MEXICO CITY – Corruption and violence have overshadowed Mexico’s moderate economic growth, becoming the key issues discussed by the country’s presidential candidates, who will have their first televised debate here Sunday, ahead of the July 1 election.
Left-leaning Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is the clear front-runner, has focused his proposals on tackling corruption, while Jose Antonio Meade, the candidate of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), has remained in a distant third place in the polls, unable to take advantage of the current administration’s moderately positive economic results.
“There are issues that overshadow the achievements of any government, issues that are very meaningful to citizens, like corruption, violence and insecurity,” Khemvirg Puente, director of the Center for Political Studies at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told EFE.
In 2017, 25,339 intentional homicides were registered in Mexico, the highest figure in two decades, while 76.8 percent of Mexicans did not feel safe in their cities, according to the country’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI).
In addition, the civil society organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity has noted that 24 former governors are currently involved in corruption scandals, 18 of whom belong or belonged to the PRI.
This has produced widespread rejection of the PRI and President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration and has damaged Meade’s prospects, having held important cabinet positions in the current government as head of the foreign relations and finance secretariats.
Meanwhile, conservative candidate Ricardo Anaya, of the National Action Party (PAN), has consolidated his second-place position in the polls.
According to Ulises Flores, a professor at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO), the presidential campaign has been marked by Meade’s failure to “capitalize” on his supposed strengths – he is a nationally and internationally renowned technocrat.
In this context, the current administration’s economic achievements have been overshadowed, despite the fact that the government constantly publicizes them in official events, press conferences and official advertisements.
Mexico’s average GDP growth was 2.2 percent from 2013-2017, and the energy and telecommunications reforms, which opened the door to private competition and new investments, could create positive prospects.
These achievements, however, have been moderate and have yet to improve the lives of the average citizen.
According to Carlos Elizondo, professor at the Tecnologico de Monterrey university’s School of Government, there is a general “dissatisfaction” regarding the country’s economic situation, although Mexico’s economy has fared “not as badly” as other large Latin American countries, like Brazil.
For Meade, Sunday’s debate will be a crucial opportunity for him to highlight his experience and attempt to shore up his position in the polls.