May 7th, 2012
Mexico Presidential Debate: A Playboy Bunny In An Upside World

Susana Hayward Soler, News Taco

The four candidates got off to a slow start in Mexico’s televised presidential debate Sunday night, but then she walked in, wearing a tight white dress.

Social media was already abuzz about the debate, the first before the July 1 presidential election that comes at a critical time in Mexico’s history, awash as it is in unprecedented drug war violence, bodies piling up everywhere.

It’s also the first time Mexico has a woman presidential candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, an economist who was Secretary of Public Education, running for the ruling conservative National Action Party, or PAN.

The tension was palpable. Vasquez Mota’s hand shook so much from nerves it became a top trend on Twitter. But as mentioned, she walked in.

She is Julia Orayen, and she had a job to do: Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, which hosted the debate, hired her to assist.

It’s a time-honored tradition in Mexico: beautiful young women called edecanes are employed as assistants during government and political functions. They do things like make sure everyone has water, show people the way to their seats and otherwise brighten up drab events.

No sooner had she paraded in front of the cameras that everyone went whoa! Immediately, a photo of her walking on the stage, assisting in a dress with a hole in the middle of her chest emphasizing her glory, ripped through the Internet at the speed of light.

Not since Jennifer Lopez presented the Oscars with the navel-plunging number has an audience been so aflutter.

You have to give it to all those citizen journalists for an immediate investigation as to Orayen’s biography, most recently gracing the cover, and many inside pages, of Mexico’s Playboy.

The poor candidates had no chance; contender Gabriel Quadri of a newly-created alliance party called PANAL, was caught by cameras glaring at her generous posterior. How could he not?

But OK, there were other memorable moments. Sometime during the middle of a discussion about who was more corrupt, leftist candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador, an indefatigable politician who’s still bitter about losing the 2006 election to outgoing President Felipe Calderon, had something up his sleeve.

He had a photograph sure to prove to the world that leading candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party that governed Mexico for 71 years, was the chosen pretty-boy of ex-President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, godfather of all things wicked.

A smirk of victory on his face, Lopez Obrador pulled the photo for all to see, showing Pena Nieto and Salinas sitting cozily together at a recent fancy dinner. Except, it was upside down.

Esta al revez!” It’s upside down, people shouted.

“The world is upside down,” said an embarrassed Lopez Obrador, trying to recover from the foolhardy moment.

Mexico doesn’t have a strong tradition of democracy, much less televised debates. It was only in 2000 that an opposition party won, with the election of the cowboy boot-stomping Vicente Fox, now making headlines for his galloping stance to legalize all drugs, not just marijuana.

And it was certainly the first debate in which social media ruled the roost, an unprecedented development giving Mexicans a voice and exposing politicians to real-time criticism.

Although the candidates didn’t propose any life-altering political platforms, the debate was a triumph; voters are sure to be glued to the next one.

“The winner of the debate … Julia Orayen,’’ the renowned columnist Sergio Sarmiento said on his Twitter account. “None of the candidates appears to have gained the momentum to change the course of the election.”

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