Regionalist sentiment, scandals and violence mark the June campaign in the northern territories, where the ruling party, Morena, faces more difficulties than in the rest of the country
An eagle that devours a snake, the same symbol of the Mexican flag, stands out against an orange background. Below, a motto: The northern movement. Along with the poster, five candidates talk about what differentiates the border territories from the rest of the country. From the terrace of the convention center, you can see the row of skyscrapers of San Pedro Garza García, a municipality in the metropolitan area of Monterrey that the consulting firm Fitch places among the richest in the continent and at the top, with about 60,000 dollars per capita, of Latin America revenue, according to a measurement last September.
“We are never going to allow them to mistreat us from the center, to tell us what to do from the center, but less so than from the center to want to enter our lands,” warns Samuel García, who on June 6 aspires to become governor of Nuevo León, one of the economic locomotives of Mexico. This 33-year-old politician from the Citizen Movement, a force that defines itself as a social democrat and has been trying to break the traditional party scheme for a decade, participated this Friday in an event with the national coordinator of training and the candidates of Chihuahua. Thanks also to the popularity of his wife, the influencer and businesswoman Mariana Rodríguez, and a great investment in the promotion on social networks is one of the sensations of the electoral process that will be renewed next Sunday by the Chamber of Deputies, the Governments of almost half of the States and thousands of local positions.
But the García phenomenon has to do with the collapse that, according to the polls, the candidate of the ruling party Morena has suffered and the coldness that the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has shown with the north. Nuevo León, the territory that contributes the most Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the country after Mexico City and the State of Mexico, was one of its pending subjects. That is why the former mayor of General Escobedo, another of the cities that make up the Monterrey metropolitan area, ran for a promising policy. Clara Luz Flores had grown up in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), but he broke with that formation and accepted the offer. Until the end of March, he led all the polls, and his sudden plummet coincided with the leak of the video of a conversation he had five years ago with the leader of the NXIVM sect, Keith Raniere, a self-described guru who last year was convicted in the United States. United to 120 years in prison for sexual exploitation, child pornography trafficking, and human trafficking.
The dissemination of that conversation, which she had always denied, marks, except for last-minute surprises, the end of Morena’s hopes in Nuevo León. López Obrador’s movement has had an easy campaign in only one of the four northern states at stake on June 6. In Baja California, he is one breath away from victory. In Sonora, Alfonso Durazo, former Secretary of Security of the current Government, had a downhill race ahead of him, but the increase in violence now puts his candidacy in check. Three weeks ago a local candidate of the Citizen Movement was killed with ten bullets while putting up posters. Even in Chihuahua, opinion studies do not take for granted the victory of the ruling party and the dispute remains open.
“Today the Citizen Movement is about to become the first political force in Nuevo León. The advantage is irreversible, ”said Clemente Castañeda, leader of the formation, referring to García and Luis Donaldo Colosio, candidate for mayor of Monterrey and son of the presidential candidate assassinated in 1994. In reality, it remains to be seen, since the PRI, headed by Adrián de la Garza, has a territorial structure that Movimiento Ciudadano, which only governs in the state of Jalisco, lacks. Both De la Garza and García have also had an open folder in the Prosecutor’s Office for weeks. The first for an alleged case of vote-buying and the second – which last summer aroused indignation and faced a wave of criticism for some macho comments – for alleged illegal contributions to his campaign.
Regionalism, in any case, is one of the feelings that mark the campaign. If many northern voters believe that López Obrador turned his back on them, the opposite is also true. That is, Nuevo León, often seen as a land of opportunities, is far, not only geographically, from the political equilibrium of Mexico City.
Elber Martínez was born in the State of Hidalgo 30 years ago. At the end of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, he went to the capital in search of employment. He did not find it and chose to move to Monterrey. Upon arrival, he says, in two days he achieved a position as an interim teacher in the third grade of primary school and now he has decided to finish his studies while working as a waiter. “This is the best of Mexico. It’s here or the United States, ”he says. On June 6 he will not be able to vote because he is still registered in Hidalgo, but he assures that he would do so for García, perceived in some way as the politician of the renewal and the closest to young people.
Regardless of the election results, what this campaign has made clear is the great projection of Morena in the center and in the south of the country, with territories such as Guerrero where a former candidate, now disqualified, denounced for rape, had not lost popularity. And, at the same time, training difficulties in the north have surfaced in recent weeks. With these premises, a hypothetical triumph of the Citizen Movement in Nuevo León would have an impact on a national scale, forming a new axis of opposition to the Government in the second half of the term, a sort of third way. If, on the other hand, the PRI achieves victory with Adrián de la Garza, he would become the de facto leader of the opposition, disjointed and without faces that have managed to overshadow the president since he became president in 2018.
The president has not yet reached the middle of his six-year term but, beyond the reform program, he has already achieved one of the central objectives of his project. It has become the polarizing axis of political life. His eagerness to mark the agenda and his omnipresence in each debate, from the privileged platform of the morning press conferences, has always translated into a vision of a Mexico divided in two. The president repeats it almost every day. All his adversaries belong to the “conservative party”, a formation that does not exist on the current political map and that López Obrador uses as a generic container to pigeonhole critical voices. Conservatives, in his opinion, are all opposition parties. And conservative, according to this scheme, would now be the north. Today Samuel García launched a challenge: “That Morena here does not win anything to send a message that the north has already awakened.”
Pulse between powers
The pulse between Mexico City and the north of the country, at the same time a dispute between the ruling party, Morena, and the opposition, has been clearly reflected in the border state of Tamaulipas, where this Friday the national leader of the official force was intimidated by an armed group in the city of Matamoros. The current governor, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca, was stripped weeks ago by the Federal Chamber of Deputies – dominated by deputies related to Andrés Manuel López Obrador – of his immunity so that the Prosecutor’s Office could proceed against him for an alleged laundering scandal of money. However, the Tamaulipas state Congress rejected that decision, generating an unprecedented clash between national and local institutions. The case remained in limbo until a judge ordered his arrest, which, however, did not materialize because another magistrate suspended the arrest request. The PAN attributes the investigation to political persecution by the Government, while the president urged the courts to resolve the file as soon as possible.
Cabeza de Vaca is accused of accumulating undeclared property in Mexico and the United States. Despite the evidence collected by the Financial Intelligence Unit and the Mexican authorities, this alleged episode of corruption has been marked by clashes between parties in the middle of the electoral race. Both the PRI and the PAN rejected in the federal Chamber the violation of Cabeza de Vaca, calling the investigations “political and criminal lynching orchestrated by the government.” But the president considers it, like others, an emblematic case of corruption in Mexico’s recent past.