Mexico ruling party: Rival PRI candidate a 'liar'

AP News
Posted: Apr 12, 2012 8:11 PM
Mexico ruling party: Rival PRI candidate a 'liar'

Mexico's presidential front-runner huddled with advisers Thursday to respond to a negative campaign ad by the ruling party that calls him a "liar" and strikes at the heart of a successful message that he produces results.

The ad by the National Action Party shows a polluted lake and an unfinished road among the list of 608 projects that Enrique Pena Nieto says he completed during his term as the Institutional Revolutionary Party governor of Mexico state.

That list has been a cornerstone of his presidential campaign, which carries the slogan "I know how to deliver."

"Pena Nieto is a liar," says the ad, even though it was not clear Thursday when it would be aired. Nevertheless, it has caused an uproar since it appeared late Monday on the website of the national elections commission, which controls all election advertising.

The tone is reminiscent of National Action's 2006 ad campaign against then front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador that called him "a danger for Mexico," and eroded his comfortable lead over Felipe Calderon. Calderon went on to win the presidency.

Negative campaigning that denigrates or slanders people was banned in Mexico's election law in 2007 as a result.

"We want to start a public debate on whether Pena Nieto keeps his word," Roberto Gil, campaign coordinator for PAN presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota, told Mexico's MVS radio.

Officials of Pena Nieto's party, known as PRI, dismissed the ad as dirty tactics by a desperate candidate.

Vazquez Mota trails Pena Nieto by more than 20 points in some polls for the July 1 election after making a series of missteps in the first week of the campaign that started March 30. She installed some of Calderon's top advisers Monday in a shake-up of her campaign leadership.

Pena Nieto said Thursday he wouldn't dignify the charges with a comment.

"I won't be distracted by responding to accusations by other parties," he said in a campaign stop.

But the PRI has spent all week reviewing all of the 608 projects that Pena Nieto said he completed as governor of Mexico's most populous state from 2005 to 2011.

Campaign officials canceled appointments and met for more than half the day Thursday, in part to prepare for a news conference on Friday denouncing the ad.

Lopez Obrador was criticized in 2006 from not responding to Calderon's ads that compared him to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and showed him ridiculing then-President Vicente Fox, something considered disrespectful among Mexicans. His lead of more than 10 points started to evaporate after the ad aired. Lopez Obrador is again the candidate of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. He is in third place in most polls, though some showed him nearly tying Vazquez Mota this week.

PRI spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said the party would file a complaint with the electoral commission over the ad.

"This is a negative campaign that is prohibited under the law because it is slanderous and libelous," Sanchez said. "What they're saying is lies."

The PRI countered that Vazquez Mota is also lying because she said in one spot that during her time as development secretary under Fox, her agency replaced dirt floors with cement in 3 million homes of the poor. The PRI said Fox's own statistics show only 390,000 such floors.

The PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years, is trying to regain the presidency after losing it to the PAN in 2000. Voters seem weary after little change under 12 years of the PAN and a drug war that has killed more than 47,500 people during Calderon's term.

PAN officials said Thursday they had found more unfinished projects on Pena Nieto's list and would continue to upload them to the internet or show the public.