LA Mexicans gear up for Mexico's presidential campaign

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Friday is the launch of Mexico’s presidential campaign—and Mexican citizens in Los Angeles will be paying close attention to the candidates until election day, July 1. But only a small minority is registered to vote from abroad.

Juan Jose Gutierrez is part of that small minority — around 45,000 people throughout the U.S. He’s been living here legally for almost two decades and can afford the time and money to register to vote, but many working class undocumented immigrants cannot.

For years, he says, he and other Mexican activists in L.A. have pressured the Mexican government to ease the requisites to vote from abroad. Some of those rules mean traveling to Mexico to register and paying up to $30 to return the ballot.

So, Gutierrez and a coalition of Mexican expatriates decided to adopt some new tactics. In Spanish, Gutierraz said that “Last year, we realized there wasn’t much we could do to get more people registered in the U.S., so we decided to launch a campaign meant for our friends and family back in Mexico, to motivate them to go vote for our candidate.”

Their candidate, says Gutierrez, is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a left-of-center leader who lost to Mexico’s current president, Felipe Calderon, in 2006.

Like the other two top candidates, Lopez Obrador is increasingly borrowing from U.S.-style campaigns, releasing YouTube videos and meeting with potential voters on Facebook and Twitter.

But one thing that candidates are not allowed to do is campaign abroad. Gutierrez says this leaves Mexican voters in the U.S. in a difficult limbo, and it also means most Americans and Mexicans in the U.S. fail to understand the importance of the Mexican presidential elections.

"If the U.S. and Americans are really interested in curbing the flow of illegal immigrants, and reducing violence along the border, they should know that this is one of our most important elections," Gutierrez said in Spanish.

Important, he says, due to the ongoing drug-related violence in the country, and what that means for the rule of law.

There are almost 4 million Mexicans in the U.S. who can but do not vote. A majority of them are living in California; many of them are undocumented.

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