Transcript

Mexico Votes 2006

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Roberta Lajous
Campaign Adviser to Presidential Candidate Roberto Madrazo
Wednesday, June 28, 2006; 12:00 PM

Roberta Lajous, campaign adviser to presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo, was online Wednesday, June 28, at noon ET to join washingtonpost.com special correspondent Ceci Connolly for a discussion about Madrazo's presidential campaign in Mexico.

Background Information on Roberto Madrazo.

The transcript follows.

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

Ambassador Lajous was born in Mexico City in 1954 and member of the Mexican Foreign Service since 1979 where she attained the rank of Ambassador in 1995. Lajous holds a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from El Colegio de Mexico and a Master's degree from Stanford University. A member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) since 1989, she founded EXAMEN magazine in the National Executive Committee (CEN), then headed by Luis Donaldo Colosio, and was the magazine's director through 1995. From May 1992 to December 1993, Lajous was Secretary for International Affairs for the PRI's CEN. She is also a founding member of the Fundacion Luis Donaldo Colosio.

Lajous has been Mexico's ambassador to Austria and Cuba, and Permanent Representative from Mexico at the United Nations (UN) in Vienna and New York, the latter during Mexico's tenure in the Security Council. In Mexico's Foreign Ministry, she has held several posts, including Director General for North America, and later, Director General for Europe. Lajous has also been General Coordinator for the Instituto Matias Romero and Director of the Revista Mexicana de Politica Exterior.

Programming Notes:

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

Arturo Sarukhan, campaign adviser to presidential candidate Felipe Calderon, was online Tuesday, June 27, at 11 a.m. ET.

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Ceci Connolly: Welcome to Campaign Conexion's third and final live chat with the representatives of the three leading candidates in Mexico's presidential race. Voting takes place this Sunday and on this, the final day of formal campaigning, the race is too close to call. Joining us today is Amb. Roberta Lajous, a top adviser to PRI candidate Roberto Madrazo.

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Ceci Connolly: Madame Ambassador, I'd like to begin our conversation by asking you to please assess the race at this point.

Roberta Lajous: Today is the last day of campaigning and we are very optimistic about our possibilities to win the presidential election.

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Sayula, Jalisco, Mexico: An strong political party has dint of hard work, principle, courage, respect for the law, self-respect, its members meet theirs obligations, they never ask themselves if they are in accordance with all but if they are in the same way. PRI nowadays suffer fragmentation and setbacks, their corporatism and strength are myths. Will PRI be able to survive after a second defeat due their own sins?

Roberta Lajous: Like Mark Twain once said: the news of my death have been grossly overstated. Madrazo will win the presidency and the PRI will be the first political force in both in the Senate and the House. Also we will win in Jalisco despite the smear campaign against candidate Zamora.

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Wood Lake, Minn.: Given that most Mexicans regard PRI as the originator of the widespread corruption that has crippled Mexico, why hasn't Mr. Madrazo promised more internal reforms of the party?

Roberta Lajous: After the 2000 defeat we have had a long winter of discontent and the PRI is not what it used to be. We have recognized our mistakes from the past and modified our guidelines. Since then, under the leadership of Roberto Madrazo and a new and strengthened grass roots structure we are on the rebound having won already 14 million votes in state and local elections. Since 2003 we are now again the first political force in the country with 17 governors.

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Washington, D.C.: Ambassador Lajous: There have been rumors that the PRI would rather see Lopez Obrador of the PRD win than Calderon of the PAN, and that if the race looks close then many PRI voters will tilt toward AMLO.

What do you make of this? And do you think this election will impact the PRI as much as the one in 2000?

Thank you!

Roberta Lajous: We want Roberto Madrazo in the presidency, no one else.

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Mexico City, Mexico: Ambassador Lajous,

What are the real chances the PRI has of recovering the presidency? What are the main obstacles? Thank you very much.

Roberta Lajous: The chances are very strong given our national party structure. Today we have one million three hundred thousand party members working with the "get out the vote" strategy until Sunday. No other party can claim such national coverage. The other two leading parties are either strong in the north or in the south, but we are the only one with national strength, they couldn't even accredit party representatives in each voting booth. Regarding obstacles we face having been the last major party to have a presidential candidate and having scarce campaign resources given the fines that were imposed on us by the electoral authority.

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Ceci Connolly: Many analysts here in Mexico say that the PRI is a party without a clear agenda, that Madrazo's appeal in the center is too fuzzy to attract majority support. Can you respond and tell our readers a bit more about how the PRI agenda differs from Mexico's other two parties?

