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Sat. May 25th, 2024

Mexico’s main opposition presidential candidate Xochitl Galvez launched a full-throated attack against frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum during Sunday’s debate as she attempted to reverse her trailing polling numbers.

Labeling her opponent a “narco-candidate”, center-right former senator Galvez sought to paint the ruling party’s candidate as an out-of-touch bureaucrat who has abandoned ordinary Mexicans to the forces of poverty and extortion by criminal gangs. 

There must be “no more hugs for delinquents,” said Galvez, 61 — a reference to left-wing populist President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s “hugs not bullets” strategy to tackle violent crime at its roots.

Nearly 450,000 people have been murdered since 2006 across Mexico in a spiral of drug-related violence, making security a top concern for voters.

Sheinbaum, a close ally of Lopez Obrador and the favorite to win Mexico’s June 2 vote, has vowed she will become “the first woman president of Mexico.”

The 61-year-old ex-mayor of Mexico City has staunchly defended the left-wing government’s economic and social welfare track record, and says she will continue its “transformation” of Latin America’s second-largest economy.

She argued that Lopez Obrador’s administration — which enjoys an approval rating of nearly 70 percent — has reduced poverty, significantly boosted the minimum wage, ensured a strong peso and kept inflation in check.

Galvez acknowledged that she would maintain the ruling party’s social spending programs, but on economics countered: “If you went to the market, you’d realize that the price of a tortilla has gone from 14 to 22 pesos ($1.28).”

The outspoken businesswoman with Indigenous roots spoke of experiencing poverty first-hand, and promised to exempt all salaries below 15,000 pesos ($875) a month from taxation.

A third contender, 38-year-old centrist Jorge Alvarez Maynez of the Citizens’ Movement party, singled out Galvez more than the ruling Movement for National Regeneration (Morena) party.

He lags far behind both women in the polls, capturing the interest of just eight percent of voters, compared to the 32 percent of support for Galvez and 49 percent for Sheinbaum.

The three also squared off over energy, the environment and infrastructure plans.

While Sheinbaum, a US-trained climate scientist and former environmental minister, discussed plans for a clean energy transition, Galvez held up a sign calling her a “serial liar.”

Galvez also accused Sheinbaum, who was Mexico City’s mayor until June last year, of being responsible for the deaths of 26 people in the 2021 metro collapse in the capital. 

“It fell due to a lack of maintenance. You’re not going to be president, the country would collapse,” she said. 

Sheinbaum, known for maintaining her steely composure even while under fire, brushed off the accusation as an attempt to politicize a national tragedy. The next and final debate is scheduled for May 7.

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