Foreign Policy Blogs

Enrique Peña Nieto’s Candidacy Shows its Vulnerabilities

In little over a week since officially entering Mexico’s 2012 Presidential contest, the campaign of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s (PRI) Enrique Peña Nieto already finds itself in full damage control following an embarrassing performance by the candidate during the presentation of his new book, and disparaging comments made by the candidate’s teenage daughter.

While speaking at the Guadalajara International Book Fair, Peña Nieto was asked to name three books that have shaped or informed his life. The Presidential candidate began by citing the Bible (while qualifying that he hasn’t read all of it “just parts”) and then proceeded to name partial titles of other books and mistaking the names of their authors. The three minute-long fumble (and accompanying stream of laughter from the crowd) would not of been as remarkable had it not been for the governor’s carefully guarded public image and reputation for being a polished and articulate politician.

The gaffe risks adding to perceptions that the candidate lacks depth and is simply the product of the country’s old guard and media duopoly (longtime supporters of Peña Nieto’s candidacy). Peña Nieto’s floundering also became an instant source for comedy on social networks, with twitter users offering book recommendations for the candidate under the hashtag #LibreriaPeñaNieto (Peña Nieto Library).

Further damage to Peña Nieto was added by his teenage daughter, Paulina Peña Nieto Pretelini, who came to her father’s defense by re-tweeting a message from her supposed boyfriend:

“Greetings to all of the idiots that form part of the proletariat and only criticize those they envy”

The tweet prompted an immediate closing of the adolescent’s twitter account and a public apology by her father (delivered via social networks of course). Apology withstanding, the damage by the young woman’s tweet had already been made. The classist overtones of the tweet revived feelings of elitism associated with the party (and people) who held Mexico’s presidency for an uninterrupted 71 years, and highlighted the country’s longstanding class divisions.

Peña Nieto’s long-held advantage in public opinion polls represents the PRI’s best shot at recapturing the office that it lost in the 2000 Presidential elections. The party’s popularity is an astonishing accomplishment for a group once synonymous with the corruption and authoritarianism of Mexico’s 71-year one-party rule. Peña Nieto’s fresh image and celebrity lifestyle (he is married to former soap-star Angelica Rivera) has for the most part succeeded in rebranding his party as one of youth, idealism, and competence. The elitism that Paulina Peña Nieto’s tweet projected is exactly the type of depiction that the party has worked to disassociate itself with.

While the candidate still holds a comfortable advantage over all likely opponents, his recent mistakes demonstrate Peña Nieto’s vulnerability to unscripted events and platforms not curated by the country’s media barons. Although Peña Nieto is sure to recover from this week’s mistakes, opponents should now feel greater confidence in their ability to attack the young governor and derail his seemingly inevitable victory.

  • Luz Maria Alvarez-Wilson

    This Mexican candidate reminded me of the other American candidate who could not remember which Newspapers or books she read. Mexican politicos train more in the art of pleasing their bosses and mentors than anything else, but I am amazed at his huge display of ignorance, particularly in a country where intellectual knowledge is a must.

    As per his daughter’s comments, she is only 15, but her comments importantly represents how disconnected the upper classes are from the reality of the country.

    As a Mexican citizen, I sincerely hope that this candidate will have the same end as the American candidate who showed her charismatic personality a little bit too much on tv and everywhere to the point that she could not hide anymore who she really was.

    • Ariana Martin

      Well Said Luz Maria.

    • panchex

      @Luz María: I was going to add a comment but yours summarizes perfectly what most Mexicans think. It would be a shame if we vote for this prick.

  • pauo grosz

    mexico intellectualism: a mile wide, an inch deep

  • tomas caparroso franco

    let me be clear , we need in mexico a politician not an intellectual , to know of books is important , but your background , expirience is more important than a trivia answer.
    peña nieto is a man with expirience

    • Rodrigo Camarena

      Maybe, but an experienced politician would be able to think on his feet and know how to improvise. He was, after all, at a book fair promoting his own book….

  • rogger

    ese pena nieto es un pendejete que solo cambia de partido a combeniencia. y que dice eso? que es un convenenciero y que con poco se vende. aparte de maricon porque hay video donde se besa y coje con otro hombre (companero de escuela) y solo queda la conveniencia. y asi quieres governar a MEXICO, maricon. no MAMES.