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Fernando Castro Trenti said he is taking leave from his seat in the federal Chamber of Deputies to run for governor of Baja California. El Mexicano newspaper and Proceso magazine said he has been anointed as the Institutional Revolutionary Party's candidate to try to end 24 years of National Action Party control of the governor's post.
Proceso magazine's lead, written by Antonio Heras of Mexicali, went like this: "Just like in the old days, the PRI announced, from its offices on Avenida Insurgentes in the Mexican capital, its candidate for Baja California governor, and, in a parallel action, different sectors of the party began to announce their backing." Story, Proceso.
Castro Trenti announced his intended resignation, in the company of his family, at the Playas de Tijuana lighthouse.
Castro Trenti's presumed virtual nomination could end what could be a major headache for the PRI, the possible candidacy of gambling magnate Jorge Hank Rhon. Hank's candidacy would have damaged the "new PRI" brand put forth by President Enrique Peña Nieto and his top advisers. Story on Hank's candidacy. Hank, on the other hand, says he wants a "new PRI" where candidates are not imposed from on high. (That, however, is how he became the PRI's candidate for mayor in 2004).
A number of prominent Baja California politicians had previously come out in favor of Castro Trenti. They included former Mexicali Mayor Milton Castellanos Gout and former Rosarito Beach Mayor Hugo Torres Chabert.
Castro Trenti would run as the candidate of a four-party "Commitment to Baja California" coalition, which includes the Green Party, the Workers Party and the Social Encounter Party.
On Feb. 15, candidates can register for the PRI nomination for governor. A convention will be held shortly afterward. Six other candidates recently with met with the national leader of the PRI in Mexicali. One of the other six, Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante, said on Tuesday he had not been selected as the party's candidate and would continue in his post until his term ends Nov. 30. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Bustamante was the only one of the six other candidates to make a statement indicating the party had made a decision that put him out of the picture. Hank Rhon, in a statement on his Facebook page said to have been sent via a mobile device near Mexicali, wrote: "A good politician must be patient, have understanding and be respectful.
"Most important is to demonstrate a unity that assures a Baja California committed to its peope."
Update, Feb. 7: Mexicali Mayor Francisco Pérez Tejada, one of the seven PRI aspirants for governor, says he is out of the race and is throwing his support to Castro Trenti. Story, El Mexicano. The PRI's statewide Revolutionary Youth Front organization, headed by Rosarito councilwoman Miriam Ayón Castro, announces its support for Castro Trenti. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Update, Feb. 8: Ensenada Mayor Enrique Pelayo, one of the seven PRI aspirants, backs Castro Trenti. Story, El Mexicano (PDF). Meanwhile, national PRI leader César Camacho says there was no "dedazo," or anointing of Castro Trenti from on high; he says decision will be made at state PRI convention. El Mexicano's political page (PDF). El Mexicano's Cicuta column (PDF) says Bustamante and Castro Trenti shared an expensive bottle of wine at an upscale restaurant Wednesday night.
The National Action Party will run a candidate as part of the "United for Baja California" coalition with the Democratic Revolution Party, the New Alliance Party founded by teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo, and Baja California State Party. It is not yet known who the coalition's candidate will be, although former Tijuana Mayor Francisco Vega has been making a strong show of force in meetings across the state. For example, Frontera newspaper reported Wednesday (PDF) that 2,000 attended a meeting for him at a ranch on Mexicali's outskirts.
Castro Trenti, despite his prodigious political skills, has never won a directly elected general-election race. When he ran for the Senate in 2006, he finished second. That was good enough, however, for him to represent the PRI and Baja California from 2006-2012. Last year, he was elected as an at-large deputy for the PRI, as was Hank's late wife, María Elvia Amaya de Hank. Those high up on each party's list were elected according to proportional representation; they did not face named opponents.
The PRI is in a good position in the state. Peña Nieto won the presidency and finished first in Baja California, while the PAN finished third nationally and in the state. The PRI also won the mayor's post in all five Baja California municipalities in 2010.
La Crónica columnist Antonio Magaña writes about how the 1989 nomination of PRI gubernatorial candidate Margarita Ortega Villa came from on high, and how she lost to the National Action Party's Ernesto Ruffo (now a senator). Magaña writes about her naming from on high came on a Tuesday, as did Castro Trenti's, and wonders whether the voters of Baja California will deliver him victory. Magaña's column.
Update, Feb. 8: Zeta newspaper reports that Hank is quite upset about not being the PRI nominee for Baja California governor, and that he thought his Mexico state ties could get him the nomination, seeing as to how President Enrique Peña Nieto was former governor of the state. The paper said that a Feb. 6 demonstration of support for Hank at the Cuauhtémoc monument in Tijuana may have gotten around 400 supporters, but that at least some of them of them were told they had to attend or be punished at work. The paper said this did not jibe with Hanks's statements that he is against old PRI practices, such as the one where the PRI candidate is named from on high (as he was previously). Story, Zeta. The paper at least now is mostly referring to Hank as an ex reo, or former prisoner, rather than incorrectly as an ex-convict. Hank was housed in prison after being arrested on arms charges in 2011, but he was not convicted. The paper's antipathy to Hank is understandable, but its reporting should still be motivated by accuracy and not emotion. Zeta editor Adela Navarro in her Sortilegioz column says Hank can blame his defeat on the United States not renewing his visa; she also says she hopes Mexican authorities will further investigate him.
Update, Feb. 9: Green Party deputies in lower house of Congress back Castro Trenti. Story, El Mexicano (PDF). Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants, at national level, backs Castro Trenti. Story, El Mexicano (PDF).
Update, Feb. 10: Various PRI-affiliated sectors and organizations fill up the Municipal Auditorium in Tijuana to back Castro Trenti. Meanwhile, Hank says no one has told him Castro Trenti is the official PRI candidate. Stories, Frontera (PDF). Groups backing Castro Trenti were:
Mexican Workers Confederation (CTM), Revolutionary Confederation of Workers and Peasants (CROC), Revolutionary Workers Confederation (COR); Region Mexican Workers Confederation (CROM), Revolutionary Workers Confederation (CRT), National Confederation of Peoples Organizations (CNOP), Independent Peasants Confederation (CCI), the National Peasants Confederation (CNC), the Revolutionary Youth Front (FJR), the National Organization of PRI Women (Onmpri), the Revolutionary Union UR), and the Territorial Movement (MT).