peña leading in the polls?  Because Mexicans do not vote based on substance. Part of his popularity might be attributed to people disappointed of the PAN alternative looking back to the PRI and thinking “we were better off back then.” Add to this Peña’s good looks and his marriage to a soap opera star which helped him gain points early on in the race. However, Peña is running out of fuel and has nothing with which to fill the tank. Until he proves otherwise, Peña is the candidate “running on empty” as López has pointed out. The possibility of either Vázquez or López catching up, is still very much on the table.

It’s too late for this presidential race, but if Mexicans are to make the right decisions in elections to come, we must invest in creating a better informed and politically conscious voter base and we can’t expect the political elite to do it for us. It’s easier for them to run on personal popularity.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Mexico needs a runoff election process

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico Needs a Runoff Process” , published on Jan 13th, 2012. Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

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On July 1, Mexicans will choose their president for the next six years. This will be the fourth time the electoral process is not organized by the government but by a supposedly non-biased institution, the Instituto Federal Electoral or IFE.

Mexico likes to boast (especially since 2000) that we hold free, fair and transparent elections. And while that may be the case to some extent, the country could learn a lot from its Latin American neighbors with regard to the process in itself. More than ever, Mexico would benefit from the implementation of a two-round runoff election as opposed to its current majority rule system.

Prior to 1994, general elections were but a façade to legitimize the perpetuation in power of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). Without an independent regulatory body to observe the process, elections results were heavily and systematically manipulated, voting booths with opposition preference were ransacked and official tallies always placed the PRI as an absolute majority winner. Under these circumstances, the official rules of the process were irrelevant and a second round of elections would have never made sense as the PRI would always get over 50 percent of the supposed electorate preference. 

The PRI’s control over elections had been so blatant that the country was led to believe that José López Portillo had won fairly in 1976 with an impressive 87 percent of the vote. In 1988, Carlos Salinas de Gortari was the last president to win an absolute majority (50.7 percent) of the vote.

Not by coincidence, and after four years of the IFE existing, the first non-government organized elections saw Ernesto Zedillo win with only 48.69 percent of the votes in 1994. Besides recovering from the 1994–1995 crisis, which started with the so-called “Error de Diciembre ,” Zedillo’s most important legacy was probably to pave the way for the IFE’s full independence, and thus allow for the democratic transition of power. In 2000, Vicente Fox of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) won the election with 42.52 percent of the votes. He was the first president to take power in a situation in which the sum of votes from the two other major parties was actually larger than those awarded to him (52.75 percent between the PRI and a Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD)-led alliance). The trend continued in 2006, where President Felipe Calderón (PAN) took power with only 35.89 percent of the votes—a less than 1 percentage point advantage over one of his closest competitor.

Single election, majority rule voting systems work in situations of a two-party system or when one of the candidates is able to conjure up an absolute majority on the first try. But as Mexican electoral history has shown, it’s time to reassess the situation for the country and consider second-round voting.

Mexico has developed into a multiparty system and that system is here to stay. The country has seen the strengthening even of previously discarded small parties such as the PT, PVEM and PANAL. But, more importantly, three major players have emerged and none looks to be going away anytime soon.

Thus, 30/30/30 scenarios become more likely; in fact, since 1994 the country has been run by a person most of its citizens voted against.  This is not just a problem of mathematical relative majority, but  it also reflects on the ability of the leader to govern. It raises the probability that the president might not have been a voter’s second choice had they been given a shot at a runoff.

A two-round system like in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and many other Latin American countries would permit citizens to express their real preferences on round one. Then when two front-runners are left, they could vote for the “least bad” alternative, or as we say in Mexico “el menos peor.”

It would also eliminate the vice of the “useful vote” in which voters cast their vote based on how they think the majority will. In 2006 when Calderón took power, he did so in great part due to “useful votes.” These people did not necessarily agree with Calderón’s proposals or principles but they thought he would be the only one to be able to beat Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) so they gave him their support as a means of blocking the PRD from taking power. While it is understood that in a two-round process the useful vote predicament does appear in the latter round, at least citizens can freely vote their conscience initially. Their first choice can be made for the right reasons and their votes are not thrown out on a whimsical guess.

Runoff elections also provide the elected leader with a level of legitimacy we have not had in Mexico since Zedillo took power. Further, if you consider the fact that elections were fixed before him, one could say that it is a legitimacy no Mexican president has ever had. In clearer terms: no Mexican president has been freely elected by an absolute majority (on a first or second round).

In the 2012 elections people will be voting against PRI because they don’t want them back in power, against PRD because they believe López Obrador to be a danger for the neoliberal model and against PAN because they have deemed them ineffective in the war against drugs and organized crime (and yes, a few constituents will vote for their preferred candidate). This conjecture is way too complex for a single majority vote electoral system to resolve in an effective constructive manner.

Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

The Credibility Vacuum: Mexico’s 2012 Presidential Race

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “The Credibility Vacuum: Mexico’s 2012 Presidential Race” , published on Nov 28th, 2011. Please feel free to visit and comment.

Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

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No matter the outcome, Mexico’s next president will not have the needed credentials to effectively run this country and neither will the majority parties that compose Congress. Mexico’s political system has entered a credibility vacuum.

These first lines sound fatalist but the real intention here is to prepare and alert the Mexican citizenry of the ever-present need of their active involvement in placing the country on the right track. It has always been simplistic to leave this up to the government and now more than ever, it will be futile to think they would be able to at a federal level.

The 2012 presidential race in Mexico will have three relevant frontrunners: Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI), Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) and if the most recent polls stay the same until February, Josefina Vázquez Mota for PAN.

Vázquez Mota is facing an upstream battle. Of the three, she is the candidate with the least experience, the least media exposure and she has never occupied a publicly-elected government position. Moreover, she carries with her allegiance to a party which in the eyes of many, has failed to capitalize on the democratic transition. The political cost of Vicente Fox’ dormant presidency and Felipe Calderón’s war on drugs-related fatalities puts her in the worst position to win the race. Recent state elections in Estado de México, Coahuila, Nayarit, and Michoacán where the PRI came out victorious, foreshadow PAN’s likely inability to maintain the presidency after 2012. On the off-chance that she could pull it off, Vázquez Mota would govern with a PRI-majority Congress, which most likely would hinder her ability to put forth any relevant changes (same as what happened to Vicente Fox). Vázquez Mota may be the right woman for the job, but she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Though López Obrador’s abandoning of his divisive rhetoric from 2006 gained him a second attempt at the presidency from leftist parties (against my forecasting, I might add), today his flip-flopping positions make him the least credible candidate. His impeachment when he headed the Mexico City government, his irresponsible indebting of the city for his populist gains and his sketchy financing for the past five years make his track record and his current platform incompatible. Moreover, those with a bit of memory will not forgive his utter disregard for the rule of law during the last post-electoral period. 

In the last elections Calderón was able to beat López not because of votes for the PAN candidate but because Calderón was perceived as the “useful vote” for people who wanted to keep a radical López out of the presidency at all costs.  Ironically, with the PAN’s current weak position and López’ confrontational delivery toning down, in 2012 he will likely be the recipient of many anti-PRI votes, possibly enough to get him to power.

If this is the case, Mexico will have yet another demagogue as president; one who has promised too much to too many divergent interest groups in order to try to get a critical mass of support; he will face a real challenge in being able to deliver. His bold statements on creating “a Republic of Love,” getting the armed forces off the streets in six months and creating 4 million jobs in six weeks have been called irresponsible by respected analysts. Add to this the fact that like Vázquez, his every move would most likely be blocked by a PRI Congress.

The third player is Enrique Peña Nieto, the custom-built candidate from the PRI. Called out by López as a “junk-food candidate,” he currently has the favored standing position to win the presidency, though it will most likely end up being a very close race.

Peña’s slick young look and his recent marriage to soap opera star Angélica Rivera equate the couple to the Ken and Barbie of Mexican politics. But what does Peña represent? For one, the return of a party where over 70 years of absolute rule is considered by many the root cause of the current organized crime proliferation in the country. PRI has been gaining ground at a state and municipal level under the banner of “we did know how to govern” and “we controlled (co-opted) the narcos” because citizens have not been able to grasp the benefits of a transition in power and they are tired of the war on drugs.

Related to this, President Calderón has been candid in warning Mexico of the possibility of collusion between drug lords and the PRI should they regain power. As recent allegations of organized crime intrusions favoring PRI in elections in Michoacán show, Calderón’s warnings may not be so far-fetched. Peña Nieto’s candidacy is also tainted by the fact that he will run under a coalition with the PANAL (Partido Nuevo Alianza) supported by Elba Esther Gordillo, president of the SNTE, the combatant teacher’s union and one of Mexico’s most despised political characters.  Rumors of Carlos Salinas de Gortari backing Peña’s candidacy and accusations of Peña’s involvement in the death of his first wife, Monica Petrelini, also warn us of the return of the PRI of old. In addition, TV media moguls and other oligarchs will side with Peña Nieto in order to push him into Los Pinos.

In laymen’s terms Mexicans will have a choice in 2012 to vote for the woman who can’t win, the demagogue who can’t deliver or the pretty boy with shady friends.  In Mexico we are used to voting for the lesser of evils but this time it might be the hardest choice of all.  Given the current scenario, the real challenge will be for the rest of the relevant actors (private enterprise, NGOs, special interest groups, media, universities, trustworthy state and municipal authorities, etc.) to build and achieve progress in spite of the credibility vacuum at the top of the government… and hope for a better race in 2018.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.