Straight Shooter Makes Mexican Political History

In June, Jaime Rodríguez Calderón became the first independent candidate to be elected a state governor in Mexico, winning office in Nuevo León.

Fifty-seven-year-old Rodríguez, who is also referred to as “El Bronco” because of his and strong personality and confidence,” was a member of the ruling party, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) for more than 30 years before running in the gubernatorial election against candidates from the PRI and the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).

“The election results were primarily fueled by condemnation of the political class,” says Grant Sunderland, an analyst at risk analytics and research firm Verisk Maplecroft, adding that corruption scandals plague every party at the national level. “This discontent against the culture of impunity carried through into the June midterms, and the results were best exemplified at the state and local levels. Of nine governor races, five resulted in the incumbent party being ejected.”

El Bronco promised to break with the status quo, “to root out corruption and launch an investigation into the outgoing PRI governor Rodrigo Medina de la Cruz, which is surely raising some eyebrows locally and in Mexico City,” says Sunderland. Rodríguez is no stranger to politics, having previously served as mayor of García, Nuevo León, and as a local and a federal deputy during his time as a member of the PRI.

“He was able to convey a message and a style that says: ‘I’m not afraid of vested interests, I’m not afraid of organized crime,’” stated Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Wilson Center, an independent research firm, in a comment posted to the firm’s website. “He wants to be the true reformer, but the question is whether he will be able to deliver. It is difficult to do things in Mexico when all political forces are lined up against you.”

Rodríguez’s term as governor is six years. But Sunderland says he could be a contender in future elections, depending on his performance and his ability to maintain his reputation “as a straight-shooting man of the people.”