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Split the difference: Social Democrats, Dr. Simi and AMLO

26 November 2009

If there really is a drug dealing “family” seeking to control the Mexican state, it’s the one headed by Dr. Simi… the cartoon mascot of Farmacias Similares and Best Laboratories.

Victor Gonazeles Torres and alter-ego

Victor Gonazles Torres and alter-ego

The hugely successful — and profitable — generic pharamceutical company, which pioneered the concept of walk-in medical clinics attached to pharmacies, is owned by the Gonzales family.  CEO Victor Gonzales Torres has plowed much of the company’s profits into his own non-governmental organization, (Grupo Por Un País Mejor), which distributes a well-written nationwide newspaper (though the pharmacies) calling for generally non-controversial populist causes like anti-corruption measures in the legislature, environmental cleanup and … of course… cheaper prescription drugs.

Victor has been on the outs with his brother Jorge — founder and first party chair of  PVEM — the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (Green Party). When Jorge resigned as party chair, and was replaced by his son Jorge Emiliano, and the party moved from its original position as an ally of Vicente Fox to a junior party of PRI (and Jorge Emiliano was caught soliciting bribes in return for Green support for yet another fly-by-night Cancun resort development) — and the party was eventually forced to change its statutes, Victor turned his interests towards his cousin, Patricia Mercado’s political organizations.

Mercado — a well known feminist — has a history of involvement in unsuccessful start-up parties. Partially financed by the Reagan Administration’s “Foundation for Democracy”, Mercado was a founder of Democracia Social in 1999. Led by Gilberto Rincon, the physically challenged ex-Communist human rights lawyer, DS would never receive enough votes to keep its party registration.  However, as part of Vicente Fox’s “Alliance for Change” coalition in the 2000 election, as were the Greens, it gave credibility to Vicente Fox’s claims that a vote for him was a “useful vote” for political change.

Patricia Mercado

Although the Greens were never rewarded with cabinet positions (nor did Fox adequately address Green demands, leading to their defection to PRI partnership), DS was rewarded, with two of its most conservative members — Jorge Casteñeda and Xóchitl Gálvez being appointed to the cabinet (as Foreign Secretary and Secretary for Indigenous Affairs respectively).  Rincon was eventually given a administrative position overseeing handicapped access programs.

The Greens — and Jorge — on the outs with Victor, “Dr. Simi” turned his attention to Patricia Mercado again.  After her second failed attempt with a start-up party (Mèxico Posible, which tried to appeal to feminists, gays, Protestants, the physically handicapped and the indigenous ) failed to obtain enough votes to maintain registration and only captured one seat in the Federal District Assembly in the 2003 elections, she returned to the Social Democratic formula, the Partido Alternativa Socialdemócrata y Campesina. Recognizing that her two previous parties had little support outside of what one pundit sniffed were “Mexicans who read the New York Times”, Alternativa sought a broader coalition, appealing to rural workers and the urban working class. Both are groups who depend on, and appreciate, “Dr. Simi”

A drug dealer for president?

A drug dealer for president?

Victor, making the argument that he could self-finance his own presidential campaign, appealed to the “Campesina” (peasant) wing of the largely urban middle-class party for support for the presidential nomination. By-passed in favor of cousin Patricia, he mounted a independent campaign… even though votes for independent candidates are considered “null” votes by Mexican election officials.

Although Victor raised some serious issues (mostly in his pharmacy-distributed literature) about public health care, environmental issues, corruption and economic reform, he used the publicity mostly for a “merry prankster ad campaign for “Simi-condons” — his company having recently gone into the condom business, and selling them at about a third the price of “name brand” condoms.

As “Dr. Condon”, he attempted to force his way into the third (and last) nationally televised presidential debate, wearing a hat festonned with Simi-condons. and accompanied by scantily-clad female “campaign aides”.

He received a few votes (which, of course, were nullified) but Alternativa had slightly more success than DS or México Posible, managing to capture a few legislative seats, although its overall vote was too low for permanent party registration.

Which leads to the intriguing “what if?” question. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador — who was the target of much of Dr. Victor Gonzales Torres criticism was, of course, not elected by less than half a percentage of the total vote. How much of that vote was “drained off” by Dr. Simi (uncounted) and how much by Alternativa (1.6 percent of all Presidental votes) is an unanswerable question. Possibly more than half a percent.

Which leads to the big “Why now?”. With PAN discredited, and the PRI having no appealing candidate on the horizon for 2012, Lopez Obrador’s release of a “10 point program” (already under attack by the “mainstream media” which is just looking at bullet points, and not the details… much as they did his 50-point program for 2006) strongly suggest another leftist coalition run is in the offing.

He's baaaaaaack

So… up pops Patricia Mercado with ANOTHER party… or rather, Alternativa 2.0. The rump of the party changed their name to the simpler Partido Socialdemócrata (PSD) for their legislative group, and now is openly soliciting prominent PRD legislators and activists — who lost out in earlier interparty squabbles between the Lopezobradoristas and the “chucos” to jump ship.

The virulence of the early attacks on AMLO and a potential second run for the presidency indicate that he is taken seriously as a threat (Gancho, who doesn’t see Lopez Obrador as nearly important as I do, even finds the fear of one point — greater media access — a bit excessive). I haven’t really paid much attention to Dr. Simi (other than buying his products and sometimes reading his very written free paper), nor to the PSD up until now, nor had I considered the connections. Which may or may not be there, but make for an intriguing “drug connection” to the Mexican political class.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. mcm permalink
    26 November 2009 3:35 pm

    Interesting — I wasn’t aware of the “family” connection between the Gonzales-Torres clan and Patricia Mercado.
    Mercado is impressive — for example, her direct and articulate performance in the 2006 Presidential debates. I like her. But then again, not surprising, as I live in Mexico and read the New York Times…
    The Mexican “Green” party, well…..”what a joke” springs to mind.
    A second run for AMLO? I would say unlikely, but, then again – who else is there?
    Looking forward to the next two years!

  2. mcm permalink
    26 November 2009 3:38 pm

    Aha — after reading your link to the new PSD, a news item I saw today makes sense: Ruth Zavaleta resigned from the PRD.

  3. 29 November 2009 9:47 am

    I knew that the Green Child and Dr. Simi were relatives, but not about Patricia “Supermarket”.

    I’ll bet that AMLO will try again on 2012, but I doubt that he can be as successful as last time.

    Thanks for the article and welcome to Guadalajara.

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