Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Media Analysis: 2006 Mexican Presidential Elections

The following is a recent assignment from my United States, Latin America & the Media class. We were asked to compare three articles from three different U.S. papers covering the August presidential elections in Mexico and discuss whether the writer/paper's bias or slant was apparent. We were supposed to use news stories but I chose commentary pieces because I wanted to. Leave a comment if you want me to email you copies of the articles to which I'm referring. Couldn't reprint them here because I'd get in trouble.

Originally Written: 18 September 2006

To compare perspectives of the 2006 Mexican presidential election, I chose commentaries from the Denver Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. All pieces were written between Jul. 13 and Jul. 16, a moment when Andrés Manuel López Obrador was fighting vehemently for a full recount.

In a piece entitled “Americas: AMLO’s Last Stand” (Wall Street Journal, Jul. 14, 2006, pg. A.13), Mary Anastasia O’Grady harshly criticizes Obrador’s embarrassing post-election behavior. O’Grady opens with a satirical reference to Richard III, writing, “Now is the summer of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s discontent.” In making such a comparison, not only does O’Grady paint Obrador as “[seeing] himself as the victim of a world out to get him,” but also implants the idea in the reader’s mind that Obrador is malevolent and tyrannical, like the infamous King.

O’Grady goes on to berate Obrador’s conduct, reducing his stature by using his nickname, AMLO, and indicating his childishness by calling him “a bully” who is “out to get even.” With no mention of Obrador’s political merits or lack thereof, this is a pure attack on his character. What’s more, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) is depicted as flawless (“the IFE has been heroically true to the legal code”) while the Mexican left is seen as an out-of-control circus that is laughably inferior to its American counterpart (“Mexico’s left-of-center looks more like El Jurassic Park than FDR’s Hyde Park”). And Calderon is left conspicuously out of the conversation.

In a more pragmatic commentary entitled “Steal his thunder by recounting the votes; Lopez Obrador’s challenge to Mexico’s election results could be easily defused” (Los Angeles Times, Jul. 13, 2006, pg. B.11), Denise Dresser suggests that the best way for Mexico to move past the controversy surrounding the elections is to go ahead with a full recount. Dresser validates both Obrador’s “right to legally question the results of a close election,” and the country’s “right to demand that he respect its results.” The piece presents a somewhat balanced argument, but is biased against Obrador, implying that a recount would somehow placate him, or “tame” him. Dresser sees Obrador as a pest who must be dealt with or a child who must be forced to “play by the rules,” rather than a potential candidate with a legitimate claim.

Despite Dresser’s pointed criticism of certain National Action Party (PAN) leaders’ conduct (Fox creates enemies whenever he calls Lopez Obrador’s supporters “renegades;” Calderon gives critics more reason to dislike him by “acting as if he won”) she clearly believes that Calderon will ultimately be the winner, but that this needs to be proven before the country can move on.

David W. Dent calls for a recount as well, in “Governing will be tough in a polarized Mexico” (Denver Post, Jul. 16, 2006, pg. E.03). Yet Dent’s reasoning is that “there are enough irregularities to require a full recount of what happened on July 2.” In a rare show of support for Obrador by an American columnist, Dent does not cast overwhelming doubt on the PRD candidate, but suggests something might be awry in the IFE’s conduct. Dent also links President Bush with Calderon, stating that Bush’s “decision to congratulate Calderon for his victory was ill-timed and embarrassing…” In bringing Bush into the picture, Dent implies an American association or perhaps even influence on Calderon and his party. The other two pieces do not acknowledge such a connection.

Copyright © 2006 Suzanne


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