Roberta Lajous: The PRI has a clear agenda and public policy proposals to address employment, crime and poverty. We are neither the bellicose populist left nor the insensitive right and we have not engaged in the smear campaign that has characterized PAN and PRD. Roberto Madrazo is the only candidate with a successful record in government.

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Washington, D.C.: I understand that SkyNews and the BBC temporarily stopped broadcasting to Mexico for fear of violating election laws regarding poll number release and perceived foreign influence. Could you explain Mexico's regulations against releasing polling information on the news and restrictions on foreign involvement? Also, is either campaign utilizing American consultants?

Roberta Lajous: All political parties agreed to certain rules to be respected before, during and after the electoral process. One of them deals with the restriction to publish polls after last Friday, June 23 in order to avoid more confrontation and confusion on the last days. Also, all parties agreed to cease their campaigns today today Wednesday June 28 so voters have enough time to reflect.

In the case of PRI we don't have American consultants as far as I know, but there is no legal impediment to have them.

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San Diego, Calif.: Amb. Lajous: The PRI has been very critical of President Fox's foreign policy but both you and Amb. Rosario Green, now Secretary-General of the party and a candidate for the Senate served during his term, how do you explain that?

Roberta Lajous: In my case, I am a career foreign service officer currently on leave. There is no contradiction between being part of the foreign service and having a partisan membership as in my case.

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Mexico City, Mexico: Ambassador Lajous, will Roberto Madrazo's foreign policy take into account the changes in the world since PRI lost the presidency or will it continue with a rather nationalistic and anti-American tendency?

Roberta Lajous: Roberto Madrazo's foreign policy proposal received the highest mark by external evaluators from the Centro de Estudios Espinosa Yglesias (www.ceey.org). His world view takes well into account the globalization process and makes a strong point about strengthening NAFTA and reaching a true understanding with Washington on pending issues such as migration, regional competitiveness and security.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Regardless of who wins the presidency, any president will have to face a highly partisan, overpaid, underworked Mexican Congress. That Congress, thanks to a PRI-PAN congressional alliance, stalled any of the serious structural reforms Pres. Fox proposed. Are we in the USA looking too much at the presidency -- which doesn't have the power it used to have -- and not enough at what's happening with the Mexican congress?

Roberta Lajous: Roberto Madrazo has made a campaign proposal to reduce the number of legislators because he believes they are too many to run an efficient legislature. The PRI will have the largest number of representatives in each House. When we were last in government we were able to negotiate the structural reforms that led to the opening up of the Mexican economy and NAFTA by negotiating with other parties in Congress. Unfortunately President Fox lacked the leadership skills to negotiate urgently needed reforms in fiscal, energy, labor and rule of law concerns for Mexico. The country is disappointed with PAN's lack of experience and meager results in government. We need a change and PRI has proven experience and capacity to deliver reforms.

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Washington, D.C.: I've asked a similar question when your counterparts were on this forum Monday and Tuesday. Is Mr. Roberto Madrazo well-known inside the Capital Beltway? Any previous contact(s) with the White House and/or Congress?

Roberta Lajous: Roberto Madrazo has been in politics all his life and therefore is well known by American politicians. He understands the US, speaks English and has a graduate degree from UCLA in Urban Planning. Some of his close associates are well acquainted inside the Beltway.

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Monterrey, Mexico: Madame Ambassador: How important was for the Madrazo campaign the change in your media strategy? What does that say of the PRI proposals?

Roberta Lajous: The proposals have been the same all along although there have been media strategy adjustments. Roberto Madrazo published a book at the beginning of his campaign called "Bases para un gobierno firme y con rumbo" that is on sale in major stores and you can consult by Internet: www.todosconmadrazo.com

He has stood firmly on his views on Mexico and the world there expressed.

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Monterrey, Mexico: Do you see a danger in Mexico of having a huge political division among the regions (North and South) as in the U.S. there are red states and blue states could we see that in Mexico? Blue states in the north, yellow states in the south?

Roberta Lajous: Fortunately the PRI is a national party strong in the north, center and south. And that is the reason we will win.

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Washington, D.C.: Madame Ambassador, how is the relationship between the PRI and the Teachers' Union? I understand that teachers were critical assisting with getting out the vote efforts in the past, but this relationship seemed to be strained due to the frictions with Elba Esther Gordillo. How would you assess this relationship right now? Thanks.

Roberta Lajous: Most teachers are in the grass roots structure of the PRI. We have a lot of teachers who are candidates and union members identify with them.

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Ceci Connolly: We'd like to thank Amb. Lajous for being so generous with her time this close to election day. Tomorrow, Campaign Conexion will have special coverage of the youth vote (including video) and a report from Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's final rally in the Mexico City Zocalo.

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