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Pulsamerica: Peña Nieto vs Vazquez Mota

December 9, 2011

More on the aforementioned incidents: the latest blog in a series I’ve been doing for Pulsamerica, with a little more personal insight on my impressions of Peña Nieto and Vazquez Mota at the FIL.

Hacking Away: Should presidential hopefuls think harder about their reading lists?

Attending Guadalajara’s 25th Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Fair – FIL) last week, I witnessed speeches by the two candidates most likely to win next July’s presidential election.

The first was Josefina Vázquez Mota, favourite to win the nomination of the incumbent Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party – PAN) and become the first female presidential candidate from a major party in Mexico’s history.

The second was Enrique Peña Nieto, a clear frontrunner in the polls and the only candidate so far registered to represent the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party – PRI), a resurgent force that ruled Mexico under an iron fist for 71 years until the turn of the century.

Now I’m by no means a fan of either party, but in terms of charisma and speechmaking ability, one candidate stood head and shoulders above the other. And it was not the one most people consider a shoe-in for the presidency.

Peña Nieto gave a speech that would have left a convention of insomniacs snoring, while Vázquez Mota at least managed to speak with a bit of conviction, throwing in a bit of feminism, anecdotes about meeting the likes of Condoleezza Rice, Michelle Bachelet and Alvaro Uribe, and even the odd joke.

Peña Nieto, on the other hand, was confident and authoritative, without ever being interesting. He has hands right out of the Tony Blair School of Impassioned Body Language, and the air of a man who already knows he will be the next president. But he was still incredibly dull.

But that does not necessarily mean he is a bad politican — or that he would make a bad leader — and most likely it will not matter a jot come election day.

Peña Nieto has many things going for him: he’s handsome; he has a pretty celebrity wife; he’s young enough to not look like a member of the bad, ‘old’ PRI; he has the backing of influential media giant Televisa; and, conveniently, President Felipe Calderon’s disastrous war on the nation’s cartels has eroded most of the PAN’s national support.

However, critics say he is vapid; all style and no substance. He can stand there looking photogenic and answering pre-rehearsed questions but he knows not what to do when forced to go off script by an impartial media.

This was proven to some extent when he was asked in the FIL press conference to name three books that have influenced his life.

Flustered, Peña Nieto vaguely cited “some parts” of the bible, erroneously attributed Carlos Fuentes’ ‘La silla del águila’ to Enrique Krauze, and failed to recall the name of a third book of his choice. He then struggled to remember the title or author of the book he is currently reading, before desperately grasping for a Jeffrey Archer novel without a hint of irony.

Despite alleged attempts at online censorship, the gaffe soon went viral. Throw in a sneering, classist tweet from Peña Nieto’s 16-year-old daughter deriding his critics as “proles” and “jealous assholes”, and his first campaign crisis was complete.

Peña Nieto’s attempts to laugh it all off failed and he found himself forced to apologise as an online storm picked up pace.

All this over a fairly trivial slip-up that will surely be forgotten by the time Mexicans go to the polls.

It is unlikely to cause him much harm in the long-run, and Peña Nieto remains firm favourite to win the presidency, but the incident offers perhaps the first chink in the ‘new’ PRI’s armour.

Vázquez Mota and leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador will have been sure to take note.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 17, 2011 08:17

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