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Mexicans Want To Throw Out Status Quo In Presidential Vote

Mexico's presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the MORENA party delivers his speech during a campaign rally in Veracruz, Mexico, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Associated Press
Mexico's presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the MORENA party delivers his speech during a campaign rally in Veracruz, Mexico, Saturday, June 23, 2018.
Mexicans Want To Throw Out Status Quo In Presidential Vote
Mexicans Want To Throw Out Status Quo In Presidential Vote GUEST: Sandra Dibble, border reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune

Our top story it is decision time for Mexican voters this weekend. They are about to pick new leadership and a new president at the polls the Sunday. The top issues in Mexico are apparently concerned about violence, and government corruption. The U.S. is watching to see what kind of stance a new Mexican president takes on the policies and statements of the Trump administration. Joining me is journalist Sondra Dibble who covers the border at the San Diego Tribune. Welcome. >> Thank you it's great to be here. >> You been following the selection for the last couple of months. Covering candidate forms and campaign stops in Baja. What stands out to you about the selection? >> What stands out to me at least here, is that Baja California has been a bastion of Mexico's national action party since 1989. They've won every single Governor's race, and now it looks like right now here's the selection that is really unprecedented in Mexico. And how will that affect Baja California and next year's -- in next year's governors race. That stands in the front. At a larger level of course Baja California is part of Mexico. So how are they going to vote? are they going to back Andrzej Montbello? or are they going to split between the pre-a and the pond has -- as they done in the past. It is pretty clear, Andris Manuel oh is the one who's favored to win both nationally, and in Baja California. Across northern Mexico. So, I am doubtful that Baja California will be different in that sense from the rest of Mexico. What I think is interesting is what effect it will have on a local political scene. >> I want to ask a little bit more about that. As we continue our conversation. You know, there has been so much focus, and Lopez also known as him no. We don't know his main challengers. >> Who are they? >> One is known as a technocrat he is a Yale PhD. He is fluent in English, he really has a lot of ease with cross-border issues. But he is a candidate for Mexico institution Revolutionary party. That's the party of President and Rico and there has been corruption scandals and in a lot of ways this is a election against the status quo. We have another candidate, who is Ricardo Anaya, he is young, 39 years old. He used to be the president of the national action party. I think there's been a lot of divisions within the party. As well as questions on how he got to be the candidate. Sort of anger within the party about him. You know they have all been here at the border saying a lot of the same things. That they want to make the border more competitive, that they want to reduce sales tax some of them say that. Some say they want to create a special economic zone. >> You were talking before what this particular election might mean for Baja. What will be the ramifications of armload is when? >> I think if omelette does when, pop -- a couple people have told me this could be the and of political parties, in the way that they have operated in the state. We basically had a two-party system. That sense 1989. It's the pre-and the pond. Now we have this new force called Marino which is amylose party which is Lopez party. If he wins, people that might have been nobodies before are going to sort of rise to the front, and now the stronger political forces. I think also the traditional political parties, are going to have to do reforms internally. How did they pick their candidates? are they picking the best people? is it just who is better positioned for cronyism or who gets to be the candidate. I think that will be big changes and I think we will see it in 2019 when there is a different election. >> What are you hearing from voters? what is motivating them to get out to the polls? >> Anger with the status quo. Feeling that Mexico has to change. Anger about corruption. Anger in the sense of hey, Mexico has many resources. Why are we not better off? I think violence is a big issue in a lot of neighborhoods. You know, why has his continued. Those are both nationally and locally the biggest issues. >> What about President Donald Trump and his policies? what kind of factor have they been playing in this Mexican election? >> Not a huge one actually. I think this election is much more about Mexico, and where Mexico is heading. I do not think President Trump's statement about immigration, Mexico are very popular, but I do not think that is what is being debated. That is not the center of debate right now. >> Now, how soon after ballots are cast, will we know the results of Sunday's election and when with the new president take office? >> Eight depend on the margin. Back in 2006, it was like at decimal of a percentage difference between Andris Manuel and the winning candidate. This time, Andris Manuel oh seems to have a 20% or two digit lead. So I think, it will be a faster process. Post close -- polls close at 6 PM and you cannot announce the results of exit polls until after them. I think it will be close to 6 PM that candidates will start announcing the results. >> Okay, when does he take office. What is a winner take office. >> They would take office December 1. >> I have been speaking with Sandra Dibble. Thank you so much. >> Thank you for having me.

Mexicans fed up with corruption and violence say their country is poised for a historic transformation in Sunday's presidential election, while others fear the vote will bring a freefall into populism and autocratic rule.

The lightning rod for such divergent opinions is front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the once-fiery leftist who has moderated his rhetoric and sought alliances across the political spectrum after two unsuccessful presidential runs and having led massive protests alleging electoral fraud.

Despite his new image, the 64-year-old candidate universally called AMLO still appears to trust more in his own sense of mission than in the rules of modern economics and still vows to wrest control of the country back from the "mafia of power" that he has railed against for decades.

Such is the level of discontent with Mexico's political status quo, historically high homicide rates and rampant corruption that even his rivals are trying to convince voters that they represent "real change," while simultaneously warning that a Lopez Obrador win would herald a Venezuela-like era of economic collapse and authoritarian rule.

