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Bustamante Is New Tijuana Mayor

Audio

Aired 7/5/10

Tijuana held its mayoral election on Sunday. We talk about the victory of Carlos Bustamante of the PRI and the defeat of the ruling PAN and what the results mean for the residents of the border city and for the city of San Diego. Also, more border violence erupts in Tijuana.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: As you just heard from Alison St John, there was a big election yesterday in Mexico. The state legislature in Baja was up for election, as well as 12 governor's seats across Mexico. Closest to home, however, Tijuana voters chose a new mayor to replace Jorge Ramos. I’d like to welcome my guests. Amy Isackson is KPBS border reporter. Good morning, Amy.

AMY ISACKSON (KPBS Border Reporter): Good morning, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Vicente Calderon, is editor of tijuanapress.com. Good morning, Vicente.

VICENTE CALDERON (Editor, tijuanapress.com): Good morning.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let me start with you, Amy, and tell us about the results of the Tijuana mayoral election.

ISACKSON: It was a big surprise victory. It was quite stunning, really, that Carlos Bustamante of the PRI Party won. He’s a 65-year-old man. He was actually born in San Diego, in National City, but he lived his life – the majority of his life, he’s lived in Tijuana and that’s where he’s made his fortune as a businessman. And more than anything this is really a huge upset for the PAN Party in Tijuana and in Baja, California. Since 1989, the PAN has had its stronghold in Baja, California. It was actually the first state in the country to cast off PRI rule, and the PRI Party had ruled Mexico, all of Mexico, for about 70 years. So the state cast off the PRI, the PAN came in, it’s still a PAN governor and I – the majority of the mayors except for Jorge “Hank” Rohn have been PAN as well. So now that the PRI has taken over again, is a big surprise.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Vicente, it’s my understanding that Bustamante was basically behind in the polls until quite recently.

CALDERON: Oh, since the beginning, he was…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

CALDERON: …18 – 18 points behind. And also they have a lot of problems within the PRI. He was very close to abandon the race, saying that he was not being backed up from the PRI from Mexico City and that the expectation of analysis was the PRI was so sure that this was the most difficult race in the country that they were putting attention in other of the elections around Mexico City and not this one. But Bustamante was able to step aside or get away from some political groups within the PRI and this was a key situation for him to again be getting on track among the voters.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Vicente, before we start to talk about exactly what kind of upset victory this is for the PRI Party in Baja, I would like to focus on Carlos Bustamante. Was he an attractive voter (sic) to voters in Tijuana? What was his style?

CALDERON: Well, he was seen as an old candidate from the old PRI days and that was not exactly very exciting for most of the border city of Tijuana, like Tijuana has a lot of young people. He was very quiet. He was a lot more controversial in the sense that he was more willing to attack his opponents. He was complaining that he was – that Carlos Torres, the PAN candidate, was choose directly from the – for the Mexican President Felipe Calderón, that he was very willing to deal with accusations that he was a failed businessman in the sense that he was getting some funding from the Mexican government that rescue many of the companies when the nineties crisis of the – here who identify here with the program called FOBAPROA, it’s a rescue plan from the Mexican government to save some of the banks here in Mexico.

CAVANAUGH: I see.

CALDERON: So he was a beneficient of that.

CAVANAUGH: And, Amy, it was my understand that there weren’t too – there wasn’t too much difference between actually the goals between Torres and Bustamante. Is that correct?

ISACKSON: That’s what a lot of the analysts that we talked to on both sides of the border told us, that even though they were very different in terms of their personalities and their people the one, Bustamante, is 65 years old, for example. Carlos Torres is 34 years old, and he started out his – even though he’s young, he has a long political career. He started out at 13 in his PAN Party’s youth movement and was recently a federal congressman. But in terms of the actual – what they wanted for Tijuana, analysts were saying there wasn’t a whole lot of difference. The economy is a big issue, unemployment and creating jobs in Tijuana was a big issue for both, public security is a big issue for both as well. And, in addition, this lack of a real difference in their proposals for Tijuana may have – and also the lack of real strong character. Both interesting candidates, strong candidates but not really interesting characters. Analysts were saying that this may have caused people not to go out and vote so much because there wasn’t that – they – the can – they just didn’t generate that kind of interest.

CAVANAUGH: Right. What I understand, Vicente, is there was quite a low turnout in this election. How did that play into this victory, do you think?

CALDERON: I think this is very important because the later result, the preliminary result, is that three out of ten voted, 70% of the people willing – able to cast their ballots was – didn’t came out. And that plays in favor of Bustamante. I think in general, the – what they call here the hard vote or the very loyal vote is the one that make them – make him won – win. But the thing is that I think there’s a lot of resentment with the PAN governments and the administrations in the sense that people think that they stop listening to their constituency, to the voters, and that they actually became the PRI and doing the same things that they were criticizing when they were opposition. So that was very relevant, I believe, to make the triumph of Bustamante a reality now.

CAVANAUGH: Because, as I understand it, Carlos Torres, of course, not only was a PAN candidate but he’s very close to Felipe Calderón, the PAN President of Mexico.

ISACKSON: He is. He has very strong ties to the president of Mexico. There were pictures last summer that came out of President Calderón actually at Carlos Torres’ wedding and there was this picture that came out of the president straightening Carlos Torres’ ties.

CAVANAUGH: So, indeed, is this – would you interpret this vote, Amy, or are some interpreting this vote as a lash out against the current administration in Mexico City?

