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A Debate Without Migrants - Why US Mexicans Didn’t Tune In

Posted: May 11, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — On a recent afternoon walk through the Mission District, one thing was clear: Mexicans on this side of the border aren’t very interested in the politics of their country. No one this reporter talked to had seen last weekend’s televised debate between Mexico’s presidential candidates.

None of the presidential candidates— Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD), Enrique Peña Nieto (Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI), Josefina Vazquez Mota (National Action Party, or PAN) or Gabriel Quadri (New Alliance Party, or PANAL)— not even former Playboy Playmate Julia Orayen, who appeared as the usher at the beginning of the debate, was able to attract the attention of Mexican migrants in San Francisco.

The reason is simple: Mexican migrants who live on this side of the border don’t have faith in politicians.

This is the case for Ramon Lopez, a man in his 60s who has lived in the United States for 25 years.

"The only thing that matters to me is my people. And an end to the violence, because there are a lot of kidnappings, beheadings, everything that’s happening with the Zetas, it is a very ugly slaughterhouse,” he said on one of the busiest corners in the neighborhood, at 24th and Mission Streets.

“Going to Mexico, to Die?”

Outside a Mexican restaurant in the Mission, Felipe Reyes, 49, said bluntly that he didn’t watch the debate, even though he knew it was on TV.

Is Mr. Reyes planning to vote in Mexico’s July presidential election? No. Why not? "Total f---ing hypocrisy," he said.

"I'm interested in the country progressing," he said, although he doesn’t believe in the Party of the Democratic Revolution, The Institutional Revolutionary Party or The National Action Party.

"I haven’t been able to leave this country (the United States) for four years because
we don’t get support in Mexico. I’d like to be able to get loans for my medicine. In my case, I’m on dialysis and even though I'm not from here, the government here helps me. What would I go to Mexico for, to die? Because the government there doesn’t give us anything, support, social security or jobs," he said.

What really concerns Felipe Reyes about Mexico is what it would cost to receive kidney treatment.

"I saw that with my family -- each dialysis (treatment) cost me about $3,000, and here I get three a week for free. Now every month I get medication that costs almost $1,000 and I get it for free. Do you think I’m going to go back?”

After four years in San Francisco, he finally has a license to drive cabs, which earns him a living. Mr. Reyes, a short man from Mexico City, shows two golf ball-sized deformities on his left arm that were caused by dialysis.

"I’ve been in treatment for several years, thank God I was approved for MediCal. Just think about how much this treatment would cost in Mexico."

Another man on 24th Street, a businessman from Tijuana, was shopping in a local store. He didn’t watch the debate either. "We were working," he explained.

But he does believe in one of the candidates -- Josefina Vazquez Mota.

"A lot of people don’t think so, but I think Mexico is ready for a woman president," he said.

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