Mexican citizens heading to the polls on July 2 to elect their president have an interesting choice ahead of them. According to the mudslinging by the two leading candidates, voters must choose between either a cross-dressing sissy or an impotent bachelor.
Such attacks on a politician's sexuality are unprecedented in Mexico's history (unless you count the presidential election six years ago, when the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, allegedly hired transvestites to attend an opposition campaign rally).
This year, the attacks have risen -- or sunk -- to the level of opponents challenging each other's masculinity. Opposition candidate Vicente Fox is from the socially conservative National Action Party, known as PAN. He's running neck-and-neck with Francisco Labastida, candidate of the long-governing PRI.
Labastida's supporters have alluded to Fox's separation from his wife, and the fact that he is father to four adopted children; clearly, he must be a gutless pussy and unable to govern.
"Fox isn't man enough to have children, because the children he has aren't his," Guillermo Gonzalez, a PRI mayoral candidate, told a reporter.
Fox's campaign, in turn, ran a TV ad that portrayed his opponent Labastida hugging a colleague around the thighs, and included footage of male strippers dancing at a PRI campaign rally. During his campaign, Fox has referred to Labastida as a "sissy" and "La Vestida," a play on his name that suggests Labastida is a cross-dresser; the man, obviously, is a swish, with no business being president.
This back-and-forth between the candidates has apparently become too much even for Mexico, a country with a macho reputation. After much criticism, Fox canceled his TV ad, and PAN quickly ran an ad in newspapers, defending itself, i.e. pandering to the gay community. Because Mexico has no openly gay politicians, and homosexuality is still frowned upon -- a nationwide gay rally recently attracted only about 30,000 -- PAN's retreat from its attacks is considered unprecedented.
"The most important thing is that even Fox and the right had to back down and apologize to the gay community," said social critic Carlos Monsivais. "It's incredible to hear the word 'homophobia' being used even by the right."