ISACKSON: It’s hard to tell what went into the vote, what – in the post game analysis, what the real issues were in Baja, California. I would venture to say that it does have to do with public security, which is one of the big issues nationally as well as locally.

CAVANAUGH: Because, as you mentioned, it’s not only in Tijuana that the PRI won, it’s throughout Baja.

ISACKSON: It took all of the mayors seats in Baja, California, so previously Rosarito was PRI Party and the PRI Party maintained the mayor’s seat in Rosarito but it also took the Tijuana, Ensenada, Tecate – I’m missing one, Vicente.

CAVANAUGH: Mexicali?

CALDERON: Mexicali.

ISACKSON: Mexicali, thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

CALDERON: The capital.

ISACKSON: So it took all of them and this is really a big blow to the PAN Party as we’ve been saying because it’s a – Baja, California is traditionally the party’s stronghold. And this really raises the question that going forward, if the PAN can’t hold onto Baja, California, which is its stronghold, what does this portend for the party, especially in 2012 when we’re going to have political – presidential elections again in Mexico.

CAVANAUGH: And…

CALDERON: And also…

CAVANAUGH: Yes, go ahead.

CALDERON: And also took all the Congress, the local congress. Three out of the – Only three were still on the PAN control but all the rest of the Congress seats or the Assembly here in Baja will be to the PRI now.

CAVANAUGH: So this was just a complete victory for the PRI Party, this particular election, Vicente.

CALDERON: Yes, and, in that sense, it give us a very interesting perspective in that we don’t know what’s the future in the sense of what’s happening with all the programs that that have been able to show some progress under the PAN administration. When the power change parties here in Mexico, there’s a lot of changes and basically they erase most of what has done before to just show that has no ties to the previous administration with the political party in mind mainly. And that’s what is at stake right now here. I think Bustamante is a well-liked candidate in general here but the fact that he’s still dealing with the old PRI that hasn’t changed much, it’s a big question on what this means for Tijuana.

CAVANAUGH: So, Amy, that would mean perhaps that the – what Vicente is saying is some of the things that have been working against the drug cartel violence in Baja, California may not continue under the PRI Party?

ISACKSON: In Tijuana, it may not. We – Talking to Bustamante, interviewing him before his win, he was saying – We were talking to him, I was asking him about whether he would keep the police chief of Tijuana who’s been – he’s been criticized for human rights abuses but he’s also been lauded for his crackdown on corruption within the police and restoring some sense of safe – public safety to Tijuana, although there are still big problems. Where I was asking him, are you going to stay with Leyzaola, are you going to keep him in his position? And he said that he would have to do a complete analysis of the public safety situation in Tijuana before he was going to make any decisions. So it left open the question as to whether Leyzaola would continue and what path Bustamante would take in terms of public safety. And I think, Vicente, you – I don’t know if you want to talk about this. But in terms of public safety under the last PRI mayoral candidate or PRI, excuse me, PRI mayor, Jorge “Hank” Rohn, if you want to talk about that in comparison to now.

CALDERON: Oh, things were way worse. And many of the – We have one of the worst seasons of killing of police officers and that sounds very bad but that was what happened. And the problem was that during that administration, most of the killing of the police officers was done for other police officers acting with different gangs from organized crime groups. We do have a big problem, a very similar problem in the sense that many police officers were killed during Ramos’ administration first and second year, but the dynamic was very different. Many of the police officers who were killed during Ramos’ administration were not targeted specifically but they were killed as a part of an aggression towards the corporation. So PRI for public safety in Tijuana were some of the worst days. Things got worse when Hank came to power. And the security issue, we don’t know what will happen now.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

CALDERON: And the good thing is really that the PAN going to be overlooking very closely what the PRI municipalities are doing and the municipalities will not be condoning any of the abuses that the state level police will be doing.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Okay. And Amy.

ISACKSON: It also just raises the question beyond – in terms of Tijuana, not just within Tijuana, the politics and what’s going to play out there in terms of public security but looking towards Mexico City, how that relationship is going to work because now Tijuana has a PRI mayor, which is different to the president of Mexico who is PAN.

CAVANAUGH: Vicente, in doing some reading about the Mexican elections, it came up time and again that the elections for the 12 governors seats across Mexico was even more important than what was happening in Baja. How did those elections go?

CALDERON: Well, they favored the PRI but actually there only six states who were – where the gubernatorial seat was at stake. And the PAN claimed that they recovered many of those areas. The thing is, the situation, the scenarios, were different, for example, in the case of Oaxaca where the adversaries, the traditional adversaries, PAN and PRD, the leftist party, joined forces in an effort to be able to throw the PRI out from the gubernatorial seats. In other areas, they were able to recover some of the gubernatorial seats previously under control of the PRI, and also Tamaulipas is a big situation where the big issue of the drug cartel groups over having a big impact on the community has very clear when they killed the gubernatorial candidate for the PRI. His brother took over and he won easily.

CAVANAUGH: I see. We have to leave it now. I’m so sorry. Thank you. This is a huge upset in Baja, California, and now we have a mayor of Tijuana who also has a condo in downtown San Diego. That’s interesting.

ISACKSON: Strong ties to San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: I want to thank…

CALDERON: Was born in San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: Yes, indeed. I want to thank you both so much. Vicente Calderon, editor of tijuanapress.com, and Amy Isackson is KPBS border reporter. Thank you both.

CALDERON: Thank you.

ISACKSON: Thank you, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And if you’d like to comment, please go online, KPBS.org/thesedays. Coming up, is anyone scooping up those holiday sales? We’ll discuss the state of retail as These Days continues here on KPBS.

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