Pena Nieto Painted as Deadbeat Dad by Mexico Presidential Rival

Mexico presidential front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto was accused by his nearest rival, who trails in polls by double digits ahead of the July 1 election, of shirking his responsibilities toward a child he fathered out of wedlock.

Josefina Vazquez Mota, seeking to retain the presidency for the ruling National Action Party, known as PAN, and become Mexico’s first female president, used Mother’s Day celebrations to paint Pena Nieto as a father who has failed to support his son. Pena Nieto, who represents the Institutional Revolutionary Party, in January said he had provided for the child.

Referring to proposals that will allow women to demand DNA tests to prove paternity and ensure financial support, Vazquez Mota said that Pena Nieto was an example of a father “who doesn’t want to be responsible” for his children.

The comment came after Vazquez Mota was unable to cut into Pena Nieto’s lead in the first of two presidential debates on May 6 and almost four months after the PRI candidate said he fathered the child. Pena Nieto had 36 percent support in an opinion poll this week by Grupo Economistas Asociados-ISA, while Vazquez Mota had 18.8 percent, falling behind Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, who had 19.5 percent backing.

The May 7-9 survey included 1,152 people and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Referring to Rival

Vazquez Mota didn’t refer to Pena Nieto by name yesterday, instead talking about “the man I had at my side,” in reference to the televised debate when he stood to her right. Irma Gonzalez Luna, a spokeswoman for Vazquez Mota, confirmed she was referring to her campaign rival.

Vazquez Mota’s support has dropped from three months ago, when she won her party’s Feb. 5 primary. The former education minister and campaign manager to President Felipe Calderon had 29 percent backing in a GEA-ISA poll taken Feb. 17-19 while Pena Nieto had 36 percent. Lopez Obrador gained 17 percent in the survey of 1,000 people with a 4 percentage point margin of error.

While Vazquez Mota may be able to turn some socially conservative Mexicans against Pena Nieto, focusing on her rival’s personal life may signal concern as her poll numbers wane before the election, said Eric Farnsworth, the vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington who worked on Latin America issues at the State Department under President Bill Clinton.

‘Grasp at Straws’

“It’s the point of the campaign where she needs to pull out all the stops if she has any hope of victory,” Farnsworth said yesterday in an interview. “Since the allegations have been around for several months, one would presume that maybe people have discounted them. This could backfire, and it could be seen as somebody trying to grasp at straws to undermine the leading candidate.”

Pena Nieto, 45, said in a Jan. 22 interview with El Universal newspaper that he had fathered two children out of wedlock during his first marriage. One of the children later died. In the case of the other, “I’ve made sure that he’s had all that is necessary for his upbringing,” Pena Nieto said in the interview.

Maritza Diaz Hernandez, who says Pena Nieto fathered her child, dismissed pledges from his PRI party to protect and support all children in Mexico, saying on her Facebook account in January that he hadn’t looked after his own son.

Pena Nieto’s campaign office said he won’t respond to yesterday’s allegations. The former governor of Mexico state married his current wife, soap-opera star Angelica Rivera, after his first wife died.

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