Mexico's pending election draws interest in U.S.

The presidential candidate for Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Enrique Peña Nieto, waves at supporters during an electoral rally in Toluca, Mexico State, on June 27, 2012. Mexico will hold presidential elections on July 1. According to a poll released on June 26, Peña Nieto is leading the pack by 15 points just days ahead of the election, followed by leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Tess Vigeland: Mexico chooses a new president on Sunday. Voters could stick with the ruling conservative PAN party, or they may reinstate the old PRI party -- in power for decades. Or they could go with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist whose PRD party came in second last time round.

Marketplace's Jeff Tyler checked in with some Mexican-American voters stateside to get their thoughts on what kind of change to choose.


Jeff Tyler: From a cramped room in a Los Angeles church, Bertha Rodriguez uses Skype to make cold-calls, reaching out to voters in Tijuana. She recommends the leftist candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who placed second in the last presidential election. She sees him as a needed change from the current party, which has ruled for the past 12 years.

Rodriguez ends the call, saying --

Bertha Rodriguez: Think about us, who have had to leave Mexico because of the difficult situation that you're living in there.

After she hangs up, I ask why people like Rodriguez had to leave her home state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

Rodriguez: Unemployment. The economic crisis. The NAFTA.

Shifting to Spanish, Rodriguez elaborates on the impact of free trade.

Rodriguez: The products that come from Canada and the United States -- the fruits and vegetables -- ruined the local economy. There was no work.

She would like to see Mexico's economy develop to the point that its citizens don't need to emigrate.

At this furniture store in downtown Los Angeles, I hear almost the same message from the owner, Beatriz Ricartti.

Beatriz Ricartti: We would like migration to be a choice, not because you have to go somewhere else to change your quality of life.

She supports PAN, the current party in power. But her vote would still represent a change -- at least, in gender.

Ricartti: I support the woman, Josefina Vázquez Mota.

One of the things Ricartti likes about candidate Vázquez Mota -- she's an economist.

Ricartti: Right now, the economy in Mexico is growing at 5 percent. So, definitely, we want the economy to continue growing.

If the economy is doing so well, why is there such discontent with the status quo? I put that question to Gladys Pinto when we met at a Mexican restaurant in Pasadena.

Gladys Pinto: To me, personally, the things have gotten worse. We didn't have so many killings. Mexico was safer.

She blames the party now in power for the violence in Mexico. The current president used the army to go after corrupt cops and drug cartels, and the resulting blood-bath has left about 50,000 people dead.

Pinto: We would like to go back, you know, someday to live in Mexico. And we want a prosperous Mexico. We don't want a Mexico like the one we have now that it's not safe to travel.

For her, change means a return to the past. Pinto supports PRI, the party that dominated Mexican politics for 70 years. She says it's not fair for people to saddle PRI's candidate, the front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto, with the sins of the party's corrupt past.

Pinto: They think the whole party is the same. And, no, it's not.

In the kitchen, Mexican men chop onions and make guacamole. Because of cumbersome bureaucratic hurdles for expatriates, most of these guys can't vote for president. Out of some 12 million Mexicans living in the U.S., only about 50,000 are registered to vote.

The manager of El Portal restaurant could vote. But Ramon Arellano is disappointed with the past campaign promises.

Ramon Arellano: They promising a lot of thing, and then, nothing happen. The poor people are still poorer and poorer and the rich people are richer and richer.

No matter who gets elected president in Mexico, he expects no significant changes.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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