Actor Eduardo Verástegui falls short in Mexican presidential bid

Former Mexican presidential hopeful Eduardo Verástegui speaks during an interview with Reuters, in Mexico City Sept. 27, 2023. The actor and Catholic activist will not participate in Mexico's 2024 presidential election after failing to collect the necessary signatures to run as an independent candidate. (OSV News photo/Raquel Cunha, Reuters)

MEXICO CITY (OSV News) ─ Actor and Catholic activist Eduardo Verástegui will not participate in Mexico's 2024 presidential election after failing to collect the necessary signatures to run as an independent candidate.

Verástegui announced plans in September to run as an independent in Mexico's presidential election and registered with the National Electoral Institute, which oversees elections. But he had collected less than 15% of the needed 961,405 signatures -- equal to 1% of the voters' list -- prior to the Jan. 6 deadline.

In a series of social media posts, Verástegui blamed the electoral institute, also known as INE, alleging faults with an application for collecting signatures, which failed to function. He also petitioned unsuccessfully for extra time to collect signatures in the southern state of Guerrero due to the devastation of Hurricane Otis in October, which left Acapulco without basic infrastructure and electricity for weeks.

"I have decided to raise my voice because, regrettably, the handling of the INE of its application has undermined the integrity of our democratic process," Verástegui said in a Jan. 6 statement. "I am making this urgent call to the competent authorities and to society as a whole to thoroughly investigate this situation, which should never have taken place."

A source familiar with the Verástegui campaign confirmed his frustrations with the application, saying, "It had many flaws."

But the source described Verástegui to OSV News as "his own worst enemy," who put little effort into campaigning. "His strategy now is to blame the INE."

The source, who requested anonymity to speak freely on the subject, said Verástegui spent much of the signature-collection period outside of Mexico -- at his residence in Miami and traveling as far as Argentina in December for the inauguration of President Javier Milei. The source added that Verástegui only spent 20 days over the four-month period in Mexico City, visited half of Mexico's 32 states and often arrived late at campaign events or didn't appear at all.

"The candidate didn't exist," the source said of the campaign. "The problem is the (low) number of signatures. There were so few (signatures) that he doesn't have the authority to complain about absolutely anything."

In his statement, however, Verástegui said: "I have dedicated tireless efforts to represent all the voices and needs of our nation. … My commitment has been total: I have invested time, dedication and financial resources in this cause."

In his social media statements, Verástegui compared himself to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who made claims of fraud after losing the 2006 presidential election.

After the 2006 elections, López Obrador had approached the electoral commission to seek a recount of the votes as his party provided evidence of alleged fraud and dirty campaign practices. His request was rejected as the electoral body declined to order a recount. Two terms later, in 2018, he did win the general election and, after a six-year term, will leave office Sept. 30 as Mexico's constitution prohibits presidential reelection.

Verástegui, 49, gained notoriety in Mexico for a singing career and appearing in TV series known as telenovelas. He later became known in the U.S. for his Catholic piety and activism on issues such as abortion and human trafficking. He produced the 2023 film "Sound of Freedom," which drew acclaim and large audiences.

He spoke often of pursuing the presidency in Mexico, which holds federal elections June 2. Verástegui promised to run on a platform of fighting abortion, supporting pro-family policies and opposing U.N. development goals, such as climate action.

The day after Mexico's Supreme Court decriminalized abortion in September 2023, Verástegui registered as an independent candidate.

"Mourning is a reminder for me to recall why I'm doing this," he told supporters.

He attracted attention in various ways such as posting a video on social media of him shooting an assault weapon at a target to show "what we're going to do to the terrorists of the 2030 agenda, climate change and gender ideology," while analysts said the issue attracted more attention in U.S. politics than Mexico's public discourse.

Attempts to reach Verástegui for comment were unsuccessful.

Analysts described Verástegui's pursuit of the presidency as unrealistic in a country where independent candidacies are complicated -- only being allowed for the first time in 2015 -- and politicians seldom campaign on hot-button social issues.

Jeffery Weldon, political science professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico and an expert on Mexican election law, said the rules on independent candidacies favor political parties, while putting upstart candidates at a disadvantage due to a lack of resources such as moneys and access to radio and TV time reserved for political and campaign purposes.

The application, he said, contains safeguards to prevent the same people signing for multiple candidates and registering support from persons without their consent. The paucity of signatures, however, made complaints over the application moot, Weldon said.

"He's so far away from the (threshold) it shows he wasn't putting any effort into (it)," Weldon told OSV News.

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David Agren writes for OSV News from Mexico City.



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