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Mexican Politics Comes to UCLA

The Latin American Center has scheduled speakers from the three major political parties in this year's Mexican presidential election to give guest lectures at UCLA.

In the future, the Mexican-American vote will play a significant role in the election of the Mexican president if we find an easier way for them to vote.

This article was first published in the Daily Bruin.

By Udeitha Srimushnam, Daily Bruin contributor

In an effort to increase knowledge and create an opportunity for discussion, the Latin American Center has scheduled speakers from the three major political parties in this year's Mexican presidential election to give guest lectures at UCLA.

"It brings important people in Mexican politics to UCLA in a place where (students) wouldn't see (them) otherwise," UCLA alumnus Eddie Urenda said.

Urenda was part of the Program on Mexico, a group within the UCLA Latin American Center, which conducts research regarding Mexico.

Today, Juan Hernández, a representative from Mexican presidential candidate Felipe Calderón's campaign, will be lecturing on issues relevant to the election.

The growing population of Mexican citizens living in the U.S. has begun to have an influence on Mexican politics, said Alfonso Galindo, head of the UCLA Office in Mexico.

These citizens are eligible to vote in Mexican elections, but due to their low voter registration, their direct political impact is currently negligible.

But Galindo believes the situation will likely change.

"In the future, the Mexican-American vote will play a significant role in the election of the Mexican president if we find an easier way for them to vote," he said.

Galindo emphasized that the UCLA campus' open environment attracts a variety of speakers who normally do not converge.

"Mexican politicians seldom coincide in a conference in Mexico because they always think that organizers are biased," he said. "At UCLA, with 30 years' work from the LAC Program on Mexico, we have been able to show that we are impartial and willing to work with all ideologies."

While the three major parties do share some perspectives, their candidates' platforms reflect varying views on Mexican government.

Calderón, the National Action Party – PAN – candidate, is advocating better public safety, a continuance of a healthy economic system and a decrease in corruption and organized crime.

In keeping with the PAN party line, Calderón supports privatization and a lesser role for the state in business, said James Wilkie, a UCLA history professor and chairman of the Program on Mexico.

Traditionally, PAN and the Institutional Revolutionary Party – PRI – have shared this view, but Wilkie said Calderón's ideas for the energy sector differentiate him from his PRI opponent, Roberto Madrazo Pintado.

"Calderón would like to allow private foreign money into the energy sector. Madrazo doesn't want that. He wants to protect it," Wilkie said.

While traditionally PRI and PAN have shared their views on a small role for the state, they differ in the way they view their constituency.

PRI has traditionally shown political interest in groups and labor unions whereas PAN has placed emphasis on the individual, Galindo said.

The third major party, the Democratic Revolutionary Party – PRD – has a different idea on the government's role.

PRD candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador seeks to return the state to a more active role, "perhaps even a statist role, again controlling more than 50 percent of the (gross domestic product)," Wilkie said.

Obrador does not want foreign investment in Mexican energy, though such a strategy may not meet Mexico's energy needs, Wilkie added.

Last week, Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, a founding member of the PRD, spoke about the difficulty in registering Mexican voters in the United States.

Rosario Green, a representative of the PRI, was scheduled to lecture Thursday, but the event has been tentatively moved to April because of logistical difficulties, Galindo said.

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