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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Who is Eruviel Ávila and why did he win
the Mexico state governor's race so handily?

eruviel avila mugWhile Institutional Revolutionary Party gubernatorial candidate Eruviel Ávila (left) may have grossly overspent to win votes in Sunday's Mexico state election, that is clearly not the main reason he won in such an overwhelming landslide. One major reason why he won is that he is an attractive candidate. This can be seen in the interview he gave to Voz y Voto magazine before the election.

Columnist Leo Zuckermann also points out in his Wednesday column that Ávila, unlike his two major counterparts, has been intimately involved in Mexico state politics in recent years, serving twice as mayor of Ecatepec, the nation's largest municipality (Mexico City is not considered to be more akin to a state than a municipality). His old-guard counterparts, Felipe Bravo Mena of the National Action Party and Alejandro Encinas of the Democratic Revolution Party, both previously lost governorship bids in 1993, and since have been mainly involved in activities outside the state. While Encinas did well in the debates, he was not an attractive candidate, and Bravo Mena even less so. Zuckermann also said Ávila won on the coattails of current Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto, whose heavy spending on public works projects and other actions have kept him popular — so popular that he is the odds-on candidate to win the presidency next year.

Zuckermann said the most worrisome finding for the PAN and PRD is that the PRI won the youngest voters handily. Those voters, he said, did not live through the shenanigans of the PRI during its 71 years it held the presidency. In his Friday column, he expands on this theme, saying young voters are not likely to be swayed by fears of the return of the old PRI vis a vis arguments that it is the new PRI that is winning.

Zuckermann on Wedenesday also said that for the PAN to do so poorly in Mexico's most populous state bodes ill for the PAN's national prospects.

voz y voto magazine coverThe June issue of Voz y Voto published the interview with Ávila, 42, and it shows that he is not an old-guard PRIista. He only became actively involved in politics in 1990, at age 21, when he did his required student social service work. He said he had become a PRI sympathizer around age 17, and that when he did his social service for Ecatepec's City Hall, he found that he had a talent to help people solve their problems. He said his family did not have a history of belonging to the PRI, and he is the only one of his two brothers and two sisters to have gone into politics. (One of those brothers has died.)

Ávila has master's and doctoral law degrees from the Autonomous National University of Mexico; he received both with honors. He said he got his law degree from Unitec because he he could get it in three years and was in a hurry to graduate, as he had married at age 18.

At age 24 he became Ecatepec's government secretary, then served in the state legislature, as mayor, in the state legislature, and then as mayor again. The first time he ran for mayor, he ousted the PAN from power, and the second time, he ousted the PRD. He also served as state president of the PRI, president of the association of the country's PRI mayors and also coordinated the PRI's legislators.

His late father was a bus driver, who bought a small bus making payments over time. On weekends, the young Ávila helped collect fares, and said his reward was to get peanuts, gum and frozen treats in return. He said that over time, the family started a company that provided windows and windshields for buses. "I learned to cut and put in place glass, and I can still do it well," Ávila told Voz y Voto's Jorge Alcocer.

Ávila is now divorced, with four children, ages 10 to 22. He said he spends his free time with his progeny.

Ávila also was asked about not being from Atlacomulco, the birthplace of so many Mexico state politicians who went on to fame and fortune, such as former Gov. and Mexico City Mayor Carlos Hank González (the father of former Tijuana Mayor and gambling magnate Jorge Hank Rhon). Ávila said it is significant for him to be from the most populous municipality in the country, and to be the first candidate for governor from there. "As for Atlacomulco and the rest of the municipalities, I need all of them. If I am from the Valley of Mexico, I have a commitment to the entire state and must work hard for all its regions." Asked whether he had a political group, he said it was called "La Gente," the people, the public.

As he began his campaign, he said his five priorities were public safety, education, social program, job creation and taxes. "We are going to create a special department and specialized police in public transportation, where we can protect and help passengers.

He said Mexico needs a more professional police force. "The people have said it, they fear police more than they fear criminals. Sometimes we are unjust saying such things, because there are police who would literally give their lives to help the citizenry, but we must recognize that the police have earned their bad reputation." He said he would like to have police earn a degree in public safety and to create a high school where students can specialize in public-safety issues and go on to police work. He said he wants people to join the police because they want a law-enforcement career and not because, as some have told him, that they cannot find work in any other field.

Ávila said he planned to spend more on public education. When asked about his statement that he asked for help from teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo, he replied: "I want to clearly state what the media referred to... a journalist asked me, Do you need the help of Elba Esther Gordillo? I answer was yes, I need the help of Elba Esther Gordillo, of teachers, of the Green Party, of professionals, of the citizenry."

He said he would like see high school become obligatory for all in the state, with the state guaranteeing a free high-school education.

Ávila said there would be no vehicle tax. The PRI has used this issue to gain support nationwide. He said that if this causes Mexico City residents to register their vehicles in Mexico state, so be it. "They would be welcome."

He said he would continue Peña Nieto's program to provide more social services to poor women, just as Ávila put in place preventive health programs when he was mayor. "It is unjust that because she lacks money, a woman puts her life at risk because she can't afford uterine or breast exams," he said. He said there would be women in his Cabinet.

He also said that even though it was said that Encinas did not meet the residency requirements to run for governor, he was not going to make an issue about it at all, saying he wanted it to be a campaign of proposals and ideas, not of legal maneuvering.

He said the person he most admired in Mexican history was independence hero José María Morelos y Pavón. "In Ecatepec he was put before the firing squad, and his legacy belongs to the nation," Ávila said. He said his favorite modern president was Adolfo López Mateos (1958-64), who was a Mexico state politician.

He said Calderón "has given his best effort but there is much left to be done." He said he would work with him "for the good of the country and for the state of Mexico."

Ávila was confident of victory, and said his biggest hope was not to defeat Encinas or Bravo Mena but to beat voter apathy. He said the best turnout he experienced in one of his election was 54%. In Sunday's gubernatorial race, turnout was 46%.

Mexico state gubernatorial election candidate Main party Votes Percentage of vote in July 3, 2011 election
Eruviel Ávila PRI 3,045,555 64.9%
Alejandro Encinas PAN 1,030,997 21.98%
Felipe Bravo Mena PRD 603,141 12.46%
Total votes   4,871,295 46.15% turnout

 

Coahuila state gubernatorial election candidate Main party Votes Percentage of vote in July 3, 2011 election
Humberto Moreira PRI 721,289 61.5%
Guillermo Anaya Llamas PAN 422,286 36%
Jesús González Schmal PT-Convergencia   1.57%
Genaro Fuantos PRD   1.16%

 

 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Carlos Loret de Mola says Mexico state elections
show anything goes in Mexican politics

Columnist and TV commentator Carlos Loret Mola wrote about what he called the seven pearls of Sunday's elections for governor in Mexico, Nayarit and Coahuila states. His column. The following is a synopsis of that column:

1. Anything goes, like in the matches where the wrestler who survives wins. The governors use their budgets to help their candidates; the candidates go past campaign finance limits by spending money under the table, vote buying and busing voters; the PRI complains in Guerrero about what it does in Mexico state; the PRD complains in Mexico state about what it does in Mexico City; and the PAN complains in Mexico City about what it does from its federal government perch.

2. The money. The PRD gubernatorial candidate Alejandro Encinas said he wants to annul the election of PRIista Eruviel Ávila in the Mexico state governor's race for excess campaign spending. But there should be a second audit to find out where the 140 million pesos ($12 million) Encinas got for his campaign were spent, because there appeared to be little evidence that he spent much of it.

3. Party pooper. The election ended the night of Thursday, March 24, when Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto invited Eruviel Ávila to dinner to tell him he was going to be the gubernatorial candidate. Without a fracture in the PRI, the opposition lost its chance to make alliances and be competitive.

4. Gulp. Loret de Mola asked Encinas if he would could call himself "legitimate governor" and Encinas answered that it was not a joking matter. (Former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who narrowly lost the presidential race in 2006 while running under the PRD banner, afterward proclaimed himself the "legitimate president" of Mexico.)

5. PAN-PRD 2012. Just a year ago the PRI was knocked out by the PAN-PRD alliance, which celebrated wins in Oaxaca, Puebla y Sinaloa, and came close in Durango and Hidalgo. Now it's their turn to hit the mat. The administration of Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard and the government of President Felipe Calderón are beginning to talk again about a coalition to defeat the PRI in next year's presidential election.
UPDATE, June 7: Ebrard says it would be very difficult for the PAN and PRD to have a common candidate in next year's election. Story, Frontera.

6. Ney-arit. The PRI fractured in Nayarit and almost lost the governor's race. The PRI was saved only because the PRD candidate, Guadalupe Acosta, and the PAN candidate, Martha García, couldn't come to agreement.

7. Older brother. Humberto Moreira (now president of the PRI) won his governor's race six years ago with 57% of the vote. His brother, Rubén, just won with 60%. His rival, a good friend of President Calderón, is ready to return to the Senate.