There are three main candidates for the presidency of Mexico: Felipe Calderón, of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), Roberto Madrazo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). One of these men will be the next President. Who are they?
Felipe Calderón is a native of the state of Morelia, he is 43 years old, a lawyer by profession, and has also studied economics. He is the son of Luis Calderón, the founder of the PAN, and though he is considered a doctrinaire party man, he is a pragmatic politician, which makes him a centrist. Within the PAN, he has been youth secretary, secretary general and national president. He is a man that, in his moment, was close to Manuel J. Clouthier, the PAN candidate for the presidency in 1988. Carlos Castillo Peraza, one of the last (good) ideologists of the PAN, is considered his main political mentor. Now in the government of Vicente Fox, Calderón was first selected as the coordinator of the PAN legislators in the Chamber of Representatives, and later became general director of the National Bank of Public Works and Utilities. Later, Calderón held the office of the Secretary of Energy, a position that he renounced after having been scolded by Fox for having participated in a act of propaganda in which he declared openly his intentions to become a presidential candidate. Today, thanks to his long-term membership in the PAN, and because of his speaking in favor of the principles of the party, Calderón is now the presidential candidate of the PAN. He is considered a representative of the one true panismo (true beliefs of the party), something that Vicente Fox never was.
Roberto Madrazo is a native of Mexico City, is 53 years old, and has a law degree from the Autonomous National University of Mexico. Madrazo is the son of one of the main PRI politicians from forty years ago, Carlos Madrazo, who died in 1969 in a plane crash. The elder Madrazo was recognized (fairly or not) as one of the first to democratize the PRI. Madrazo is the typical example of the second generation of political priístas, as is Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Both are children of PRI politicians, and both grew up in an environment of political power and the noblesse oblige that comes with it, which marked them early on as future aspirants to power whether they wanted it or not.
Madrazo beat Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the governorship of the state of Tabasco in an election that was considered dubious. And Madrazo won the election even after Ernesto Zedillo, at that time Mexico’s President, had asked him to resign his position. Madrazo is, without a doubt, a Machiavellian, pragmatic politician, respected by those who yearn for the return of the old days of the PRI, and despised by those who, for one reason or another, inside and outside of the PRI, he has left in his wake. Those who know him say that his bedside books are The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Politician by Azorín, and The Prince by Machiavelli.
Today, after being “eliminated” from the political scene by his opponents in an internal election process that had as its sole objective to look respectul of the law, and after coming under suspicion of corruption on several occasions, Madrazo has become the candidate of the PRI. He is representative of the traditionalists of the PRI, not so much as a populist (like Echeverría and López Portillo), but as a technocrat (like Madrid, Salinas de Gortari, or Zedillo). But he is also a pragmatist, which is characteristic of the PRI.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador is a native of the state of Tabasco, is 52 years old, and received a degree in Political Science and Public Administration from the Autonomous National University of Mexico. He was initially a member of the PRI, and only later joined the PRD, and was twice a candidate for governor of the state of Tabasco in a time in which he had to contend with all the frauds of the PRI, and he was later a Mexico City government leader from 2000 to 2005. López Obrador was at the center of a political battle with the Fox administration, which if it had been upheld as law would have prevented López Obrador from being a presidential candidate. Today, López Obrador, with the motto “The poor first”, is the PRD presidential candidate that represents the quintessential populism of the PRD, which he inherited from the PRI of the sixties, which López Obrador intends to resurrect.
In conclusion, Calderón represents the continuity of political transition and economic stability, Madrazo represents the restoration of the pragmatic PRI, politically tough but economically cautious, and López Obrador represents the leftist and populist PRI, which now is the PRD, known for unsound economic policies and intolerant politics.
* Arturo Damm Arnal is a Mexican Economist and Philosopher devoted to journalism and college teaching.