Margarita Zavala
Margarita Zavala announced her bid for 2018, hedging between her husband's partisan past and an emerging future for independent candidates. YouTube / Margarita Zavala

Former First Lady of Mexico Margarita Zavala announced her bid for president on Sunday in a video posted on social media, incorporating takeaways from the previous weekend's election. Wife of former president and conservative PAN leader Felipe Calderon, Zavala enjoyed high popularity during her husband’s 2006-2012 presidency. Her message tapped into an apathetic mid-term election, in which a small percentage of voters turned out to reelect a slightly smaller majority of PAN’s only true organized rival, the center-left PRI. Voters also brought in partyless “independent” candidates in record numbers and at record heights in government.

"I will put together, hand in hand with the people, a national campaign that of course includes PAN supporters, but also those who have voted for other political alternatives and those who have stopped believing in parties," she said in the video, reflecting the transition from party politics to the emerging independent movement.

Before becoming First Lady, Zavala was a congresswoman and PAN loyalist. She rose to leadership positions within the party. An active member of her husband’s government, Zavala has billed herself as a Calderonista. Yet by implying that she may run as an independent, she may be hedging her bets, balancing a born-again outsider while she commands loyalty inside the PAN from so many years as a genuine insider. In any case, she’ll have 3 years to court and corral support for her bid.

"I will tour the country to listen to people, to talk about our potential and what we want," she said, in the campaign video, which was posted on YouTube and Facebook.

Who Is Margarita Zavala, really?

In deciding whether she’s a Calderonista, Zavala will confront the legacy of her husband. On social policy, Caleron was a moderate. In foreign policy, he maintained the status quo, embracing free trade while simultaneously subsidizing domestic industry. He also aimed to shape the immigration policy of the U.S., and embraced a security agreement with that northern neighbor to crack down on cartels. Here are the top three issues that Calderon was known for, and Zavala will have to accept or reject.

Immigration: Calderon decriminalized immigration in Mexico, possibly facilitating more Central American migrants to enter the country. Despite little bargaining power, he pushed for immigration reform in the U.S., where Mexican immigrants are the largest foreign labor supply and biggest remitters.

Drug War Escalation: Zavala’s husband cracked down on drug cartels starting in 2009. His strategy was to target top cartel officials for apprehension and extradition to the U.S. Critics say that the moves did little to reduce crime, and created a net increase in violence by disrupting but not dismantling organized crime groups.

Tortilla Subsidies: Calderon weathered criticisms over the prices of tortillas by blocking price hikes and stabilizing prices through the purchase of tortilla futures. Zavala could associate herself with these policies to counter potential rivals. The current President, Enrique Peña Nieto, of the PRI, was ridiculed for not knowing the price of tortillas, saying that he wasn't "a housewife."

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