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Mexico Votes 2006

Arturo Sarukhan
Adviser for International Affairs to Presidential Candidate Felipe Calderon
Tuesday, June 27, 2006 11:00 AM

Arturo Sarukhan , campaign adviser to presidential candidate Felipe Calderon , was online Tuesday, June 27, at 11 a.m. ET to join washingtonpost.com special correspondent Ceci Connolly for a discussion about Calderon's presidential campaign in Mexico.

Mexico's approximate 71.4 million eligible voters will choose a successor for outgoing President Vicente Fox on July 2.

Full Coverage:

Mexico Votes 2006

Blog: Campaign Conexion

A career diplomat since 1994, Sarukhan is currently on a leave of absence from the Foreign Service. He obtained a BA in International Relations (1988) from El Colegio de Mexico and read History at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Recipient of the Fulbright Scholar and Ford Foundation Fellow Scholarships, Sarukhan received MA's in U.S. Foreign Policy and in International Economics from the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University, in Washington, D.C. (1991). Previous to his career in government, he was Executive Secretary of the non-governmental Bilateral Commission on the Future of Mexico-United States Relations (1988-89).

Programming Notes:

Jorge de los Santos , campaign adviser to presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be online Monday, June 26, at 2 p.m. ET .

Roberta Lajous , campaign adviser to presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo , will be online Wednesday, June 28, at noon ET .

The transcript follows.

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Ceci Connolly: Buenos dias! Welcome to Campaign Conexion. Our guest Arturo Sarukhan, top adviser to Felipe Calderon.

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Monterrey, Mex.: According to most polls, the winner of this election, regardless of who he is, will be opposed by 60 percent of the electorate, the same as current President Fox in 2000. Also, he will have a Congress in which his party will not have a majority of seats in either chamber.

What does your candidate intends to do in order to "lure" and "make amends" with those voters?

What does your candidate intends to do to pass ANY legislation in Congress?

Arturo Sarukhan: The possibility of a gridlocked congress is certainly in the air. This is why Felipe has proposed a coalition government to provide political traction to his proposals for reform in congress. That is, he will invite congressmen and congresswomen from other parties to cabinet positions in order to guarantee their support for the approval of the reforms that Mexico badly needs.

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Ceci Connolly: Arturo, Thanks for joining us. As an opening question, I'd like to ask you to assess the presidential race at this juncture.

Arturo Sarukhan: The election is statistically tied. Some polls give AMLO a 3 to 4 point advantage whilst other polls also give Felipe a 3 to 4 point. If we take into account that the margin of error of all these polls is plus minus 2, 3 points, we have a race which is coming down to the wire tied. In this regard I am convinced that the election will be decided on July 2, at the polling booth. Nothwithstanding, I believe the Mexican electorate will give Felipe a victory based on 1 critical issue: his ability to deliver the jobs and economic growth all Mexicans need and seek.

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Washington, D.C.: The Fox administration has pressed the U.S. hard for a resolution to the immigration impasse. Is Mexico prepared to do its part in resolving this crisis by providing opportunities to its citizens, so that they'll not be compelled to leave their country? Does Calderon have a plan to address this issue?

Arturo Sarukhan: There is no more important issue for the future economic and social well-being of Mexico and the United States than the labour flows between our two countries. Whilst a comprehensive immigration reform in the US is critical to a long-term solution, Mexico needs to generate the economic growth that will provide Mexico and Mexicans with decent paying jobs so that they don¿t have to leave their country in search of a better life. Felipe has taken this challenge head on in his electoral platform by proposng the generation of regional poles of economic development in the centre and south of Mexico. We believe that 1 mile of a road built in Mexico will do much more to solve migration flows to the US than 20 miles of walls or fences on our common border.

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Ceci Connolly: Due to technical difficulties, Arturo has been temporarily disconnected. We are attempting to reconnect.

