An incomplete democracy

Bombers, cowboys, reality stars and clowns. Mexican democracy starts here.

Mexicans often refer to their politics as “a joke”. Indeed, the midterm elections on 7 June to appoint nine state governors, 500 congressmen and hundreds of local officials featured a whole list of improbable – if not ludicrous – candidates new to the political scene. Among them, a famous TV clown, a soccer star, a former Big Brother contestant and a rancher with a cowboy hat riding a white horse to victory. But the outcome – and possible impact – of these elections was serious, even historic.

The ballot was expected to be a test for democracy in Mexico. On election night, it was clear a political earthquake had shaken the country. The quake centred around one man, Jaime Rodríguez, who had run as an independent for governor in Nuevo León, a wealthy but violent state on the US border. Nicknamed “El Bronco”, or “Wild Horse”, Rodríguez became popular thanks to his profanity-laced straight talk. To many, he sounded like a more genuine voice in a political landscape marked by corruption and impunity.

Unlike many politicians of the élite in power, the 57-year-old rancher has experienced Mexico’s violence first-hand. While mayor of García, a small town in Nuevo León, he survived two assassination attempts and rescued his two-year-old daughter from kidnappers. Worse still, his 22- year-old son – one of his six children – was abducted and killed in 2009.

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