Passover, Viernes Santo, Sabado de Gloria, then Pascua. All very important in Mexico. Now, religious fervor; immediately after, back to political fervor.
“Esta en juego” (“in play”) over 3,400 public offices, including multiple local officials, nine state governors, and, of course the race for Mexico’s new President (ConcienciaMx, 22 March 2018). Lots of hopes and fears. We will know results in July 2018.
These elections occur in midst of political if not religious anguish. Two of three Mexicans believe they are worse off than they have been in 50 years—“only Venezuela” mounts greater numbers of fear and loathing (Conciencia). Yet, ironically, some things have improved. Average income is up from $2,130 (USD) in 1980 to $8,362 in 2017. Consumption of protein is up three-fold in those years. Trade treaties with the U.S. and other countries have expanded exports. Mexico is first in Latin America and thirteenth in world trade.
Pride in Mexico’s products, such as “green gold” (avocados, filling 30 percent of the world market) is palpable. Twenty million people are working. More immigrants are returning from the United States, not leaving. Ninety-nine percent of homes have electricity and water. Yet, “anger” continues, due to real and perceived corruption. “Fear” continues, due to violence and insecurity. Mexico enters this last quarter of the election cycle as a society “enojada (angry) y pesimista,” as “una democracia en riesgo (at risk)” (Grupo de Economistas y Asociadas–GEA, 21 March 2008).
Often, the same sources produce both positive and negative news. Fifty percent of Mexicans still prefer democratic government to authoritarian style (Investigaciones Sociales Aplicadas, GEA). However, that number is lower among youth and two-thirds of Mexicans believe “my vote doesn’t count.” Only one of four trusts the current President, Enrique Peña Nieto. (Carramba! Worse than Trump’s numbers.) Relative salaries have dropped; homicides are up; especially alarming is the number of local public officials assassinated.
Back to Easter. Could it be Mexicans’ strong religious faith (now, increasingly Evangelical as well as Catholic) provides them with the fortitude not only to sobrevivir (survive) but to overcome (superar)? They must have some secret. Partly, I contend, it comes from their famous sense of humor (often “humor negro,” or black humor). One meme passing on the internet shows Jesus on the cross, but only one cross on Golgotha. Bystanders ask Him “. . . and the ladrones (thieves?).” His response: “oh they are out, running in the electoral campaign.”
Some of the “likely suspects” include: 1) Ricardo Anaya Cortés of PAN (National Action Party, sort of the Mexican version of Republicans). 2) José Antonio Meade Kuribeña of PRI (the older, once dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, now again in power in Los Pinos, the Mexican “White House”). 3) Last but not least, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of MORENA (left-of-center National Renovating Movement). AMLO (who ran twice before) is currently leading in polls (GEA) with 26 percent. Anaya holds steady at 23 percent; Meade at 20 percent. Oddly, 37 percent “believe,” when further questioned by pollsters, Anaya might win the presidency. If so, would this be due to fraud? (the Russians are meddling). To last minute vote changes? To abstentions? Or simply to Mexican cynicism? Go figure.
Even Meade (and his PRI), despite Peña Nieto’s low ratings, has a chance if trade relations (with the “unpredictable Trump”) are successful. His Easter wish must be that NAFTA and Mexico’s hopes for increasing exportation of automobiles and other materials are not dashed. As a person, Meade is admired and is seen as relatively “clean.” He must, somehow, extricate himself from the reputation of his party if he is to be more successful.
Can that be done in just a few months? Probably not likely. Other parts of the puzzle: small parties abound, but recently have plummeted to only a total of two percent in the choices of citizens polled (GEA). A wild card: about one-third of the likely voting populace is very uncertain of their final choice. There has been a “pulverización of Mexico’s votes. AMLO (in the past, a sort of Mexican Trump, silly and quarrelsome) is the front-runner now. He is thoroughly despised by the upper classes. Will the winner find a governable legislature and society? Mexico will then need an Easter miracle in July.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows the famous Easter procession in Iztapalapa, near Mexico City.