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Birmingham, Ala.: I have been acquainted with the Calderon Hinojosa family for over 30 years. I know them to be honest almost to a fault, and truly dedicated to their country of Mexico. I believe that these qualities of Felipe's will serve Mexico well. And for Mexico's sake I hope he wins.

Arturo Sarukhan: Thank you. I also believe that this is precisely one of Felipe's stronpoints. He represents a new, young, modern Mexico that is breaking the political and ideological shackles of our country's past, a past of corruption, lack of transparency and accountability represented by the PRI and which AMLO would certainly bring back if he were to win.

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Washington, D.C.: Out of the millions of Mexicans living in the U.S, how many actually vote in your presidential election(s)?

Arturo Sarukhan: Fifty Six thousand registered to vote.

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Washington, D.C.: It sounds like this election will be decided by who has the better "turn out the vote" operations, which is something PRI used to do very well. Who has the better "ground operation" in getting voters to the polls in your opinion, PRD or PAN?

Arturo Sarukhan: I am convinced that we do. For proof of this capability, just look at the images of Felipe's closing event this past Sunday at the Aztec Stadium, where 120 thousand people gathered to cheer Felipe on as we enter the last phase of our campaign. I think that the PRD's weakness lies precisely in its inability to mobilize it's supporters nationally.

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Mexico City, Mexico: Could you please describe the differences in foreign affairs programs between Felipe Calderon and Lopez Obrador? How would they affect U.S. interests?

Arturo Sarukhan: I believe that the foreign policy proposales of both candidates are a very clear example of their outlook fot Mexico. We believe that Mexico has to play an active role in the international system. AMLO believes that the best foreign policy is domestic policy. Felipe believes that there is no more important country for the future well-being of Mexico and of Mexicans than the US. AMLO has said that if he is elected presidente he will travel to the US just once during his administration, and that it will be just over the border. We want more Mexico in the world and more world in Mexico, whilst AMLO believes that Mexico has to turn its back on a world that has changed dramatically in the past decade, and that, in his own words, those countries that do not comply with their international commitments fair better than those that do.

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Sayula, Jalisco, Mexico: Freedom is been able to respect all the rules of conduct establish by the religion, the family and the authority of a Nation like PAN does. Licentious is been morally unrestrained like PRD does. Felipe is in accordance with the principles of democracy, Lopez Obrador is characterized by absolute disobedience to Authority. Mexican poverty is because of corruption, the geverment do not respect the law, the law is for Us, but never for Them. PAN begin to come about but if Lopez win We will return to mediocrity and corruption. Mexican politicians confuse what nationalism means, maybe they have inferiority complex, they must be grateful for been friend and partner of America, insted of been ashamed to defend a friend. Will Felipe be a real friend and partner of America? or Wil Felipe be a friend at his convinence like Lopez Obrador? Thanks.

Arturo Sarukhan: I think that Felipe understands the importance that the US has for Mexico's future and that he will be willing and able to deepen and widen bilateral relations, pursuing a mature and constructive dialogue without bending backwards or kowtowing to US interests.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Is there a candidate with sane, rational feelings on immigration? Not to place blame directly, as our own government here is equally at fault for failing to address our own labor demands of the past two decades with a reasonable immigration policy, creating undue pressure on our southern border where that supply is ample -- However, President Fox seems to hold the view that it is the god-given right of every Mexican to work in the United States, rather than address the many problems with his own country. While it would be nice if our economy could absorb that and we could solve world poverty by simply openning up our labor markets to the world -- it is unfortunately a rather irrational feeling of god-given right that your president propogates around your country. However, the Mexican people seem to rally around that "god-given right" mindset -- understandably, considering the opportunity that it presents them, in a place of limited alternatives. Are there any candidates that are running without an unspoken understanding that they will push to open the floodgates as wide as possible, because that is actually bad foreign policy. But rather negotiate sound immigration policy, while acknowledging that blatantly violating that policy is wrong? Or is that unspoken understanding (not so unspoken in Mr. Fox's case) necessary for a candidate to appeal to the Mexican people?

