Latin America

The Mexican independent who’s leading the way at the polls

Incoming Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón has broken bipartisan control in Nuevo León

Luis Pablo Beauregard
Monterrey (México) -
Jaime Rodriguez Calderón votes in Sunday's election.
Jaime Rodriguez Calderón votes in Sunday's election.Hans Musielik (AP)

Incoming Nuevo León Governor Jaime Rodríguez Calderón published a list of his assets on Monday: it included 60 horses, 200 lambs, 200 hens and an 80-hectare farm where he grows alfalfa.

The 58-year-old became a trailblazer in Mexican politics on Sunday by winning the gubernatorial race in the country’s second-most-important state as an independent. He trounced his opponents from the two powerful political factions: the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and main opposition National Action Party (PAN).

Citizens have the most powerful voice in any system”

With 87 percent of the midterm votes counted by Wednesday, both the PRI and PAN seemed to have garnered poor results in Sunday races held to elect nine governors, 500 deputies and more than 1,000 mayors and state leaders.

The people’s disenchantment with Mexico’s political system, which is dominated by two major forces, and a broad rejection of the PRI’s performance in the national government were two important factors that ushered in an independent to govern this large, industrial border state.

Just as El Bronco, as he is popularly known, was getting ready to sit down for an interview with EL PAÍS, his cellphone rang. The caller was President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Question. What did the president say?

Answer. He congratulated me and said he was willing to help out so that everything goes our way. Let’s put it this way, this is historic. He added that he is going to invite me to be with him when the official voting results are announced.

Being an independent means that you do not have the weight of a party on your back”

Q. Did you thank him for the political reform he introduced?

A. Thanks to the president there are possibilities today for independent candidates to run for office. The reform lost a lot of steam in Congress because of all the obstacles placed by deputies. But the original initiative was his.

Q. What message has Nuevo León given to the rest of Mexico?

A. This signifies that the political parties need reforming. Citizens are tired of this system. It’s like the monarchy, which can be a stabilizing factor in some countries until the citizens start to grow tired of its excesses and the corruption of the royals. Citizens have the most powerful voice in any system.

Yes there is anger, ranging from the highest to the lowest parts of society”

Q. It is now up to you to show Mexico what exactly an independent is. Does it mean you are part of the opposition?

A. I am not going to oppose anyone. Maybe the parties are going to come out against us, but what I am going to do is look for reconciliation. Being an independent means that you can talk to everybody and not have the weight of a party on your back. I can welcome everyone’s opinions and we can all come up with a collage of proposals and answers.

Q. But you made commitments with the people and that stems from the widespread anger with the local government of Rodrigo Medina of the PRI.

A. People are collectively pissed off because of the corruption issue. No one likes it when officials get rich off your taxes. Yes there is anger ranging from the highest to the lowest parts of society. This had never happened in Mexico but people are waking up. It is the Mexican Spring which, God bless, I started.

We have to break the party structure because it has held back society”

Q. Are you trying to do away with the actual political powers?

A. We have to break them because they have held back society. This was a great campaign because we learned that when citizens organize themselves they can defeat anything. You have the results here.

Q. During your victory celebration some people were yelling at the local television station crew. Do you think the so-called tele-candidates are a thing of the past now that you have arrived?

A. I am not going to use television to promote any arrogance or egomania from this incoming government. Communication conglomerates such as Grupo Multimedios and Televisa felt like they had been punished. They were the ones who pushed the tele-candidates. For example, the PRI candidate had 90 percent coverage on both networks; they didn’t even give me one percent coverage. But I showed them I didn’t need them. Television networks screwed themselves with the business of politics.

Q. So how did you make up for this?

I don’t agree with the legalization of drugs – Mexico is not ready for it”

A. By using the social networks, which are the most amazing thing you can use today. You don’t have to depend on television. I am going to use this technology to deliver immediate responses from my government. Every day, I plan on dedicating two or three hours to attend to the people through the internet.

Q. Do you think that the security crisis this state is facing helped you win the election?

A. Yes, in fact, I was a victim of violence. We have to do all we can to end this and become much more intelligent so that there isn’t a surge of more violence.

Q. What do you think about the legalization of drugs?

A. I don’t agree with this – Mexico is not ready for it. We need to educate the people properly because drugs are addictive. There are some who look at it as a recreational matter, but these cases are mostly in countries or cities where people are better educated.

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