Controversial figures voted into Mexico Congress

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MEXICO CITY -- Local wags are calling them the ‘unpresentable ones.’

They are a handful of influential politicians, super-rich union leaders, their relatives and others who were quietly elected to Congress in last week’s vote without lifting a finger to campaign.

News of their ascent is the latest twist in the aftermath of the July 1 election, which gave Mexico a president-elect and new Congress but which has been dogged by reports of vote-buying and other hanky-panky.


Mexicans choose their federal senators and representatives by voting for a party and its slate of candidates, not for an individual person. Names of most candidates appear on the ballot. However, there is an elite group of candidates to whom the party leadership promises seats, whose names do not appear on the ballot. They do not campaign; they do not make public appearances. Most Mexicans probably are not even aware they are waiting in the wings.

For the parties, these candidates are useful because they inject a lot of money, in some cases, or their bids for office are a way to pay back favors. But they are individuals who have been wrapped up in controversies that might otherwise make their participation a liability.

‘These are people whom Mexican society has repudiated,’ analyst Lorenzo Meyer said Monday in a radio program. ‘They have no reason to be there [in Congress] and ... some should be in prison.’ [link in Spanish]

Final results from the vote, which also elected the next president, Enrique Peña Nieto, made it possible to see who some of these questionable senators and representatives will be. They include:

-- Carlos Romero Deschamps, the super-powerful, very rich head of the union for workers in the gigantic state oil company Pemex.

-- The daughter and grandson of Elba Esther Gordillo, the much-criticized ‘president for life’ of the equally powerful teachers union.


--Several people closely tied to the giant television broadcaster Televisa, which holds a virtual monopoly in Mexico and has been vigorously criticized for favorable coverage of Peña Nieto.

Most, but not all, of the so-called impresentables were on the slate belonging to Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

‘This has become a route of access for stinky [candidates] from various parties,’ Mexican academic and political analyst Denise Dresser said. The problem, she said, is that the presence of some of these people could work to block the kinds of reforms that Mexicans say they desperately need.

‘They do not represent the citizens,’ she said, also speaking on radio. ‘They represent the veto; they represent vested interests; they represent the status quo.’

Most experts agree that Mexico’s entrenched system of monopolies and its bloated, corrupt unions have stalled the nation’s progress.

A recount confirmed Peña Nieto’s victory, returning the PRI, which ruled for seven decades, to power after a 12-year hiatus. But the leftist candidate who came in second, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, his supporters, several student groups and others are challenging the results.



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-- Tracy Wilkinson