John McCain High-Fives Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico's President-Elect
Even with his charming good looks, Enrique Pena Nieto couldn't convince Mexican immigrants to vote for him
U.S. Senator John McCain sent his congratulations via Twitter to Mexico's president-elect, soap-opera-actress lover Enrique Pena Nieto on a historic win bringing back to power the PRI, a once authoritarian political party, from a 12-year hiatus.
According to preliminary results announced by Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute, or IFE as it is simply known in Spanish, Pena Nieto won about 38 percent of the vote in last night's Mexican presidential elections.
"Congrats to #Mexico's new President-elect. Will be interesting to see how he approaches drug trafficking & other issues of mutual concern," McCain tweeted today at 2:49 p.m.
Though he congratulated Pena Nieto on his victory, some suspect that the candidate was not McCain's favorite when it came to dealing with Mexico's drug war.
During a U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February, the Arizona senator brought up his doubts about an unnamed Mexican presidential candidate not being fully committed to fighting the drug cartels as aggressively as Mexico's current President Felipe Calderon.
U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told McCain on February 16 that no matter who would replace Calderon, the new president would continue the war on drug traffickers, a war that has so far resulted in the loss of an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 lives.
"Well, I suggest you look a little more carefully because I think that may not be the case, at least with one of the candidates," McCain shot back.
McCain didn't name-drop, but Pena Nieto was leading in the polls at the time with a comfortable double-digit lead.
Pena Nieto's party, PRI, which ruled Mexico for 70 years, was dubbed the "perfect dictatorship" by Nobel Prize laureate Mario Vargas Llosa for the party's rigging of presidential elections.
Eric Olson, a senior associate at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., says McCain was likely referring to Pena Nieto or to left-wing PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who came in second in the elections, because of their stances in using the military in fighting drug cartels.
"If you're asking me why [McCain said that], I think it's because there [have] been suspicions of the past relationships with the PRI and organized crime," speculated Olson. "There [are] suspicions about...Pena Nieto's saying he's going to focus on reducing [drug war] violence."
Regarding Obrador, Olson stated that perhaps McCain was worried about the candidate's focus on the financial toll of the drug war as opposed to aggressively capturing drug-cartel leaders.
None of the top three candidates offered a specific plan on how to combat the cartels. Rather Olson says most of the candidates focused on the highlights of the current policy, which is using the Mexican military to root out drug-related crimes.
Mexican immigrants who mailed in their absentee ballots voted against Pena Nieto, giving him only 16 percent out of the 40,714 eligible votes, coming in mostly from the U.S.
PAN party candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota received the majority of the expat vote with 42 percent, though she placed third over all, while Obrador received 39 percent of the vote.
PRI's poor showing among Mexican expats could be due to its reputation as a corrupt party. Indeed, the PRI "is the reason many left [Mexico]," according to Rodolfo Espino, an Arizona State University political-science professor.
The election was being followed closely by locals, as Arizona ranks sixth in registered Mexican voters out of all 50 American states.
There are 2,324 registered Mexican voters in Arizona, according to IFE. But the number of Arizonans participating in this election via mail-in ballot has yet to be determined.
This is only the second time Mexican immigrants have been allowed to vote from abroad since Mexico's Congress reformed the country's election laws in 2005.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.