A leading source for news and analysis about Mexico and the U.S.-Mexican border.
By David Gaddis Smith
A most striking sight at the National Action Party's closing campaign rally in Tijuana on Saturday evening was mayoral candidate Alejandro Monraz wearing a long-sleeved bright yellow shirt. The conservative PAN, whose color is blue, is in a coalition with the left-of-center Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, whose color is yellow) for this election, and polls show Monraz mayoral opponent Dr. Jorge Astiazarán of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the lead; thus Monraz might have been trying to shake things up a bit and roll the dice. (To show the public relations challenge Monraz faces while running against a doctor, El Mexicano reported that Astiazarán on Saturday wound up attending to the injuries of a family whose car had overturned in Tijuana's La Presa district; you cannot buy this kind of publicity). In last year's presidential race, PRD presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador finished second in the state, with PAN presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota finishing third. While the PRD traditionally has performed poorly in Baja California statewide races, the PAN — which has held the governor's post the past 24 years — must be hoping that PRD votes will help deliver it victories this go-round, on July 7, to gubernatorial candidate Francisco Vega, city council candidates and candidates for the state legislature.
Photo: PAN mayoral candidate Alejandro Monraz wears a yellow shirt Saturday; gubernatorial candidate Francisco Vega wears the traditional blue
Many in the Baja California PRD have expressed umbrage that their party has allied itself with the PAN for this election, and have said they will back the PRI's Fernando Castro Trenti instead of the PAN's Vega. This disaffection wound up being seen on Sunday by a large group of people in yellow T-shirts entering Caliente Stadium, where the closing rally for the PRI's coalition was held; the T-shirts said, "True PRD members will vote for the PRI coalition."
So where will the PRD votes go, and how many are there?
Grossly exaggerated attendance numbers; media fall down on job
The weekend rallies were both marked by gross exaggerations of how many were in attendance. The PAN claimed 50,000 showed up Saturday evening, and the PRI, after at first claiming 50,000 were in attendance at Caliente Stadium, then claimed 60,000. While attendance was in the thousands for both rallies, it was nowhere close to being in the tens of thousands. The stadium seats 33,333, and was nowhere near full, although seats were placed on flooring that was placed over the stadium's field. Huge banners took up much of the upper decks. Attendees were bused in to both rallies, but the bus operation for the PRI was much greater, and brought in people from all over the state.
Frontera repeated the PAN and PRI numbers without skipping a beat; in fact, it printed the campaign story produced by Castro Trenti's public relations team verbatim, as did other publications, such as El Mexicano (on the front page, PDF file), La Voz de la Frontera of Mexicali, its Sol de Tijuana sister paper, and LaCrónica.com, which is Frontera's sister paper in Mexicali. Frontera labeled the story as coming from its editorial staff. El Mexicano at least labeled the PAN rally numbers as coming from the PAN.
If this is how the Baja California media cover campaign rallies, how will they cover state government?
(One reporter covering the rallies who will be providing a more objective view is The Economist Mexico City bureau chief Henry Tricks, formerly a Mexico correspondent for Reuters and the Financial Times.)
Hank Rhon, Gov. Osuna Millán attend rallies
Notable attendees at the weekend rallies included PAN Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán on Saturday and former Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon — in full beard — on Sunday. Elected officials are generally supposed to steer clear of political campaigns under Mexican electoral rules. However, Osuna Millán noted that he was attending the rally on a non-workday, and was in attendance exercising his right as a private citizen and longtime PAN member. Perhaps to emphasize the point, he appeared on stage wearing blue jeans. (President Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI has not been attending campaign events, even on weekends.) Hank, a gambling magnate who lost to Osuna Millán in the 2007 race, had sought to win the PRI gubernatorial nomination again this year, but lost out to Castro Trenti, a former senator. Hank's Caliente Group sponsors the Xolos soccer team that plays in the stadium; Castro Trenti said the PRI would be champions, just as the Xolos became Mexico's soccer championship team in December. Hank wore a Xolos T-shirt seen beneath his unbuttoned, white long-sleeved shirt with Astiazarán's logo on it; his cap had the logo of state legislative candidate Fausto Rodríguez, a member of the Green Party running in the PRI coalition.
Update, July 5: Zeta newspaper reported that it was Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong who persuaded Hank to come out in a show of unity.
Most stayed in Caliente Stadium after the rally to hear the Banda Limón perform; indeed, some arrived after the rally to listen. Many also came to the rally to get the free PRI umbrellas that were handed out; they turned out to be quite handy for providing shade, given the day's heat. The stadium's concession stands were open and sold beer for 60 pesos ($4.60).
At Saturday's really, PAN gubernatorial candidate Vega, a former Tijuana mayor, repeated that he will void the water-bill debts that state residents owe. Castro Trenti has, in turn, been making the same promise.
Update, July 2: Castro Trenti ad on canceling water debt, Frontera (PDF).
Vega outlined the qualities needed to be governor, all of which he said he had, concluding by using slang usually not used in polite company, saying the job "se requiere pinche corazón," or "required ------- courage." This drew perhaps his most applause. Corazón also could be translated as heart or spirit.
Vega's closing rally in Mexicali will be Wednesday, July 3; Castro Trenti will have closing rallies in Mexicali and Ensenada on that date.
In photo at far left, Castro Trenti speaks to the crowd Sunday.
In right photo, the overall stadium scene.
At far left, the PAN rally scene at Constitución and Third in Tijuana on Saturday.
In right photo, Gov. José Guadalupe Osuna Millán is wearing blue jeans, perhaps to highlight the point that he attended the rally as a private citizen.
Baja California gubernatorial race hits homestretch.
Baja California gubernatorial race page.
Tijuana's PRI mayor says Monraz aided his campaign in 2010.
Why the PAN and PRI both head four-party coalitions.
Update, July 1: Vega full-page ad about his rally, repeating the exaggerated 50,000 number (PDF).
Update, July 2: El Mexicano story saying Dr. Astiazarán has the medicine to cure Tijuana (PDF).
Update, July 4: Vega closes campaign in Mexicali; Castro Trenti closes campaign in Ensenada, Mexicali. Stories, Frontera (PDF).