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Era of change?

Unrest in Mexico escalates as elections approach

Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 19:07

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Era of change?

Unrest in Mexico escalates as elections approache

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High rates of crime and violence, endless narratives of human suffering, and lingering reports of corruption are on the minds of Mexicans as they elect a new leader.

Although the nation has seen economic growth throughout President Felipe Calderon’s reign, discontent has swirled among its citizens. Headlines monopolized by drug wars are largely to blame — tourism has decreased and investors are shy given the country’s lack of security. More than 50,000 people have died since Calderon declared war on narco-trafficking.

Election day

Mexicans will attempt to rectify the nation’s problems as they head to the polls on Sunday. Three major candidates are vying for the top position — Enrique Peña Nieto, frontrunner and member of Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, Josefina Vásquez Mota, member of the National Action Party, PAN, and Andrés Manuel López Obrador, member of the Party of Democratic Revolution, PRD.

Jorge Zermeño, senior international studies major, was born and raised in Guadalajara, Mexico and has family living in Mexico. He said his family is nervous because no one knows what will happen with this election.

“The future of Mexico will be disputed this Sunday. Some of them still do not know for whom to vote and are seriously thinking about nullifying their vote,” Zermeño said.

Security on election day is of concern to many, Zermeño said.

“Many people fear that this electoral process might get kind of rough. Thousands will leave the country to avoid being there this Sunday, many others will even fear of walking out their homes while the elections are held.”

Experts offer differing views. Antonio Zavaleta, associate provost and professor of anthropology at the University of Texas-Brownsville has spent years studying the U.S.-Mexico border. Zaveleta said Mexicans are hopeful people and as such, have an optimistic outlook on this election.

In contrast, Ted Carpenter, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, said Mexican voters share Zermeño’s family’s sense of uneasiness.

“Mexican voters seem to approach this election more with a sense of weariness than with any great hope of fixing the country’s problems. With resignation, they are likely to turn back to the PRI — which most Mexicans admit was thoroughly corrupt during its long decades of dominance,” Carpenter said. “But the PAN under Calderon has appeared to [be] inept as well as nearly as corrupt as the PRI. The PRD is an alternative, but one that makes the business community and many middle class Mexicans very uneasy.”

PRI held power for more than 70 years until ousted in 2000, when Vicente Fox, member of PAN, was elected. In its decades-long reign, PRI held a reputation for widespread corruption, links to drug cartels and organized crime, and electoral fraud.

Texas does more business with Mexico than any other state. The Woodrow Wilson Center estimates more than a billion dollars of goods are traded across the U.S. and Mexico each day. Furthermore, the escalating drug wars in Mexico concerns Washington in its attempts to stabilize the border.

Zermeño said everything that happens in Mexico affects the U.S. — good or bad.

“After this electoral process, immigration from Mexico to U.S. could increase or decrease, international trade — petroleum is a commodity that is worth putting attention — between both nations could increase or decrease, crime in the U.S.-Mexico border and drug trafficking could increase or decrease, etc.,” Zermeño said. “Depending on who wins the elections, the economic trade between both nations could strengthen or decay.”

As such, the U.S., and in particular Texas, must pay attention to this election.

Zavaleta said Peña Nieto represents the moderate candidate and as such, will win the election. He said Mota represents the right and Lopez Obrador, the left.

Peña Nieto has led polls since the start of the campaign despite a series of gaffes, including revelations of extra-marital affairs and his inability to name three books that had affected his life.

“Peña Nieto is still likely to win, but Lopez Obrador appears to be gaining in strength during the final weeks before the election,” Carpenter said. “The already anemic support for Josefina Vasquez Mota, on the other hand, appears to be slipping…If it becomes clear that her candidacy is not viable, some PAN supporters may hold their noses and vote for Peña Nieto — especially if it appears that Lopez Obrador might otherwise win.”

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