Less face, more book, for Mexican presidential candidate
Screenshot of Paula Peña’s retweet where she insulted those criticizing her father. Her account was deleted on Monday morning. (Twitter)
“What three books have marked your personal and political life?”
This was the question posed by a journalist at Guadalajara’s International Bookfair to Mexican presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto that caught the politician flatfooted, leading to a rambling answer that inspired hundreds of Twitter jokes, and left analysts wondering aloud about Peña Nieto’s ability to lead the country.
“I’ve read lots of novels that I’ve liked but I don’t recall their titles” Peña Nieto replied, searching in his memory for names of authors and books. “One of the books is the Bible, I didn’t read all of it, but some parts were very important, especially during my adolescent years,” said the candidate for Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), who currently has a twenty point lead over his closest rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Like a bad student suddenly caught in a pop quiz, Peña Nieto then rambled on about a historical novel by renown author Carlos Fuentes, which he wrongly attributed to another writer, Enrique Krauze. He then referred to a book that “he didn’t remember” about caudillos (dictators) and “another book that talked about all the lies in that book.”
The impromptu response was met with laughter by the bookish crowd that had come to Guadalajara’s book fair to see a presentation by Peña Nieto on his plan to reform Mexico.
Soon after the news got out, Mexico’s tuiteros (tweeters) grouped their comments under the hashtag #liberiapeñaneto, which roughly translates to “Peña Nieto’s bookstore”.
“I didn’t read all of the Bible, when I came to the thou shalt not steal part, I lost interest” said tuitero @blogdeizquierda, mimicking the presidential candidate.
“What did they tell Enrique Peña Nieto at the book fair?” asked Mario Delgado, the Secretary of Education for Mexico City, “Less Face, more book.”
And inspired by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel, No one Writes to the Coronel, user @NoPRI2012 had a title for a potential book about Peña Neto.
“No one believes the gelled one. Buy it now at #LibreriaPeñaNeto” he said, in a reference to Peña Nieto’s, clean cut, perfectly gelled hair, which is reminiscent of a young Elvis.
Peña Nieto apologized for the gaffe on Monday morning and said on his Twitter account that he had read the tweets about his “mistake” and found some of them very entertaining.
And in a conciliatory tone he tweeted: “Lets continue to work together for the benefit Mexico.”
But the candidate had to issue a further round of apologies on Monday, after his daughter sent a controversial message to her father’s critics.
“Greetings to that bunch of idiots who form part of the proletariat and only criticize those they envy,” 16 year old, Paulina Peña Nieto posted on her account, retweeting a message written by her boyfriend, Jose Luis Torre.
The controversy over Peña Nieto’s gaffe continued to be discussed on Monday’s talk shows, with political analysts wondering if Mexico should have a president who appears not to be fond of reading.
“I think we have the right to ask those who seek to govern Mexico to give us an idea of their world vision, and how they see the problems of the present and the past,” political scientist Lorenzo Meyer told Mexico’s MVS radio news. “The important thing about literature, is that it gives you the knowledge that you have not been able to get from your personal life experience,” he said.
“He is demonstrating that he does not read,” analyst Denise Dresser said on the same show. “But more importantly, he is showing an incapacity to respond in an agile manner when he is in an unscripted context…it shows his lack of experience,” she added.
Peña Nieto’s gaffe however, has not made a significant dent on his popularity with voters so far. In a survey published by newspaper Reforma on Sunday, Peña Nieto leads the pack of presidential candidates with 49 percent support, beating his closest rival, the leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by 26 points.
“Mexico is not a country of literati, but one of fanatics of telenevolas,” wrote Federico Arreola, a columnist from the northern city of Monterrey, on the webpage SDP Noticias.
According to Arreola, Peña Neto, who is married to telenovela star Angelica Rivera, does not have much to worry about.
“For the great mass of citizens, the fact that a politician has never read a book is not very relevant,” he said.