The real issue in Mexico's elections

Back in 1982, I watched my first Mexican presidential election.  It included rallies, TV ads, lots of placards, and even a little space for the opposition.  However, the result was known before election day.  Everybody knew that the PRI's candidate would win easily.  And Mr. De La Madrid did exactly that.

Today, no one really knows who will win.  There are three major candidates: Mr. López Obrador, from the leftist Morena party; Mr. Meade from the incumbent PRI; and Mr. Anaya from the center-right PAN.

The polls show Mr. López Obrador leading, but I am not ready to tell you he is going to win.

Down in Mexico, the issue is not Trump, although it's fair to say most Mexicans don't like the U.S. president.  The main issues are crime and corruption, as we see in this report of the election:   

The Peña Nieto administration's inability to deal with three major issues concerning a majority of Mexican citizens drives the debate in Mexico today. 

Recent Ipsos polling illustrates these trends.  We find that 65 percent of Mexicans say crime and violence are one of the greatest worries facing their country. 

This is followed by 53 percent who cite corruption and 40 percent who call out poverty and inequality as one of their top concerns. 

These statistics emerge from real-life experiences: The homicide total hit over 29,000 last year as cartel violence spreads, and bribes and fraud rarely get exposed, much less prosecuted.  

My own experience, from talking business or whatever, confirms these findings.  Most of my conversations with Mexicans in Mexico go something like this:

First, they tell you that Trump shouldn't call Mexicans rapists and that Americans should stop consuming the drugs that send weapons and cash south of the border.

Second, they blast the political class for the systematic corruption that allows politicians to get rich in office.  They hate the bureaucracy, or what they call the "secret government."

Third, they blame the corruption for the insecurity.  They want order in their streets, specially the gangs stealing ladies' purses.  They want a no-nonsense tough guy who lays down the law.  They are not looking for a dictator, but a guy feared by street criminals is acceptable.

Fourth, they want a good relationship with the U.S.   

So what's wrong with the major candidates?  They are not talking about insecurity or corruption or proposing polices that create jobs.   

So what happens in July?  One of these three men will win with less than 40% of the vote.  He will govern an angry nation that wants results.

As a Mexican businessman said yesterday: "We may be electing the last president of Mexico."  I requested a clarification – did he mean a military coup?  He answered "not necessarily," but the country is demanding "un hombre fuerte," or a strong man.

After further clarification, he is hoping that whoever wins is a very strong man against crime.

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