Monday, September 19, 2005

Montiel: strongest PRI candidate?

Arturo Montiel Rojas will be the next president of Mexico. All that is required for his victory is for the PRI to give him their party's nomination (over the Tabasqueno Roberto Madrazo).
On Tuesday, September 6, I attended Montiel's farewell "state of the state" address as outgoing governor of Estado de Mexico. The Teatro Morelos in Toluca was full of dark suited men (white shirts, red ties) and elegant women in designer attire. Montiel stood out, wearing a gray tie, perhaps a suggestion of his wife, the most elegant woman there, former European model Maude Versini.

Unlike previous state of the state addresses, there were very few campesinos with traditional sombreros. There were several former EdoMex Governors, plus Senators and Governors from other states. The biggest surprise was the foreign contingent. I sat next to the ambassadors from Germany, Angola and the Philippines.

There were no prep speakers, just giant screens showing videos with dramatic music showing six years of progress: more schools, more roads, more water treatment plants, more hospitals, and more jobs, jobs, jobs. Then Montiel ascended the podium and began to speak, flawlessly synchonized with what was being shown on the screens. At times, aids came up and left a note, and then, Montiel wove in an acknolwedgement of some dignitary whose presence had just been discovered (e.g., Rigoberta Manchu, the Guatemalan Feminist Noble Prize Winner).

Here is why Montiel will win (if nominated). The UNAM accountant grad is uncharismatic, but energetic, and (here is the big factor), Montiel does not make mistakes. His speech plodded along, at times in a quasi monotone, but he never fluffed a line nor got out of sync with the video.
A good example of this plodding, error free style, can be seen in the recent EdoMex governor election. The PRI candidate was Montiel's protegee and nephew, Enrique Pena Nieto (the most lackluster of the three candidates). Back in March, it was close to a three way statistical dead heat, but first the PRD candidate self-destructed, then the PAN candidate did the same, while the heavily financed, flawless campaign of Pena Nieto picked up votes left and right and ended up with about half of the total. Of all of the outgoing governor's accomplishments, Montiel drew the greatest applause when he mentioned keeping the EdoMex governorship in PRI hands.

The content of the speech was a fact based boast of six years of accomplishments. It is easy to compare Estado de Mexico to the other thirty states in the Republic and say "We're number one" over and over again. But, Montiel had a more clever reframing of progress. He compared his state to other nations in Latin America: more automobiles produced than in any other nation except Brazil (see pictures of the PT Cruiser being built), more housing starts in the last six years than in Argentina, Venezuela or Peru (see pictures of beautiful new homes going up in Metepec), and Toluca number one city in civil aviation in Latin America.

This sort of reminded me of deposed California Governor Gray Davis claiming that California was the sixth biggest economy in the world. Of course, it was more correct to say that the California economy had managed to survive five years of Gray Davis, rather than claim that California had a big economy because of Davis.

While it is true that Toluca and EdoMex became the center of Mexican prosperity before Montiel, and despite former PRIista governors, Montiel deserves his due. Remember, this is a man who does not make mistakes. He is not incompetent. He is not an ideologue (to put it in U.S. political terms, he is not a tax and spend liberal). He knows how to go to foreign political and business leaders and work out realistic deals for expanding production and markets. Montiel's claim of credit for EdoMex prosperity is much more credible than that of Bill Clinton's claim to U.S. economic expansion in the 1990s.

After the address, downtown Toluca was a traffic jam. I walked a few blocks to the Policlinica where I used to work and caught a taxi home. The taxista had heard the address on the radio, and responded "pura propaganda." He was right, but it was propaganda well done, the propaganda that wins elections.

Here's why Montiel would win next year's three way presidential race. Mexico City's PRDista mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will start out close to 40% in the polls, then he will polarize the voters into pro-AMLO and anti-AMLO. The anti-AMLO 60% will drift to the stronger candidate among the PAN and PRI. Montiel portrays himself as pro-business and tough on crime: I see imagine PANista leaning voters embracing Montiel in a stop AMLO movement.

I can imagine the debates, with Montiel pointing to AMLO and making this comparison "You empathize with the sufferings of 16 million people in DF, but have you stopped the crime or given them good jobs? Over the last six years, the 16 million people in EdoMex have seen their crime rates go down and good jobs increase."

Montiel is not a reformer, and many of the old PRIistas would get back in power, but I predict Mexican prosperity will survive Montiel, services will improve, and things will be relatively stable. I am not sure that any of these will occur if AMLO is elected.


Blogger Charlie said...

Wow! Talk about a bad prediction! Seems like you failed on every count except for your description of Maude Versini.

10:00 PM  
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