INTERNATIONAL

Mexico presidential candidates offer little detail to address country’s violence in final debate

MEXICO CITY — Less than two weeks from national elections, opposition presidential candidate Xóchitl Gálvez hit away on security, one of Mexico’s most stubborn challenges, in her final debate Sunday night with governing party candidate Claudia Sheinbaum.

Mexico presidential candidates offer little detail to address country’s violence in final debate

Sheinbaum, the frontrunner in the race, defended the security record of her mentor, outgoing President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, while Gálvez accused the administration of playing nice with the country’s powerful drug cartels.

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“What has been this administration’s strategy? Give the country to organized crime,” said Gálvez, a former senator and tech entrepreneur.

But Sheinbaum, a former Mexico City mayor and climate scientist, maintained the conservative strategy that she employed in two previous debates, not taking the bait when Gálvez attacked.

Gálvez promised to keep and strengthen the National Guard that López Obrador created, but also strengthen state and local police forces.

“Hugs for criminals are over,” she said in reference to López Obrador’s oft-repeated slogan, “Hugs, not bullets.”

She also promised to personally lead the meetings of the National Search Commission, which is supposed to help locate the 100,000 Mexicans listed as missing.

Both candidates said they would lean heavily on the National Guard, saying they would continue to expand it. In one potential difference, Gálvez said she wants it under civilian leadership.

Sheinbaum promised to continue López Obrador’s efforts to address the social ills that he says feed cartel recruitment.

“The drug war continued until President Andrés Manuel López Obrador arrived and changed the policy of declaring war to building peace,” Sheinbaum said.

Sheinbaum did not make any major stumbles and it seemed unlikely Gálvez would eat into the comfortable lead that Sheinbaum has maintained in polls in recent months.

Jorge Álvarez Máynez of the small Citizen Movement party continued to focus his attention on the country’s youth, repeating his promises of a five-day work week and more spaces in public universities.

He has trailed Sheinbaum and Gálvez who are vying to become Mexico’s first woman president in the June 2 election.

Mexico is extremely polarized ahead of the June 2 presidential election. López Obrador regularly rails against reporters, the middle class, businessmen and people he calls “individualists” and social climbers.

Earlier Sunday, tens of thousands of mostly opposition supporters protested against the president in the capital’s vast colonial-era main plaza.

The protesters carried signs saying “We are Mexicans,” referring to what they claim are attempts by López Obrador to divide the country.

The protest was originally called to defend independent electoral agencies that the president wants to reduce or de-fund. But many protesters carried banners supporting Gálvez.

Mexican presidents are limited to a single six-year term.

Mexico City resident Joel Guerra, 59, carried a sign that read “Reclaim Mexico.”

“The president says that only his supporters are ‘the good people’ of Mexico, and the rest of us don’t have rights,” Guerra said. “We are people, too.”

Guerra was particularly concerned by a new law that López Obrador has passed that seizes unclaimed personal pension accounts to hand out to other retirees.

“Unfortunately, the people governing us right now have completely divided the country,” businesswoman Alana Leal said. “There are two groups of Mexicans, and that’s not fair. It’s not fair to create so much hate, because at the end of the day, we’re all in the same boat, and we are all working for the country’s progress.”

López Obrador frequently attacks anyone who disagrees with him as “racist, classist, conservative.” He also favors state-owned companies and government hand-out programs and derides the accumulation of personal wealth.

Sheinbaum has pledged to try to reconcile Mexicans if she wins, but Leal said he doubted she would.

“I think it will be very difficult to achieve a reconciliation between the two groups,” she said, adding, “That is very regrettable.”

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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