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MEXICO: Presidential Elections

Jim Whelan, who has a remarkable knowledge of Mexico and of Chile, makes a comparison between the two countries. He does not share the general rejoicing over the victory of Fox. He says:

  1. In winning, Vicente Fox received the same percentage of the votes cast -- 43 % -- as did Augusto Pinochet in losing the 1988 plebiscite. But Fox received 43 % of 65 % of the electorate, whereas Pinochet polled 43 % of 98 % of the electorate.

  2. Roughly 56 % of those who voted voted against Fox -- at the minimum, they did not vote FOR him.

  3. He, therefore, does NOT have a mandate for sweeping change. In that sense, he is a bit like Allende -- a minority president. (Fox represents around 28 % of the electorate. Given the higher turnout rates in Chile, Allende's 36 % gave him approximately the same percentage of the overall electorate).

  4. As for Fox and his choice of friends, El Mercurio yesterday published an interview with the Socialist Senator Carlos Ominami, in which he tells us that Fox is a fellow member of a group of "politicians and intellectuals" called "Latin America Alternation" (Alternancia, in Spanish). Ominami was one of the "Red" officers in Chile in 1973, and indeed offered to hijack arms from Air Force armories and put them in the hands of Allende's militias. Come the coup, and Ominami was cashiered and went off to exile in East Germany.

  5. You may have seen The New York Times piece yesterday which reported that, during his undistinguished and brief record as a federal deputy, Fox voted more than half the time with the Left, the rest of the time with PAN.

  6. I believe that what David Crow saw was a snapshot of Mexican politics, politicking, to be more precise. An important snapshot, to be sure: bearing personal witness to the pristine nature of these elections. Specifically, the Fox we all saw on television Sunday night -- the man David Crow saw -- bore no resemblance to Fox, the candidate, the man we had seen over the past two years.

    In my opinion, the most professional columnist in Mexico is Sergio Sarmiento. In his column yesterday, he wrote: "Por lo pronto modificˇ radicalmente su discurso politico en la noche misma de su victoria. Todavia unos dias antes se mostraba agresivo con sus rivales, tal y como lo fue a todo lo largo de la campana. Temprano en la noche de la eleccion, cuando lo unico que habia para cantar victoria eran las encuestas de salida, Fox mostro una actitud de estadista en contraste con la de politico en campana. Para ese momento ya el Presidente Ernesto Zedillo habia hablado por telefono con el y le habia confirmado que su triunfo era irreversible..."

    "Caton," the most widely-publicized columnist in Mexico, put it this way yesterday: "Pero, desde luego, la principal figura de esta ejemplar jornada es la de Fox. El cambio que anunciaba comenzo por el mismo: la noche del domingo vimos a un Vicente Fox inedito, que antes no habiamos mirado: conciliador, sereno, mesurado, sabedor de la tremenda responsabilidad que sobre el puse la voluntad del pueblo..." "Caton," who lives here in Saltillo and is a first cousin of my wife, shares many of my reservations about Fox -- more, indeed -- and has expressed those reservations quite vigorously in his columns.

  7. If I find time later today, I will look up the clips I have on Fox' February 1999 visit to Havana -- not, I believe (though of this I am not certain), his first encounter with Castro. I consulted them when I wrote the article on the Mexican elections a couple of weeks ago, but have -- as you will imagine -- concentrated my filing these days on the large and principal task at hand. By the way, preparing to write that piece, I also secured from the Federal Electoral Institute a huge sheaf of papers with statistics on this election, as well as on past ones. According to the IFE, the turnout in 1984 was 77 % -- which would make wrong also the media claim that this election saw a record turnout."

Ronald Hilton - 7/05/00