WASHINGTON -- The United States isn't the only country facing a contentious presidential election this year.
Mexico will elect a new president in July, and some experts think the National Action Party (PAN) will be ousted from office by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which held power for 71 years before the PAN took over in 2000.
Professor Roderic Ai Camp, who specializes in the Pacific rim at the Claremont McKenna College in California, said recently that two issues are likely to be important to Mexico's voters: increasing family income and reducing violence.
He spoke at a Jan. 20 forum sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars Mexico Institute and the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress.
"It will be interesting to see what PRI is really proposing that will be different from PAN on two major issues," Camp said. "One is how do you increase personal income, and how do you reduce violence, therefore increase personal security."
Religion may be a third issue, Camp said. The Catholic Church has played a major role in politics, coming under fire at times when it has spoken out against officials and pushed democracy in the last 15 years.
"They were critical in urging ordinary Mexicans to vote, both in 1994 and in 2000," Camp said.
He said there is little academic work done on the relationship between politics and religion in Mexico because scholars choose not to explore the subject.
"The church plays two roles. It has always been a critic of neo-liberalism," Camp said. "There is an agreement on human rights. They would stand up for human rights, and they actually practiced this in the '90s. ... What is interesting to me is they haven't been outspoken as they have been. Only a few selective bishops have made very clear statements."
The country has been plagued by a drug war that has taken thousands of lives. Camp said the problem does not arise just from Mexico but stems from the drug consumption of Americans.
The political atmosphere in Mexico has been a tumultuous one the last few decades, with the drug war and the shakeup in presidential elections.
Camp is one of the foremost experts on politics in Mexico and is frequently consulted in the areas of comparative elites, church-state relations and civil-military affairs
(Contact reporter Salvador Guerrero at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)