"What people have set as the priority in this election is no more of the same," said economics graduate Rogelio Salgado, 30, who plans to vote for Lopez Obrador. "The point is to vote them all out of office, without exception."

Salgado runs down the failures attributed to the outgoing government of President Enrique Pena Nieto — low economic growth, murderous gangs and a nonfunctional legal system. "Who wants a continuation of this? People are fed up," he says.

Lopez Obrador holds a lead of 20 points or more in most polls. But No. 2 Ricardo Anaya — a tech-savvy young conservative politician running for a right-left coalition — hopes people who fear Lopez Obrador will flock to him.

Some will, like Alfonso Ulloa, 33, a natural gas specialist at a government energy agency. Ulloa has worked on Mexico's effort to open its state-owned energy sector, including projects to import cheap natural gas from the United States, and fears Lopez Obrador may cancel such economically important projects.

"I am going to vote for whoever is in second place, to take a bit of strength away from him," Ulloa says of Lopez Obrador. "The important thing is keeping the economy running, and I am afraid Lopez Obrador will screw it up."

Running third for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party is Jose Antonio Meade, who promises a steady hand and experience. That counts for something in a country that faces constant, unpredictable challenges from U.S. President Donald Trump. Meade is also counting on the well-oiled, get-out-the-vote machine of the nearly 90-year-old party, which has spent a total of 77 years in power.

But it is corruption that has defined the debate so far.

Lopez Obrador rails against what he calls an unholy alliance of business leaders with corrupt politicians that has bled Mexico and promises to sunder that relationship in a historic national transformation, just as President Benito Juarez broke up the Roman Catholic Church's hold over the country's economy in the 1850s.

Lopez Obrador says his government will usher in a change as big as the 1810 Independence movement and the 1910 Revolution.

"This transformation consists of tearing up this corrupt regime by the roots," Lopez Obrador told a cheering crowd of almost 100,000 at his closing rally in Mexico City Wednesday night. "My government will be of the people, for the people and with the people."

Anaya, meanwhile, says he has been directly attacked by the government, which leaked details of a money-laundering investigation against him, and has promised to bring Pena Nieto to justice.

"Do you know why Pena Nieto's regime has attacked us?" Anaya asked a crowd in Mexico City. "It's because they fear us, and rightly so, because when I am president of Mexico there will be a special prosecutor who will investigate Enrique Pena Nieto and his participation in corruption scandals."

The split is important: Since Mexico's first democratic transition in 2000, Anaya's conservative National Action Party has governed hand-in-glove with the Institutional Revolutionary Party, voting through market-oriented economic reforms.

Lopez Obrador railed against the two parties' alliance in both of his previous runs for the presidency, and he paints them as the same thing.

Now, on his third run, Lopez Obrador's time seems to have come. The market-oriented economic policy has provided annual growth of only about 1.3 percent, and Mexicans were outraged when first lady Angelica Rivera was caught buying a mansion from a favored government contractor.

So big is Lopez Obrador's lead in the polls that much of the attention is focusing on whether his relatively new Morena party can gain a majority in Congress.

Once angry, Lopez Obrador has become more playful. When opponents accused him of benefiting from Russian meddling in the campaign, he dubbed himself "Andres Manuelovich" and shot a video near the sea, saying he was waiting for the Russians to deliver him gold.

Lopez Obrador has even begun to joke about those who criticize him for running for president three times, with largely the same campaign speech every time.

"This has all been made possible by being obstinate, headstrong, stiff-necked," he said at his closing rally.

He has pledged a "radical transformation," but at least according to his chief adviser, businessman Alfonso Romo, his economic policy would be pretty restrained.

"We don't want deficits, we don't want new debt," said Romo. "I think we are in the right position, in the middle."

While separations by U.S. officials of child migrants from their parents has grabbed headlines recently, immigration hasn't figured as an issue in Mexico's election. All three major candidates share a commitment to defending Mexican migrants in the U.S., despite the very limited means at their disposal to do so.

Perhaps Mexico's most immediate problem is violence. The country's homicide rate could be on track to reach almost 25 per 100,000 inhabitants by the end of this year, and none of the candidates have made any credible or specific proposals on how to reform the police or improve law enforcement.

The proposals have ranged from the bizarre — independent candidate Jaime Rodriguez wants to cut off the hands of public servants who steal — to the maddeningly vague: Lopez Obrador floated the idea of an "amnesty" that advisers say may just mean plea bargains or pardons for farmers who grew opium poppies or marijuana.

"They have to do something about the crime situation. We are fed up," said marketing worker Joselin Valle, 31. Valle hasn't decided who to vote for, but one thing she is sure about: "The proposals (on crime) don't make sense."

Finally, all three top candidates disagree about who can best handle Trump, a man widely hated in Mexico.

Anaya touts his language skills and tech savvy. Meade relies on his extensive government experience, but has suffered from the current government's attempts to cozy up to Trump.

Lopez Obrador says he doesn't want a fight with the United States, but some worry that one fiery populist may not be the best person to deal with another voluble populist.

Romo discounts the latter fear: "There is a saying that two bees don't sting each other."