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Sunday, 10 June 2018

The old guard in Campeche move to MORENA


La politica es la politica is posting 32 articles - one for each state in Mexico, including Mexico City - in advance of the July 1, 2018, presidential election. Campeche is the fourth post, after Aguascalientes, Baja California Sur, and Baja California.

The Mexican state of Campeche (the “Free and Sovereign State of Campeche”), in the country’s southeast, is doing its best to promote an image of itself a place that can conduct free and fair elections. A big show was made recently when three trucks delivered electoral material, including ballot boxes, to a secure warehouse.  The president of the Electoral Institute of the State of Campeche (IEEC) showed up for the photo op, explaining that the documents were to be used on July 1 for the elections of local councils, municipalities and municipal boards. A private company from the State of Mexico, Seriplast de México, is providing the service, after having won the job via public tender.

Whether this will help get the vote out on July 1, when of course the people of Campeche will also be casting their ballots for president, is unclear. The state forms part of the Yucatan Peninsula, and outside of its capital – a port town at the base of the Gulf of Mexico, also named Campeche – the population is mostly in small villages. The state borders Tabasco to its west and Quintana Roo and Yucatán to the north and northeast. The interior is mostly flat jungle, with the Campeche having a southern border with Guatemala.

Recently, things haven’t been going too well economically in Campeche. The state was one of the worst economic performers in 2017. Like its neighbor Tabasco, Campeche relies heavily on the oil industry in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2017 the Campeche economy contracted by 3.83%, and if the petroleum sector is added in then the state experienced a disastrous negative 8.24% growth.

Hoping to give the economy, his legacy, and his political party a boost, outgoing PRI president Enrique Peña Nieto announced in April of this year that he had signed a decree to create Mexico’s final two Special Economic Zones (SEZs), one of which is in Campeche, as part of a 50-billion-peso (almost US $2.8 billion) stimulus package to attract investment to Mexico’s seven SEZs. Critics point out that SEZs are usually placed in areas that are critical logistically, such as ports, but that are economically depressed, with local communities realizing few benefits.

However, Mexico’s development bank has established a fund to encourage investment in the seven SEZs, all of which were created during Peña Nieto’s administration. The government believes that the promise of a zero tax rate for ten years, a differentiated customs system, a flexible regulatory framework, and competitive infrastructure, will result in 700 billion pesos (US $38.7 million) in investment over the next 10 to 15 years. They also expect the SEZs to generate well-paid jobs and increase exports.

But with such poor economic data, it’s unlikely that splashy announcements for SEZs are going to resonate much with the people of Campeche. When the economic numbers are as bad as this, people usually look for someone to blame. The governor of the state, Alejandro Moreno Cárdenas, belongs to the PRI. Two of the state’s three senators are also PRI, with the third senator belonging to the right-of-center PAN. That means, in theory, that the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as “AMLO”), who is leading in the polls nationally, should also pick up votes in Campeche.

Though the PRI still has significant influence in Campeche, some old political hacks are running to AMLO for cover. The former PRI governor, Fernando Ortega Bernés (2009-15), is now Mexico’s ambassador to Uruguay, and by some accounts is pulling strings from afar. Seeing the writing on the wall, Ortega Bernés has been recruiting people to MORENA, the new banner under which AMLO is running. To get things done, Ortega Bernés has been using a former PRI operator named Ramón Ochoa Peña, who is running for mayor of Ciudad de Carmen under MORENA, and who has been accused of influence peddling.

In the capital city, Campeche, the mayoral candidate under the Campeche For All coalition, Claudio Cetina Gómez, is running on improving the security situation. This is odd, given that Campeche is not suffering as much from insecurity as other Mexican states. The area where is there is cause for concern is domestic violence, which as been in the news as rates are disturbingly high: over 50% of women in Campeche report being victims of domestic violence. Despite this crisis, few politicians are running campaigns focusing on this issue. As is so often the case, Claudio Cetina Gómez is being kept occupied fighting off accusations of corruption.

Meanwhile, one of Claudio Cetina Gómez’s competitors for the mayoral seat, PAN candidate Eliseo Fernández Montufar, has been recorded encouraging citizens to go after local journalists, and then having his henchmen vandalize their equipment and assault them. This happened recently while Montufar was out on the street campaigning – he was angered at being put on the spot, given that there are audio recordings wherein he is promising certain businesses access and influence should he be elected mayor.

Hopefully, things will remain peaceful in Campeche for the duration of the various campaigns. It looks like AMLO and his MORENA movement will do well here. It also looks like corrupt political operatives are already on the hunt to ensure they get a piece of the pie.

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