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Mexican Elections: ‘People Just Want a Change’

June 29, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
On Sunday, Mexicans go to the polls to elect a new president. Jeffrey Brown talks to Margaret Warner in Mexico City about the voters' concerns and whether the country's drug war policy is likely to change.
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JEFFREY BROWN: After Margaret filed that report this afternoon, I spoke with her from Mexico City.

Margaret, we watch a piece like that from Juarez and the other reports you have done this week, and I wonder what it feels like being there. Does it feel like a dangerous place? Do you see it affecting people you meet?

MARGARET WARNER: Jeff, it really depends where you are.

Certainly, in Ciudad Juarez and in Monterrey, people — and I felt it — live with a sense of threat. Even in Monterrey, the third biggest city in the country, very wealthy, almost everyone, it seems, has a story of someone they know being caught up in some kind of incident, whether it’s just being in a restaurant and having thugs come in and demand everyone’s wallet.

In Monterrey, we had security. And once, coming back from spending part of the day with a mayor in an outlying area, our security detail suddenly heard over the radio two vans — the two vans just passed. And we had been planning to shoot somewhere else. And he said, they may not be talking about us, but we’re out of here.

So, the fear of being kidnapped, the fear of petty — even petty crime is pretty high. Now, here in Mexico City, it is completely different. It feels like any normal city. And yet, two days ago, there was a shoot-out at the international airport between federal police and apparently two crooked federal police. So, everybody knows something’s wrong here.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, so there is an election on Sunday which you have been watching and covering all this week. How does that atmosphere play into the voting?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, as we have been reporting this week, Jeff, it plays into it hugely.

People here, even if they support taking on the cartels, they want the violence to stop. They want to be able to go to school and work without living in fear. And so the candidate of President Calderon’s party, Josefina Vazquez Mota, is third in the polls. People just want a change, despite the economy being pretty good.

And so whether it’s Enrique Pena Nieto who wins of the PRI or whether it’s Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the former mayor of this city, it’s clear that the way the drug war is being fought will change in some fashion.

JEFFREY BROWN: And what about the election process? There have been problems in the past with, you know, whether they were fair and honest. What — what — are there concerns this time? What is being done?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, there were deep concerns after 2006, Jeff, because that was really traumatic for this country. It was their — only their second truly free presidential election, and it was so razor-thin, and Lopez Obrador, who was running then, came in — was the loser, charged fraud.

There were serious allegations of ballot stuffing, vote count changing. And he really shut down this city with demonstrations for six weeks. A lot of people lost their jobs. But, worse, it called into question the legitimacy, not only — as someone from with the election committee said to me today, the result, but with their very identity as a democracy.

So there’s been a lot of changes made. The election commission thinks that, at the polling places themselves, they have got an almost airtight system, new way of choosing the poll official. Every party and every candidate has monitors. They have got all these triple checks, which I won’t go into detail here, but we will report on online on Sunday.

So they think that is pretty — pretty airtight. But what they can’t control is whether there is vote buying before the election or threats. And there have — the other two parties — not the front-runner Pena Nieto’s party, but the other two parties have charged that is going on.

So far, the commission hasn’t seen enough evidence of that. But, you know, it remains a concern.

JEFFREY BROWN: All right, well, we will talk to you again on Monday, of course.

Margaret Warner in Mexico City, thanks so much.

MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, Jeff.

JEFFREY BROWN: On our website, we have a slide show with more of Julian Cardona’s photographs from Juarez.

And, this Sunday, we will have special Web coverage of the — of election day in Mexico, including a dispatch from our team on the ground.