Mexican conservatives shake up presidential campaign

Reuters News

4/4/2012 3:08:46 PM - Reuters News

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Conservative candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota will re-jig her campaign to become Mexico's first woman president in an effort to close a yawning gap with the opposition front-runner, her party leader said on Wednesday.

Gustavo Madero, head of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, announced the changes in the election strategy as the vote looms just 12 weeks away.

"The strategies are begin reviewed," Madero told reporters. "There will be adjustments."

Madero did not specify what the new strategy will entail but said that campaign director Roberto Gil will keep his job.

Vazquez Mota is trailing by double digits behind Enrique Pena Nieto, a former governor running for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

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The PRI ruled Mexico for most of the 20th century but was ousted by the PAN and is now trying to capitalize on voters' frustrations with President Felipe Calderon's administration and a drug war that has left more than 50,000 people dead in the past five years.

Calderon is prohibited by the constitution from standing for a second term.

The PRI rallied around Pena Nieto early on while the PAN held a closely contested primary race, giving the opposition more time to consolidate their support well ahead of the July 1 vote, Madero said.

"Our campaign began with a six-month disadvantage because the others started in November and ours didn't get going until February when we finally had our candidate," he said.

The party has been burdened by in-fighting after Vazquez Mota won the nomination over the president's perceived favorite - former finance minister Ernesto Cordero.

Adding to the headaches, late on Tuesday private security guards detected a suspicious package outside the PAN's campaign headquarters in Mexico City, setting off a bomb scare.

Police arrived and found the package was a bag of bread - 'pan' also means bread in Spanish - along with a note calling for the party to get its act together.

The prank reflects frustrations with the fitful start of Vazquez Mota's campaign since the race officially kicked off on March 30. She felt ill and was shaky at one event and a small, rowdy protest canceled another.

Vazquez Mota fought back this week by doing a television interview while working out on an exercise machine to prove she is in good health.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Philip Barbara)