MEXICO CITY – The first Mexican to go into space, Rodolfo Neri Vela, said on Thursday that he may run for president in 2018 to break the hold of a political class he likened to “the mafia itself.”
The political parties need to understand that Mexicans are very unhappy with the state of their country, Neri Vela said in an interview with Grupo Imagen.
He said the notion of a presidential run began with a flippant response to a question from a reporter following a book presentation last week at Universidad Veracruzana.
When asked whether he had thought about going into politics, he replied – “almost as a joke” – that he would seek the presidency as an independent, Neri Vela recounted in the interview.
“I didn’t think the media would take it seriously. In less than a week I have received 100 emails giving me support,” he said, while stressing that he would take his time making a decision about the 2018 contest.
Mexico’s biggest challenges are improving education and eliminating corruption, he said.
“A country that doesn’t have education is a country that doesn’t have a future,” the 63-year-old scientist and engineer said.
Neri Vela said that as president, he would release from prison every poor person who had been locked up for stealing food and then fill the cells with corrupt politicians.
“I want to see a better Mexico. Poverty keeps increasing, emigration keeps increasing; in short, there are so many things that need correcting,” he said. “Mexico is relatively stable, we need justice, less corruption.”
Neri Vela became Mexico’s first astronaut in 1985, when he went into space aboard the NASA space shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist.
Margarita Zavala, wife of former President Felipe Calderon, and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera both announced presidential bids earlier this week.