Candidates Begin Campaigns for Mexico City Mayoral Election, with Major Divisions Evident in Center-Left Prd

Article excerpt

While most eyes are on Mexico's presidential election in 2006, the race to succeed Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador as mayor of Mexico City is shaping up to be a very intense and combative contest, particularly within the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD). The Mexico City mayoral election will be held on July 2, the same day as the presidential contest.

All three major parties are scheduled to hold primaries to select a candidate before the end of this year, but little controversy is expected within the former governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) and the center-right Partido Accion Nacional (PAN). The situation is much different in the PRD, where fireworks have already erupted among the potential candidates to succeed the highly popular Lopez Obrador. The winner of the PRD primary stands a good chance of winning the election in the capital, which the center-left party has governed since the mayoral post became an elected position in 1997 (see SourceMex, 1997-07-09 and 2000-07-05).

Each of the candidates seeking the PRD nomination--Sen. Jesus Ortega, Deputy Pablo Gomez, local legislator Armando Quintero, and Mexico City interior secretary Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon--represents some faction or grouping within the party. Gomez and Ortega, who lead the PRD delegations in their respective legislative chambers, have joined forces with Quintero to oppose Ebrard, whom they consider an outsider because of his former affiliation with the PRI, particularly ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994). Ebrard, who is close to Lopez Obrador, is also considered by many the mayor's preferred candidate. This has angered the other potential candidates, who say the mayor should not be the one selecting the PRD standard-bearer in the 2006 election.

PRD factions join forces to oppose Marcelo Ebrard

The Ortega-Gomez-Quintero alliance also contends that Ebrard is not the best man to represent the party because he carries too much baggage. He was the public security secretary in Mexico City, a position equivalent to police commissioner, during the time when three security agents were lynched by a mob in the community of Tlahuac in late 2004 (see SourceMex, 2004-12-14). Two of the agents later died from wounds received in the incident, and a third survived after a lengthy hospital stay.

Ebrard received the lion's share of the blame for the late response of police and other rescue teams and was promptly fired by President Vicente Fox, who by law still has oversight of some aspects of law enforcement in the capital.

Lopez Obrador, who said the dismissal was politically motivated, later brought Ebrard back to his administration as social development secretary.

Many PRD members are also nervous because Ebrard has maintained close ties to Rene Bejarano, the Mexico City legislative leader who was caught on tape taking bribes from businessman Carlos Ahumada Kurz (see SourceMex, 2004-03-10). Bejarano spent several months in prison this year after he was charged with money laundering. A Mexico City court ordered his release this summer after determining that evidence presented by the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) was insufficient to keep Bejarano behind bars. Even during his time in jail, Bejarano helped develop strategy for Lopez Obrador's eventual presidential run and is said to be working on the Ebrard campaign.

Furthermore, Ebrard is accused of using his position as a Mexico City government official to promote his candidacy, a violation of electoral laws. Opposition parties recently released a videotape showing the social development secretary receiving political endorsements at a meeting for recipients of the Programa Integral Social (PISO), a city sponsored anti-poverty program.

The release of the Ebrard video led interim Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas to promise to clean up the mayoral election and ensure that no public funds or mayoral offices will used to support any of the candidates. …