Triumphant mood in hometown of likely next president of Mexico


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ATLACOMULCO, Mexico -- Here in the birthplace of the likely next president of Mexico, the mood was triumphant Sunday.

Voters jostled hoping for a photograph with the candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, born here 45 years ago and leading what may be the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to the pinnacle of power in Mexico.


Peña Nieto was ahead in preelection polls going into Sunday’s vote, and comments from Mexicans showing up to cast their ballots in this city in the state of Mexico, outside Mexico City, go a long way toward explaining why.

‘The PAN did not know how to govern,’ said Ricardo Avila, 45, a cashier at a convenience store, referring to the conservative National Action Party that ousted the PRI in 2000 in what was supposed to be the advent of true democracy in Mexico.

‘They had their chance and wasted it. Time for the PRI.’

Disappointment with the lack of democratic reforms during the last 12 years of PAN government, plus a bloody war against drug cartels that has claimed more than 50,000 lives since late 2006 and stoked violence across the country, have fueled opposition to the ruling party. Voters have turned in droves to the PRI, even though it has a long reputation for being heavy-handed and, in the past, acting in undemocratic ways and accommodating drug traffickers.

‘The PRI knows how to deal with the narco,’ said Roberto Salcido, owner of a chain of tortilla shops here. ‘When they were in power, the country did not suffer because the deal was, ‘You move your drugs but you don’t mess with me.’ It worked. The country was calm.

‘If [making deals with drug traffickers] is what ends the violence and the extortion, then, yes,’ Salcido added. ‘The PRI knows how to make the drug traffickers respect them.’

Peña Nieto, who has pledged to continue fighting drug cartels, arrived here to vote, accompanied by his new wife, a soap opera star, and children he had with his previous wife, who died. A small group of people who said they were university students appeared to protest his likely victory, what they called a ‘manipulated vote,’ in reference to Peña Nieto’s cozy relationship with Mexico’s main television broadcasters.

Four members of the Gonzalez Romo family arrived the minute polls opened, hoping to catch a glimpse of the candidate.

‘He seems honest and is very handsome,’ Maria Romo said.

Her husband, Armando Gonzalez, bristled at questions about allegations of corruption that dog the PRI.

‘Maybe you can accuse him of being a Don Juan, for his conquest of women - we men are like that,’ Gonzalez, 61, said. ‘But not corrupt.’


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Photo: Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party casts his vote Sunday with his wife, Angelica Rivero de Peña, in his hometown of Atlacomulco. Credit: Daniel Aguilar / Getty Images