Leading presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador has made “a pact of impunity” with President Enrique Peña Nieto, according to the campaign boss of second-place candidate Ricardo Anaya.
Jorge Castañeda, who served as Secretary of Foreign Affairs during Vicente Fox’s presidency, claims that the agreement stipulates that Peña Nieto will not seek to obstruct López Obrador’s path to the presidency by orchestrating or encouraging opposition against him.
In exchange, he says, the Morena party leader has agreed not to seek to prosecute Peña Nieto, whose administration has been plagued by corruption scandals, if he is elected July 1.
Castañeda made the claim in a video posted to his social media accounts on Monday, in an opinion piece for the newspaper El Financiero the same day and again in an interview with the newspaper El Universal yesterday.
In a two-minute video on Twitter, the campaign chief said that achieving the pact is a “great” breakthrough for López Obrador “because this way he avoids” what happened to him in the presidential campaigns of 2006 and 2012: everyone ganging up on him.
Castañeda said that in both those campaigns “all the business people, the powers that be, the church and even the North Americans” joined forces to stop López Obrador from becoming president.
He stressed that all organized action against the leftist candidate had occurred within the framework of the law.
In his El Financiero piece, Castañeda wrote that former presidents Fox and Felipe Calderón had organized “a virtual second round” of the election by uniting the opposition to López Obrador behind one candidate.
Castañeda told El Universal that the strategy involved Fox and Calderón encouraging a voto útil, or strategic vote, against López Obrador that benefited the winners of Mexico’s two previous presidential elections, Calderón in 2006 and Peña Nieto in 2012.
But during this campaign Peña Nieto has neither organized opposition against the third-time candidate nor encouraged the electorate to vote for his nearest rival, which Castañeda charged is further evidence of the alleged pact.
“There wouldn’t be anything wrong with Peña Nieto doing it for Anaya, if he wanted to. He didn’t want to, which is within his rights, but Andrés Manuel is the clear beneficiary. Why does Peña Nieto do it [refuse to endorse Anaya]? Out of generosity, out of unanimity, because he’s a man? No! He does it so they don’t throw him in the slammer . . .” he said.
Pressed by El Universal to provide proof of his assertion, Castañeda first questioned why Morena national president Yeidckol Polvensky had sung the praises of former attorney general Raúl Cervantes, who served in Peña Nieto’s administration.
“Why? Just because they’re friends? Cervantes . . . is the one who did nothing about [the] Odebrecht [corruption scandal] . . . the one who . . . spied on journalists and human rights activists via the Pegasus system . . . Why does Yeidckol extol him?”
Castañeda also charged that Polvensky considers the former secretary general of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Alejandro Gutiérrez, currently in prison awaiting trial on corruption charges, as a political prisoner of Chihuahua Governor Javier Corral, who has clashed with the federal administration.
“There are a lot of elements [but] maybe the most important ones are Andrés Manuel’s statements that we have to support President Peña Nieto until the end of his term. And why do we have to support him? Because they have a pact, it seems totally obvious to me,” he said.
At a rally in Guanajuato last week, López Obrador said the aim of that support for Peña Nieto was to ensure a presidential transition “without shocks” and so that there is not a “parallel power” in the period between the July 1 election and the swearing-in of the new president on December 1.
However, López Obrador rejected that he had made any pact with Peña Nieto.
“I haven’t seen President Peña for six years, since the [2012 election] debate when we were candidates. We don’t make agreements in the dark. What we do is in the public eye, always,” he said.
With less than a month until election day, the candidate known throughout the country as AMLO maintains a commanding lead over his rivals. Spanish newspaper El País predicted this week that he has a 92% probability of winning compared to a 7% chance that Anaya will prevail.
Asked about the current state of Anaya’s campaign, Castañeda said that the For Mexico in Front coalition candidate “is not in the ideal position we would have liked” but felt the distance separating him from López Obrador could still be overcome.
“. . . He’s in a comfortable second place which means that if the famous voto útil comes into play, it will by necessity go to Anaya,” he said.
However, Bloomberg’s most recent poll tracker and the latest survey by the newspaper Reforma both show that AMLO has support of above 50%, suggesting that not even the entirety of the combined votes of Anaya and ruling party candidate José Antonio Meade would be enough to stop the third-time candidate from becoming Mexico’s next president.
But Castañeda stressed that there are a large number of voters who still haven’t made up their minds although he conceded that it was difficult to know exactly how many uncommitted voters there are in the electorate, adding that time is running out.
“. . . It’s a brief period but in a lot of other campaigns things have changed a lot in a month . . . It’s tight, but it’s possible,” he said.
Castañeda said that Anaya has been damaged by allegations that he benefited from a money laundering scheme related to the sale of a warehouse he owned in his home state of Querétaro.
Members of Anaya’s National Action Party-led coalition accused the federal Attorney General’s office (PGR) of conducting a “dirty war” on behalf of the ruling PRI.
“If the government wanted to weaken Anaya, they did it. If what they wanted was to make López Obrador stronger, they also did that. If what they wanted was to make Meade stronger, they didn’t do it, on the contrary, they weakened him, that was a significant factor,” Castañeda said.
A second factor that has held Anaya back, the candidate’s campaign chief said, is that decision making processes within the For Mexico in Front coalition have been “a little slow.”
However, in El Financiero Anaya’s campaign boss suggested that Anaya may still have an ace up his sleeve that could allow him to be the next president.
“What will history say about the pact of immunity AMLO-EPN [Enrique Peña Nieto]?” Castañeda questioned.
“If the electorate doesn’t punish it — and I think it will — the [legal] judgement could be very severe.”