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Why Mexico’s Ruling Party Seems Headed for Defeat

Margaret Warner interviews voter Judith Cordova at polling site Sunday. Photos by Morgan Till/NewsHour.

MEXICO CITY | If you want to know why President Felipe Calderon’s National Action Party, PAN, is going to lose today, just ask 53-year-old divorcee Judith Cordova. We caught up with her and her son Victor as they were voting in the trendy urban neighborhood of Condesa.

Judith Cordova has a good job in the tax agency of the Mexican federal government. She enthusiastically supported Calderon in 2006 and his predecessor Vicente Fox in 2000, whose victory ended the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) 70-year rule. But this morning, Cordova cast her vote for the PRI candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto.

“I voted twice for PAN. We even gave them a second chance,” she said. “But it didn’t turn out well. So I’ve changed my mind.”

She’s fed up, she said, with her stagnant salary and the rising cost of living, and with the drug-related violence that’s cost 55,000 Mexican lives in nearly six years. “It’s the lack of security, the lack of control that’s frightening,” she said. “When the PRI was in power, they had more control. And they have a lot of experience.”

She’s anything but starry-eyed about Pena’s prospects. Like other voters we spoke with Sunday, she’s realistic, even fatalistic, about how hard it will be for the next president to end the drug-related violence. “As long as there are so many Americans consuming drugs and generating all that money, I’m not sure any Mexican president can fight it,” she said.

Nor does she dismiss fears that despite the 45-year-old Pena’s fresh face and talk of a “new PRI,” the party may revert to its authoritarian and corrupt habits of old. “I don’t know if that will happen. The PRI has had 12 years to think on how they’d do things better,” she said. “And unfortunately there’s corruption on all levels and in all parties. I just want people to do a good job.”

Even with all those caveats, Cordova’s ready for a change. What’s heartening is that under Mexico’s expanding democracy, she now has the power to demand it.

Margaret Warner has been reporting all week from Mexico on the elections and drug war. View the series of broadcast and online reports.

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