Woman to head major party ticket in Mexico

Josefina Vazquez Mota was selected as Mexico's ruling National Action Party (PAN) candidate for the upcoming presidential election. She is Mexico's first female presidential candidate from a major political party.

Edgard Garrido/Reuters
Josefina Vazquez Mota waves the National Action Party (PAN) flag after winning the primary election to be the National Action Party’s candidate for president, in Mexico city Sunday. Voters from Mexico's ruling conservative party selected Vazquez Mota as their first woman presidential candidate on Sunday, choosing a former education minister to battle the opposition's nominee, who has a big lead in the polls, ahead of the July 1 general election.

“I am going to be the first female Mexican president.”

Those are the words of Josefina Vazquez Mota, who was just selected by Mexico’s ruling National Action Party (PAN) to be their candidate in the upcoming July 1 race. This is the first time a woman in Mexico is heading a major party ticket as a presidential candidate.

In many ways she is tapping into the fervor that has seen the Latin American electorate choose women to head Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, and beyond.

But beyond changing gender roles in the region, the former education minister is hoping to appeal to women – young university students, working mothers, the poor – where her male counterparts have sometimes seemed aloof and out of touch with the realities faced by families in Mexico.

Within the PAN, Ms. Vazquez Mota challenged former finance minister Ernesto Cordero, who came in second during the weekend vote, and former senator Santiago Creel, who came in distant third. Mr. Cordero was unable to shake off criticism from his time as finance minister, when he said that 6,000 pesos a month, or about $475, was a salary that offered the accoutrements of middle class life, including a car and private school for kids. The comment spread across Twitter.

PAN was the last of three major parties to select their candidate, and Vazquez Mota will now face former Mexico State Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held onto power for 71 years before being defeated by the PAN in 2000; and leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the Democratic Revolution Party (PDR). Mr. Lopez Obrador narrowly lost to President Felipe Calderon in 2006, declared fraud, and shut down central Mexico City for six weeks in protest.  

Mr. Peña Nieto has been the clear frontrunner of the race thus far. According to a poll carried out by Consulta Mitofsky in Mexico City late last year, Peña Nieto was ahead with 42 percent support, compared to 21 percent for Vazquez Mota, and 17 percent for Lopez Obrador.

But Peña Nieto has stumbled in recent months. Most notable was his gaffe at a book fair in Guadalajara, in which he could not name three books that most inspired him, earning him ridicule across newspaper columns and social media.

But it was another of his stumbles that Vazquez Mota, a working mother with three daughters, was specifically able to use to her advantage: in an interview, he was unable to name the price for a kilo of tortillas, a staple in Mexico, and defended himself by quipping, “I am not the lady of the house."

On a radio program afterwards, Vazquez Mota was asked if she was the “lady of the house."  She responded, "I am a woman, and as a woman I am a housewife, I am a government official, I've been twice a government secretary, I've been leader of a parliamentary group, I am an economist," reports the LA Times. "And indeed, all of that along with being a housewife, a housewife who knows what happens every day at the dining table and in the kitchen … And although we may not be there for many hours, as is my case, and I'm sure your case and many others of us, every night we return to that space of the kitchen, return to check the refrigerator and see if everything is ready or what needs to be bought the next day," she said.

While PAN is saddled with overseeing a violent crackdown against organized crime that has taken some 50,000 lives in nearly six years, and has been criticized for not doing enough to buoy the poor, Vazquez Mota can tout herself as the candidate with the capacity to care.

“Today I’m committed to take care of your families like I’ve taken care of mine,” she said Sunday. “I want to make Mexico the best country to live in.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.