Mexico‘s four presidential candidates faced off in their third and final debate before the country’s elections on July 1.
The debate took place in the city of Merida on Tuesday night and focused on economic growth, poverty, health, education and technology, based on questions culled from social media.
Frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a commanding lead of up to 20 percent in some polls over his main rivals, Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Ricardo Anaya who represents a left-right coalition, and Jaime Rodriguez “Bronco”, an independent.
The 64-year-old Lopez Obrador has benefited from widespread disenchantment with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party over political corruption, record levels of violence and sluggish economic growth.
During the debate, Lopez Obrador and Meade clashed over economic policy, with Meade arguing that the policies of the leftist Lopez Obrador would lead to rising poverty and unemployment.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” Meade said.
Lopez Obrador said he would try to save the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which is threatened by recent negotiations with US President Donald Trump, but he also said he wanted to strengthen Mexico’s domestic market.
“I am going to suggest that the treaty remains, but (the end of NAFTA) cannot be fatal for Mexicans, our country has a lot of natural resources, a lot of wealth,” he said.
Anaya aimed a salvo at current President Enrique Pena Nieto, pledging that “there will be a commission to directly investigate the president” for alleged scandals, including a mansion that first lady Angelica Rivera bought from a government contractor.
Below a review of key quotes on the main topics:
Obrador: “It is demonstrated that in the countries where corruption is non-existent, there is no poverty. Corruption is the cancer that is destroying Mexico.”
“I estimate that the government steals more than 500,000 million pesos [$24m] per year. This, combined with the reduction of government privileges from those on the top, will allow us to increase the wages for those on the lower levels.”
Bronco: “The economic change has to be done by reducing taxes. The government must be shrunk.”
“We have to make people work, and we have to separate real vulnerability from assistentialism,” Bronco said. “There are a lot of lazy people in this country who are receiving government aid.”
Meade: “If we want to grow, we have to shrink the gap between men and women, the inclusion of women in production, we could increase the GDP (gross domestic product) by half a point if we shrink this gap.”
“[We must] continue with the National Inclusion Strategy, two million people came out of extreme poverty. I know how to face this challenge, and I’ve given results [when I was in the government].”
Anaya: “The best social policy that exists is employment, well-paid employment.”
“To stimulate the economy it’s not necessary to increase taxes. In my government, everyone that earns less than $10,000 pesos/month [$482] will not pay taxes. This is how we’ll help the families’ economy.”
There are a lot of lazy people in this country who are receiving government aid.
Bronco: “The father and the mother have to stop being easy on their kids and to give the power to the teacher … We have to give back to power to the teachers, not to a syndicate.”
Anaya: “I don’t agree with the use that has been given to the [education] reform, to punish the teachers, this government spent more money in publicity than what was spent in the skills development of more than one million teachers.”
Obrador: “I will cancel the essence of the [education] reform, because I don’t consider it to be an education reform, but rather a labour reform with a neoliberal and privatising orientation.”
Meade: “In Mexico, there are 48 million students that didn’t finish preparatory school … therein lies our main problem. Among many thing,s we also have to create the conditions to give research opportunities in the universities to highly skilled Mexicans.”
I will cancel the essence of the [education] reform, because I don’t consider it to be an education reform, but rather a labour reform with a neoliberal and privatising orientation.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
Obrador: “If you eliminate the corruption in the medication procurement, you have enough to give free medication to everyone in Mexico.”
Meade: “All clinics and hospitals must be fully equipped, with 100 percent medication and must be open 24/7. It is an agile system that works and gives response to Mexicans. It can be achieved with a better administration and a good compensation from the government to the healthcare providers.”
Anaya: “We all have a friend or family member that has diabetes. In my government, we will create a special programme for them, with well-trained personnel. I assure you that you will have all the necessary medication, starting with insulin, for a good quality of life.”
Bronco: “My plan is to make healthcare universal, that every Mexican has access to healthcare in any hospital and that the state has the means to achieve it.”
All clinics and hospitals must be fully equipped, with 100 percent medication and must be open 24/7.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies