Editorials | Opinions | December 2006
|How Mexican President Calderon Kept His Word|
Allan Wall - MexiData.info
How did Felipe Calderon do it?
|Mexican President Felipe Calderon makes a televised speech to the nation to announce austerity measures in the official residence, Los Pinos, in Mexico City on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2006. Calderon decreed a 10 percent pay cut for himself and his cabinet members on Sunday, echoing a central campaign promise of the leftist rival he beat by a razor-thin margin. (AP/Moises Castillo)|
Mexican Inauguration Day was looking to be a real disaster — but it turned into a triumph for Mexico’s new president, and hopefully for Mexico.
A combination of Mexican constitutional and customary practice calls for a new president to take the oath of office before Congress on December 1st, the day he becomes president.
But this year the opposition PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) faction in the Mexican Congress promised to prevent Calderon from taking his oath at the podium in the Chamber of Deputies.
The PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) suggested the new president take his oath at another venue, to avoid confrontation. But Calderon was adamant, insisting he must comply with his constitutional duty.
Then, on November 28th, PRD legislators rushed the podium platform. Their plan was to physically take control of the entire platform and remain there until December 1st, to prevent Calderon from mounting the dais to take the oath. Not to be outdone, PAN legislators rushed the platform also, to prevent the PRD from controlling it.
So there they remained for three days, in a surreal display of legislative behavior broadcast to the world. The two warring factions remained on the platform, day and night, from November 28th to December 1st. Each faction was afraid that, if it left, the other band would take control.
So how was Calderon able to take his oath in front of Congress?
By the morning of December 1st things were as chaotic — if not more so — as ever. On the chamber floor a real donnybrook was underway, with PAN and PRD legislators pushing and shoving, and even slamming chairs. Reality TV at its finest!
Embarrassingly, foreign dignitaries were already arriving, among them former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Heir Apparent Prince Felipe, son of the monarch of Spain. Schwarzenegger must have felt he was back on an action movie set, and he even quipped upon arrival, “It’s good action.”
Things were not looking good, but suddenly both Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox (who had been warned not to attend) entered through a side door and walked right to the center of the dais. Amid catcalls, Calderon extended his right hand and repeated the inaugural oath — nothing less, nothing more. Then he received the presidential sash and they all launched into a spirited rendition of the Mexican National Anthem. Then they exited.
It had taken four minutes, but Calderon had kept his promise and done his duty. And nobody was tear gassed or hit on the head. The only violence was what the legislators had perpetrated upon each other.
Watching this on TV at home, I was impressed.
How did Calderon do it?
The next day details were leaked. The EMP (“Estado Mayor Presidencial,” a military guard entrusted with the president’s security) had been working on the problem for weeks. They had devised six different strategies in order to get Calderon into the chamber, on the platform, so he could take his oath. (Maybe the most bizarre scenario was the infiltration of EMP agents, incognito as a military band; another was to install hundreds of large flowerpots in the legislative chamber to impede movement. These plans however were not used.)
After the campout on the platform began, EMP planners studied photos of the assembled legislators on the dais and memorized where each delegation was located.
On December 1st they simply ushered Fox and Calderon into a back door of the legislative chamber, from which the two men easily walked through the PAN legislators to the center of the dais. The rest is history.
The rest of the day was a normal Inauguration Day in which Calderon delivered a speech at the National Auditorium and reviewed Mexican troops on the Campo Marte parade grounds.
My respects to the EMP, they really pulled it off.
Politically, it was good for Calderon who showed he can keep a promise and exercise authority in a difficult situation. That’s important.
Now Calderon faces an even bigger challenge — to govern Mexico, with all its pressing problems. That’s an even bigger challenge than getting into a raucous legislative chamber to take an oath.
And I hope Calderon can be successful, for the good of Mexico.
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at AllanWall.net.
Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.