By Agustin de Gracia


Josefina Vazquez Mota, of the governing National Action Party, or PAN, used Mexico's last presidential debate ahead of the July 1 election to take shots at her three rivals.

The two-and-a-half-hour debate on Sunday night gave the candidates one last opportunity to present their ideas to a massive national audiece.

Vazquez Mota, who has been dropping in the polls, showed from the start that she had come to fight, taking on all of her rivals.

Frontrunner Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, and leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is running second in the polls, showed little interest, however, in engaging in a slugfest.

Peña Nieto and Lopez Obrador used the debate to lay out their positions on various issues, often ignoring the topic being discussed.

The two men kept repeating the ideas they have been promoting since the campaign started in late March.

New Alliance Party, or PANAL, candidate Gabriel Quadri, who is drawing only about 2 percent support in the polls, also took part in the debate and became a target for Vazquez Mota.

The PAN candidate accused Quadri of having to "ask his mama for permission to express any ideas," a reference to powerful teachers union boss Elba Esther Gordillo, who most consider the real power behind the PANAL.

Quadri responded to the attack, urging viewers to go online and watch a video, titled "Querida amiga" (Dear Friend), that Vazquez Mota dedicated to Gordillo during a public event at which the two women shared a table.

Vazquez Mota, who appeared tense and glared at the camera several times, said Peña Nieto "represents authoritarianism" and belonged to a party that tolerates corruption.

The PAN candidate accused Lopez Obrador, of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, of representing "intolerance, resentment and confrontation."

Vazquez Mota has stepped up her attacks on Lopez Obrador since he grabbed the No. 2 spot in the polls from her.

Peña Nieto and Lopez Obrador ignored most of the charges leveled by Vazquez Mota and paid no attention whatsoever to Quadri, who appeared confused at times and consulted his rivals about his own campaign positions.

"Vazquez Mota came out to fight, and she'll come out beat up," political commentator Epigmenio Ibarra said on Milenio television after the debate.

The second debate, which was less formal than the one held on May 6, did not come off without glitches, with moderator Javier Solorzano needing eight minutes to explain the procedures for answering questions to the candidates.

Mexico's presidential campaign ends on June 27, four days before some 80 million voters head to the polls to cast ballots for a new president, 628 legislators and thousands of other officials. EFE