Can't make this stuff up.
September 30, 2009
In Mexico City, a Political Deal Redone
By MARC LACEY
MEXICO CITY — Back-room deals have long been a staple of Mexican politics, but no one has focused more attention on what goes on in the country’s smoke-filled rooms than a political neophyte who goes by Juanito.
Just months ago, Juanito, whose real name is Rafael Acosta Ángeles, 46, was an activist and street peddler who sold umbrellas in the rainy season and sweaters when the temperature dropped. An accomplished protester, he roared at rallies wearing a red, green and white headband that has become his trademark. Then, thanks to political deal-making gone awry, he found himself elected president of Iztapalapa, Mexico City’s most populous and problematic borough.
His story goes like this: The leftist Democratic Revolution Party found itself divided and Clara Brugada, a former congresswoman who sought to represent Iztapalapa, was bounced from the ballot by an electoral tribunal in favor of a rival. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a populist who lost the nation’s presidency by a hair in 2006, hatched a plan by which Mr. Acosta would be elected, then resign and name Ms. Brugada in his place.
Mr. Acosta, with his everyman image — and Mr. López Obrador’s backing — did win. But then, clearly enjoying the attention, he resisted stepping down. Soon he was hobnobbing with top politicians and appearing on front pages. Power clearly agreed with him, and not just when he took off his shirt at a bodybuilding competition and flexed his biceps for the cameras.
“Rafael Acosta Ángeles has become famous internationally,” he said in an interview this week. “My name has reached every country of the earth, every corner.”
But as his swearing-in ceremony this Thursday drew near, and Ms. Brugada’s supporters began organizing anti-Juanito rallies, Mr. Acosta did what Mexican politicians do best: he cut a deal.
He agreed to step aside after being sworn in, ostensibly for health reasons. He will then name Ms. Brugada to succeed him. In exchange, some of Mr. Acosta’s allies will be appointed to top positions. And just in case Ms. Brugada does not govern to his satisfaction, Mr. Acosta suggested he might retake the job.
That a common man can play the games that politicians play has fascinated Mexicans.
“It’s like a dream that a man from the bottom can rise up and beat these people in power,” said Ramiro Valenzuela, a merchant and Juanito backer.