TIJUANA. - The former federal representative from the National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) and businessman Juan Manuel Hernández Niebla share more than just the same name, as both of them have been strongly rumoured as candidates for Mayor of Tijuana in 2016.
It's true that Gastélum has already admitted on being interested in running for mayor and he seems to have support from several sectors. On the other hand, Hernández has said he is also interested, but with the sole difference of running as an independent candidate, free of any political ties and flying the people's flag. This will be the first mayoral race in Tijuana with independents being allowed to run.
With this political scene already set up, Gastélum and Hernández were invited to a "political discussion" or a forum titled named "Political Parties or Independents" at the Cetys Universidad auditorium, which was filled to capacity, counting more than 100 people, among them students, entrepreneurs, and press.
The meeting started on time at 7 o'clock and both guests started with quickly mentioning their careers so far. Hernández Niebla "El Meño" spoke about his trajectory as a businessman while Gastélum "El Patas" focused more on his personal side, admitting that it's hard for him to talk about himself:
"To be honest, it's hard to talk about oneself. It isn't easy, know why? Because it's not easy for me to talk about who I am. I rather let my actions speak for myself. My name is Juan Manuel Gastélum Buenrostro and I was born in Tijuana" he said, right before revealing that he'll be 61 years old this coming Saturday.
"El Patas" was wearing sunglasses at night, a result of recently having cataract surgery. Being the cheerful and relaxed person that he is, he made fun of his eye situation and the tension felt earlier quickly went away because of this.
The moderator, Juan José Alonso, divided the meeting into three parts; he asked questions none of the guests have read beforehand. They weren't allowed to overthink their answers, so their mental and speech skills were a key element in answering the questions.
It turned out to be a hard task, since the questions at hand weren't easy, they were calculated and prepared strategically in order to get Gastélum and Hernández out of their comfort zones, but both of them handled it pretty well even when they differ in their opinions.
One of the themes that were discussed early on in the meeting was the subject of independent candidates, a phenomenon that has been on the headlines recently after Jaime "El Bronco" Rodríguez's victory in the state of Nuevo León's governor race and others in Mexico. More and more politicians have considered following this path, even if they've been a member of a political party in the past.
So then, being an independent is a fad? An opportunistic move? Or is it the only true way towards democracy?
We share with you the most relevant parts of yesterday night's meeting.
Who said what?
Why did you choose to get into politics?
Juan Manuel Gastélum: "Because we need to do things the right way."
Juan Manuel Hernández: "I'm not in politics, I'm a businessman, and I was a business leader."
What's the most important thing you've done that you can show off to your grandchildren?
JMG: "Not having a criminal record."
JMHN: "The satisfaction of getting home and looking them in the eye."
Does a politician need to form his team with close friends or trust strangers who have the credentials for it?
JMG: "A leader must be smart in order to form a team that reflects its society. A good government must consist of people from all levels and knowledge, but of course following the rules and without falling into nepotism.
JMHN: "With people who are prepared for the job, it's part of the magic that is a structured citizenship. There aren't any campaign promises."
What sets you apart?
JMG: "What sets me apart? I think we are all the same. Now, who can talk nicely about me? That would be the difference. My actions, my behavior, what I've done and where I've participated, apart from that, we are all the same."
JMHN: That I've never been in a political party or have done business with the government and that I know how to manage big numbers."
Which recommendations would you give to the current mayor on matters of security and transit?
JMG: "Giving out opinions isn't the best thing to do when you don't have all of the details but in matter of security I would propose what the police force had up until recently, which is a sense of belonging, of identity. And in transit, unite every part of it. We have to set up the rules where everything is a win-win."
JMHN: "First of all, a comprehensive plan, because currently it's non-existent. Regarding transit, we have to get into it, guts is what we need."
Tell us what is one of your dreams that you haven't been able to accomplish yet?
JMG: "My goal as a lawyer is becoming a notary."
JMHN: "I am blessed in my life, everything that I have set myself to, I've accomplished."
Who are your best friends?
JMG: "My dad."
JMHN: "They're all my best friends."
Who do you admire?
JMG: "My dad, Christ and Pope Francis."
JMHN: "My dad, a former boss I had in Sony, Jesús Zuñiga and my wife"
After the event, anyone would say that Gastélum and Hernández Niebla get along well, since both of them handled themselves with respect and even mutual admiration, said "El Meño", who admitted as much to the PAN members in the audience.
Both of them finished their participation with a message of unity, inviting young people to participate in political subjects and to vote next year, regardless of who they vote for.
"Please, vote. It's your right to choose, to vote and to be voted for. If you guys don't help us out in convincing people to go out and vote, then our country won't get better. Tijuana wants good people and there are good people interested in running. We want to invite the citizens to vote because we deserve to have a good government." concluded Gastélum.
Translated by: firstname.lastname@example.org