Arturo Sarukhan: You have hit the nail on the head. The choices are certainly not easy but one thing is clear: Mexico cannot build a road to the future when 400 thousand Mexicans cross into the US every year and never come back. We have to understand that the only way to solve this critical issue is through coresponsible, holistic and forward looking solutions. We may disagree on some of the specifics of what we need to do together but I am sure that Americans would agree with us that the objective down the line is to make sure that every single Mexican that crosses into the US does so legally.

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Bethesda, Md.: How can you sell your man as the candidate of continuity, with the dismal record of unfulfiled Mr. Fox's campaign promises? We have not forgotten the promised 8 percent annual growth of the GNP and the solution of the Chiapas problem in 15 minutes ...

Arturo Sarukhan: My answer is simple: Felipe is not Vicente Fox.

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Arlington, Va.: How do you feel your website and the internet in general have affected the campaign?

Arturo Sarukhan: I think that this is the first campaign in Mexico's history where the internet has played a role. It is certainly nowhere close to what happened in the last US presidential election but I believe this election will mark the dawn of a new era in politics and campaigning in Mexico.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Why is Mr. Calderon making cheap attacks toward Mr. Obrador without any basis or foundation? What has come of Mr. Calderon's brother-in-law; did he improperly receive government contracts and fail to pay adequate taxes? What is Mr. Calderon's plan to improve the Mexican labor market.

Arturo Sarukhan: I concur that negative campaigning is probably not the most enlightened way of putting forward proposals. However, given AMLO's decision not to go to the first debate, his unwillingness to put his proposals on the table for a good three months of this campaign, it was inevitable that they only instrument available to us to draw him out and have him speak about his proposals was through a campaign of contrasts. No, Felipe never signed a single contract in favour of his brother in law or any other family member. AMLO himself has recognized this publicly and the IFE, Mexico's electoral independent authority, yesterday ordered the PRD to pull the plug on their spots precisely because they had been unable to prove any connection between Felipe and the business interests of his brother in law

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San Diego, Calif.: How do you feel about lobbying efforts from Mexico on U.S. subjects? How would you feel if the U.S. government did the same in Mexico?

Arturo Sarukhan: I think it is part of the democractic game in a fully globalized world.

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Ceci Connolly: As we are running out of time, I would like to ask you to respond to allegations that the software company run by Calderon's brother-in-law has benefited from government contracts and not paid all its taxes.

Arturo Sarukhan: I have just answered that question Ceci.

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Austin, Tex.: What's the story on the appearence of the voter rolls in one of the campaigns Web pages? There's still a mystery about how that got to the media and the role of Calderon's brother in law in all this.

Arturo Sarukhan: This story was leaked via the internet and has proven to be, once again, baseless, as was confirmed today by the Mexican Federal Electoral Authorities, and independent and autunomous institution.

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Barcelona, Spain: Did PAN use the nominal list illegal? Did PAN use confidencial information (names, addresses, etc.) for electoral use?

Arturo Sarukhan: No. This is once again a disinformation tactic being spun by the PRD, in the same fashion as their spots on Fobaproa and the VAT on medicines and foodstuffs and their allegations regarding Felipe's brother in law. AMLO is a baseball fan...if he were playing he would have already struck out with these three lies.

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Ceci Connolly: We would like to thank Arturo Sarukhan for joining Campaign Conexion today. With the voting scheduled for Sunday, we know it is a very busy time. And a programming note, our next live chat is tomorrow at noon with a representative of Roberto Madrazo's campaign.

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University Park, Md.: Coverage in the Post noted that you closed the gap when you went with hard hitting negative ads making your opponent out like a clone of Venezuala's Chavez. How have they responded? Are you sill getting that lift?

Arturo Sarukhan: I think that the issue helped raise the issue of AMLO¿s intolerance and authoritarianism.

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