Thursday, August 26, 2010

Picture of the day, front page on La Jornada: "So that Sandoval can see these"

Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard, passing by a stand at a food industry fair, couldn't resist the temptation when he saw a pack of eggs: He lifted up the huevos (functionally equivalent to cojones), joking, "So that Sandoval can see them."

(Front page picture in La Jornada

The joke aside, it appears the church is backtracking somewhat from its very strident language and belligerent postures; church spokesman Hugo Valdemar, a sheep in a rabid wolf's clothing if there ever was one, recently declared Ebrard would not be expelled from the church. Ebrard had threatened, should this happen, to take his case to the Vatican. 

Even Juan Sandoval, cardinal of Guadalajara and a main protagonist in the church-Ebrard confrontation, has toned down his rhetoric. 

Sandoval has over the years many times been exposed as a coward: He barks loudly, but as soon as anyone stands up to him, this clerical equivalent of the schoolyard bully tends to back down. It could simply be that as a judge accepted the slander suit launched by Ebrard, Sandoval realizes that Ebrard is not intimidated.

Yet I am suspecting that what may be an attempt by the church to calm the rhetoric is also the product of having realized they may have stumbled into a trap set up by themselves, where the spat with the church, which has appeared extremely intolerant, may strike a chord with voters, most of who may remain catholic but also quite anti-clerical. The Ebrard-church confrontation, finally, has also helped raise Ebrard's international profile, as the international press has given the conflict much attention.  

He went into this battle swinging, and may well come out on top. 

Electoral tribunal: Calderón violated constitutional and electoral law.

The TEPJF,  Mexico's highest electoral court, declared that Calderón broke both constitutional and electoral law by publicizing the "achievements" of his government ahead of the recent state elections, in a period where no government publicity-propaganda is allowed. 

Even though former president Vicente Fox was criticized by the TEPJF, for blatantly interfering in the 2006 election through the same kind of acts president Felipe Calderón has apparently learned little from his predecessor. And, as in the case of Fox, he will not be sanctioned, as electoral law still does not stipulate any clear mechanism to punish public servants who engage in these actions. 

Clearly, much remains to be done with the COFIPE, or the federal law regulating elections, in a future electoral reform. 

Former PRI governor Ángel Aguirre Rivero favorite in poll to be PRD candidate

To the list of official PRD "pre-candidates" for the governorship of Guerrero one can now add  PRI senator Ángel Aguirre Rivero. According to a poll commissioned by the national leadership, the former PRI interim governor (1996-1999) is far ahead the current pre-candidates, PRD senators Lázaro Mazón Alonso and David Jiménez Rumbo, former PRD national deputy Cuauhtémoc Sandoval Ramírez, and PRD national deputy Armando Río Píter, the latter considered until now the top contender. 

The decision of Ángel Aguirre Rivero to drop the PRI for the PRD is, of course, purely opportunistic: An informal yet longstanding agreement with his cousin Manuel Añorve, current PRI mayor of the all-important district of Acapulco, fell through as Añorve sought and won the PRI's candidacy (though not fully official). Aguirre Rivero, denied the backing of the PRI leadership, promptly engaged in conversation with the PRD and the DIA coalition of PRD-PT-Convergencia, regarding a possible run on the PRD ticket. 

He appears now the coalition's most likely candidate.

This rather last-minute candidacy (though talks have been going on in secret for weeks) is quite stunning for a number of reasons. For one, should Aguirre Rivero become PRD candidate, it will cause much turmoil within the party. He took over as PRI governor following the infamous Aguas Blancas massacre in Guerrero in 1995, where scores of campesinos were murdered by the police and eventually forced the resignation of then-governor Rubén Figueroa, who was implicated in the massacre. Aguirre Rivero was designated by the state congress to replace him. 

Within the PRD, in particular the followers of Armando Río Píter are likely to protest Aguirre Rivero's inclusion. But the story gets even more interesting: While Manuel Añorve, the PRI candidate, is the candidate of the powerful PRI senator and possible presidential contender Manuel Fabio Beltrones, Aguirre Rivero is a friend of Mexico State governor Enrique Peña Nieto, Beltrones's strongest rival for the PRI candidacy. 

The million-dollar question is: Will Peña Nieto back his friend, who might then win on the PRD ticket, or will he rally behind the official PRI candidate who is close to Beltrones -whose presidential candidacy has been given a boost in recent weeks - which in the short run may hurt his own nomination for 2012?

The likelihood of a PRI split looms even larger than a PRD split.