The current mayor of Cuernavaca, (located in the southern-central state of Morelos), Cuauhtémoc Blanco was raised in Tepito, a lower-class neighborhood in Mexico City known for its violence and pirated goods. Between 1992 and 2015, he played professional soccer for several clubs in Mexico, Spain, and the United States, including the Mexican National Team. After an illustrious soccer career, Blanco ran for the office of mayor in Cuernavaca as a candidate for the Partido Social Demócrata and won in June 2015.
Harvard Political Review: Why did you decide to enter politics after your soccer career? How did the opportunity come about?
Cuauhtémoc Blanco: It [the opportunity] was offered to me, and I thought and thought about it. Things happen for a reason. I think that with action and by fulfilling promises to the people, I will feel accomplished. I’ve always believed and my mother used to tell me all the time, God has put me here for a reason, especially to help people and to show them that not all politicians put money in their pockets and break their promises. I know I’m confronting many monsters of the system that will deliberately place traps and obstacles in my way. There are four very important people here in Cuernavaca that are doing that now, but I know that I will overcome these obstacles.
HPR: How do soccer and politics compare?
CB: Politics is much more complicated. There are so many different interests that get in the way. Soccer is not the same thing as politics. In soccer you can play, train, and at the end of the day you’re doing something you enjoy. And, well, now that I’m involved in politics, there are very different things with very different obstacles. There are injustices, many of which I have seen, and the citizens for one reason or another trust in me to help them in whatever way I can. It pains me to see the state of Cuernavaca. I think it pains everyone especially given how past administrations have governed.
HPR: And well, how is it being a politician?
CB: Right now I see myself in a sticky situation. The truth is that the position is very stressful, and it really gets to you. The first days were very difficult and complicated because there are people that are not in agreement, there are many interests outside of politics that intervene, and as much as people want to do things right, there is always money from past administrations that gets in the way. I have to put things straight and be clear about who stole money, who did things wrong, why there is corruption, those types of things.
HPR: Do you fear for your life or your family?
CB: Well, I have been threatened, but I will always be firm and will not remain silent. I’m a trustworthy person and when I give my word, I abide by it. As I discover the corruption from past administrations, I will make it public so that the citizens of Cuernavaca can see why no changes have been made to their city. Right now there is a debt of 1.5 million pesos and you wonder where that money went. It’s hard and it’s difficult but with the citizens’ help and with the people behind me, we will put Cuernavaca ahead.
HPR: You are from Mexico City, right? Why become mayor of Cuernavaca?
CB: I have lived here in Cuernavaca for a long time. They offered me the opportunity to run, and I have said many times that I don’t know anything about politics. The only thing I do know how to do is how to help people and the various necessities that people have, and I want to show them that so they can trust in me. I am a person that keeps by his promises.
HPR: What would you say are your objectives for the year 2016?
CB: My biggest objective is to fulfill the promises I made to the people. I live by my word and like I told the citizens of Cuernavaca, “I am just like one of you, you’re going to see me on the streets, not like those other politicians that stay home and hide and remain unreachable.” I am a citizen just like them, and the best I can do is to help them.
HPR: How would the implementation of the Mando Único* affect security in Cuernavaca and its citizens?
CB: Well, look, it’s a difficult and complicated situation. The citizens asked me for security and it’s been a difficult decision for the citizenry who are not happy with the Mando Único program that we have now. There has been abuse of power by the police, and like I have always said, at the end of the day, it is the citizens that ought to decide since they are the ones who live day to day in their neighborhoods, in their streets, the ones who see, the ones who observe the abuses of power by the policemen in the Mando Único.
*The Mando Único is a federal initiative to combat cartel and criminal infiltration in municipal police forces across the country by replacing the local police forces with better-equipped and economically incentivized state and federal police. Blanco disagreed with the Governor of the State of Morelos, Graco Ramírez, about the implementation of the Mando Único, calling it a “coup d’état” on behalf of the state. Yet, as of January 6 the federal initiative has been active in Cuernavaca.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Image source: Wikimedia/Hefebreo