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A Nation on the Brink - Mexico's July 5 Legislative Elections

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A Nation on the Brink Mexico's
July 5 Legislative Elections

Part 2 of a three part series (Part 1)

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Michael Collins and Kenneth Thomas

Mexico approaches this election confronting the rise of a narcostate, growing economic chaos, social inequalities, citizen disenchantment--or worse

As Mexico approaches the July 5th mid-term elections, the nation confronts two critical problems.  An expanding an increasingly violent "war on drugs" threatens to convert Mexico into a narcostate.  This will lead to the inevitable compromise of the members of all political parties.  An expanding economic crisis in the wake of NAFTA and the global financial situation, threatens private companies, the Central Bank, and government programs -- as well as the income and employment of most citizens.  Rising social inequality and a workforce crisis mean that many, perhaps most, Mexicans live in conditions parallel to those of sub-Saharan Africa.

Disenchantment and dismay reign.  The volatile political situation foreshadows a change in the air.  Close to 80% of Mexicans voted in mid-term elections in the 90's.  Tomorrow, turnout is expected to be less that 50%.  An attempted "no confidence" vote on the government looms.  Members of the various parties engage in what has been called "fratricide."  And there is talk -- talk which hearkens back to the Revolution of 1910 -- that it's time for the people to ignore the major parties and take matters into their own hands.

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The Old Guard

How are the political parties responding?

PAN. After securing the Presidency in 2006, the ruling National Action Party (PAN) launched a domestic "law and order" war on Mexico's drug cartels.  It is unclear that this war has achieved its stated results.  Shootouts in Acapulco, jail breaks with guards acting like teamsters for jailed narco traffickers, and the occasional physical and sexual assault by out of control troops are becoming the norm.  Mexico seems transformed into a Sam Peckenpah movie set but the bullets are real and the death toll is staggering.  A least 15,000 have been killed since 2007, despite the government's attempts to "disappear" the casualties on all sides.  Recent reports suggest that many municipal and state governments have been infiltrated during this "war."  Well above half the Mexican people doubt Calderon's campaign will have any positive effect.

As well, possibly as a result of human rights abuses by federal troops, the narcotraffickers and their political apparatus have come to enjoy a level of popular support.  One message left by the cartels may express this simply:  "We do not kill women and children.  We have honor."

PAN's proposals for economic growth and social improvement have been couched in terms of the development of free markets under the NAFTA model and the efficiency of private sector enterprises and projects.  More recently, in the face of economic crisis, President of the Republic Filipe Calderon has begun to speak in a mystical rhetoric concerning the economy and the role of the people.  For example:

"El mandatario llamó a generar los acuerdos que permitan lograr el desarrollo y generar los empleos 'que tanto necesitamos', y argumentó que "pensar en México, creer en México y trabajar por México debe ser la ruta de todos, más allá de nuestras diferencias'".

"The leader called for the creation of agreements which will generate development and the jobs 'which we all need,'  and asked 'that we think of Mexico,  believe in Mexico and work for a Mexico which will be the path for all, greater than all our differences.'"  Dec. 18, 2008

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While the terms here echo -- and may be meant to undercut -- the PAN's 2006 campaign "Coalition For the Good of All," it remains unclear what constitutes real meaning for the phrases "agreements which will generate development," "believing in Mexico" or how that belief and "the path for all" will fix the economic crisis or make parties that can't even achieve internal.

However, the PAN has also recently secured multi-billion lines of credit from United States Federal Reserve and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).  These will be used to bail out failed Mexican firms.  In addition, as President Calderon has promised, the funds will provide for social, infrastructural, and educational projects.

According to polls, the PAN is expected to lose 35 seats in the Chamber of Deputies from its current 170.

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