As Mexico enters the final weeks of the 2012 election campaign, the grasshoppers are hopping about the land. In Mexican political lingo, a chapulin, or grasshopper, is a person who jumps from one political party to another, even if the two organizations are diametrically opposed in ideology. On June 5, the secretary-general of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in the strategic state of Guerrero became the latest politico to switch sides.
A 15-year PRI veteran, Flor del Carmen Sotelo resigned from her party and announced she was joining the political coalition that backs Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — AMLO — for president. The same parties supporting the former Mexico City mayor in the presidential race are also running candidates for local offices in Acapulco and other municipalities under the banner of the Guerrero Unites Us coalition.
Criticizing the treatment of women in the PRI, Sotelo also said the party had become alienated from popular causes and no longer represented a “democratic option.”
In a news conference, Sotelo acknowledged to a reporter that her political aspirations to serve in the Mexican Congress had been frustrated within the PRI, and that she might be interested in a future candidacy with one of the pro-AMLO center-left parties.
“I understood the commitments, the agreements, but I always expected another offer from the inside of my party, which did not happen,” Sotelo said of her frustrations with the PRI.
For now, Sotelo has accepted a job as state coordinator of strategic alliances for Guerrero Unites Us. The former PRI leader was joined at her Acapulco media briefing by other coalition leaders and supporters, including Luis Walton, Guerrero Unites Us candidate for Acapulco mayor; senatorial candidate Sofio Ramirez Hernandez; Felix Salgado Macedonio, longtime PRD politician and a former mayor of Acapulco; and others.
Sotelo’s defection came at a moment when some polls show AMLO catching up with long-time, presumed front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI-Green Party coalition. In fact, a poll conducted for Grupo Reforma, a media organization not known in the past for its sympathies with AMLO, showed a virtual dead-heat between the left-leaning candidate and Peña Nieto.
Released late last month, the poll showed Peña Nieto with 38 percent of the vote, Lopez Obrador with 34 percent, Josefina Vasquez Mota of President Calderon’s conservative National Action Party (PAN) with 23 percent, and the National Alliances’s Gabriel Quadri with 5 percent.
The same poll showed Lopez Obrador ahead of Peña Nieto in the populous regions of central and southern Mexico, where the majority of the electorate resides.
The four presidential candidates are scheduled to engage in what is expected to be their second and last nationally-televised debate on Sunday, June 10.
Meantime, Peña Nieto counts a few grasshoppers of his own. Rosario Robles, a former Mexico City mayor and one-time leftist leader, helped lead a recent march of thousands of women on behalf of Pena Nieto in Chihuahua City. Robles said Pena Nieto was the best option for curbing the violence that has devastated Chihuahua and other regions of Mexico, and represented the best choice for the “young, our older adults and women.”
From the right, Peña Nieto has picked up the support of former PAN President Manuel Espino, who claims to lead an organization of ex-Panistas supporting the PRI’s standard-bearer. Last weekend, however, Espino was temporarily diverted from the campaign trail after he was arrested and briefly jailed in Mexico City on a drunk driving charge.
Sources. El Sur, June 6, 2012. Article by Karina Contreras.El Diario de Juarez, June 5, 2012. Milenio.com, June 3, 2012. Article by Juan Jose Garcia Amaro. Proceso/Apro, June 2, 2012. Article by Jesusa Cervantes. Lapolaka/Notimex, June 2, 2012. Nortedigital.mx, June 1, 2012.
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Center for Latin American
and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico