Mexican ruling party picks woman as presidential candidate




Posted on February 6, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 6 at 9:25 PM

For the first time, a major political party in Mexico has chosen a woman as a candidate for president. Josefina Vasquez Mota, 51, beat two male contenders for the nomination.

"I will be the first woman president of Mexico in history," Vasquez Mota told a cheering crowd after the conservative National Action Party (PAN) selected her to run for president.

The nomination made front page news in Mexico, where voters are already debating whether the country is ready to elect a woman president.

"More than ready," said Maricela Robledo, a community health outreach worker in her 20s.

But 19-year-old college student Talia Lopez disagreed. "I don't think so," she said, adding that the PAN candidate should "consider it a victory" just to win a place on the ballot.

Vasquez Mota is a game-changer in a hotly contested election. The former member of congress is the best chance for President Felipe Calderón's party to retain power.

She's a businesswoman, mother, and also served as the Secretary of Education under President Calderón. She hopes to erode the lead now held by the front-runner, Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI party, who is a popular governor married to a telenovela star.

The PRI ruled Mexico for 71 years until the PAN's Vicente Fox won the presidency in 2000, followed by President Calderon's victory in 2006.

Also on the ballot, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the fiery leftist candidate who narrowly lost to President Calderón in 2006.

"None of them is worthy — man or woman," said Atanacio Serrano, 78, who says he plans to stay home on Election Day. "They’re all the same."

Josefina Vasquez Mota will have to convince voters that she represents a true agent of change, since the PAN has held the presidency for the past 12 years.

Many Mexican voters are eager for change, weary of the drug war and worried about their future.

Juan Martinez, a 27-year-old factory worker and father of two young girls, said he's ready to give a woman a chance.

"If we don't try, we won't gain anything," he said.