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MEXICO: TV spots throw Mexican business into election fray

by Chris AspinReuters
June 28th, 2006

Mexico's most powerful business group is putting its money where its mouth is only days before Sunday's presidential vote, with thinly-veiled TV ads critical of the leftist front runner.

Few doubted that the preferred choice of Mexico's business elite was conservative Felipe Calderon, of the ruling National Action Party.

But it is now crystal clear that Calderon is favored by the Business Coordinating Council, whose members include the country's banks like BBVA-Bancomer and Banamex, and cement giant Cemex, given it is paying for TV spots urging voters to support current economic policies.

Calderon is pledging to stick with President Vicente Fox's main policies, with some minor tweaks like offering companies tax breaks to employ young people.

Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to end free market reforms and put the poor first, giving the state a wider role in the economy. He holds a wafer-thin lead over Calderon in polls going into the July 2 election.

Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute has asked the Business Coordinating Council to pull its ads in line with a ban on election propaganda from midnight Wednesday. The group is considering the request but insists the ads are non-partisan.


Its leader, Jose Luis Barraza, said Mexico has to attract investment and keep its financial markets buoyant to stay competitive, adding that Calderon or even third-placed candidate Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party,had the more coherent policies.

"There are some Lopez Obrador policies that could be rescued but there are others we are definitely against," Barraza told Reuters.

Lopez Obrador, a former Indian welfare officer, said the business group is whipping up a fear campaign and called its members "influence peddlers" and "white collar crooks".

"What are they afraid of? They are afraid of losing their privileges, that is all," Lopez Obrador said on the campaign trail this week. He has said Mexico's business elite is a "mafia" that made millions by cozying up to governments.

The leftist is promising to improve Mexico's skewed income distribution but Calderon has dubbed him a danger for Mexico.

One TV ad paid for by the business group shows a young boy holding a 20 pesos note ($1.75) and a male voice telling him it could only be worth 10 pesos if a new government changes current economic policies and provokes a devaluation.

In an open letter to Lopez Orbador, Barraza said the leftist's "mafia" accusations were worrying, especially as his group's members provide 85 percent of all jobs in Mexico and represent 90 percent of all economic activity.

"This accusation, added to other recent remarks that businessmen do not pay taxes, generates serious concerns in the productive sector about your real perception, about the importance of this sector for the country," Barraza said.

(Additional reporting by Rodrigo Martinez)

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