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Ernesto Cordero, still far behind Josefina Vázquez Mota with just days to go before National Action Party members vote on their presidential candidate, focused on her poor congressional attendance record at the beginning of last year in Tuesday night's debate.
The attack may have been a case of too little, too late for the former finance minister, even though Vázquez Mota did not give a complete response to his charge. A new poll showed Vázquez Mota with 60% of PAN adherent preferences, while Cordero had 17% and former interior minister Santiago Creel 15%. While Vázquez Mota responded that she had an overall congressional participation record of 85% to 90%, she did not address the period in question. What she could have perhaps mentioned was that during that time she was out trying to build support for her presidential run, and also perhaps gathering material for the book she came out with in the fall. When she did not specifically respond, Cordero came back and said her voting record was worse (6%) during that period even than the nation's congressional laughingstock, Jorge Kahwagi (15%) of the New Alliance Party. Kahwagi, who represents Mexico City, now plans to run for Senate for Baja California. At that point, under the rules of the debate, Vázquez Mota could not respond further.
Update, Feb. 2: Eduardo Ruiz-Healy column on Vázquez Mota's non-response, in Frontera (PDF).
Cordero is seen as the favorite of President Felipe Calderón, and there have been reports that PAN-led state governments have been putting pressure on PAN members who work for the state to vote for Cordero. It was reported that officials in Sonora state threatened workers with the loss of their jobs if they did not vote for Cordero. During the debate Tuesday, Creel urged PANistas to vote for the candidate of their choice, and not for any candidate imposed on them.
Creel also asked PANistas to vote for him, saying his experience as interior minister would help him improve the nation's security situation. He also urged a curtailing of monopolies in Mexico, a theme he emphasized during his visit to Tijuana on Saturday.
Vázquez Mota said in the coming days, she would be taking a drug test and a lie-detector test, something she said she hoped would be an example for police officers across the country to do the same. She said the military will return to its barracks in localities across the country once it is determined that local police forces are up to the job. It was unclear what Vázquez Mota's lie detector test would ask. (Has she had any children out of wedlock? Has she ever taken a government pencil home with her?)
She said water issues would be a priority in her administration, saying it had become a national security matter. She noted that Tabasco has suffered flooding from an excess of water while many areas in the north are suffering drought. She also read words of praise she had received from Calderón in Michoacán in August.
The former education minister said the number of public education scholarships would be doubled from 7 million to 14 million during her administration. She said she would open 150 more higher education campuses and would guarantee a higher education for all students who wanted it.
In another development, a recording of a private telephone conversation in which Vázquez Mota apparently called Cordero an unflattering term has been surreptitiously released. Cordero is called a patán, which can mean a rustic person; it is a derogatory term women often use to refer to men lacking in social and other graces. The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Guadalupe Acosta of the Democratic Revolution Party, asked the federal Attorney General's Office to investigate the leak of the illegal recording. Story, Milenio.
Update, Feb. 4: Vázquez Mota to file complaint with PAN about the leak.
Update, Feb. 3: Mexicans have fun with Cordero's having said during the debate that his presidency would "consolidate what President Fox and President Vicente Calderón have accomplished." Jorge Fernández Menéndez column (PDF). Vicente Calderón also is the name of a broadcast journalist in Tijuana.
• Sonora Gov. Padrés and Guanajuato Gov. Juan Manuel Oliva back Cordero in Mexico City; six other governors, including Baja California's, are openly supporting Cordero. Political page, El Mexicano.