Jun 30


TIJUANA – A physician born into a prominent Tijuana family, long active in the city’s Red Cross, a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Jorge Astiazarán’s credentials as a mayoral candidate would seem above reproach.

Except for one small thing: He was born in Los Angeles.

Yesterday, a Baja California electoral tribunal annulled Astiazarán’s candidacy, saying he did not present a Mexican “certificate of nationality” in a timely fashion, as stipulated in Article 80 of the state constitution.

Like thousands of others in Baja California and other northern Mexico border states, Astiazarán was born in the United States of Mexican parents, and has dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship.

“I am Mexican; I have been since the moment I was born,” Astiazarán said at a news conference yesterday where he vowed to appeal the ruling to the federal electoral tribunal in Mexico City.

His Los Angeles birth was accidental, he said, and happened when his mother, seven months pregnant, went there to visit her father, who was in charge of the Mexican Consulate there. She developed a serious renal infection and was unable to return to Mexico to give birth, he said. Astiazarán was born June 4, 1962, at St. Vincent Medical Center.

Astiazarán said that except for that first week, his upbringing, his studies, his marriage, his professional life and civic activities have taken place exclusively in Mexico, and he should have the same rights as any other Mexican.

But Andrés de la Rosa, secretary-general of the National Action Party, or PAN, in Baja California, said state law stipulates that a foreign-born candidate must present a Mexican certificate of nationality at least 10 years before running for public office.

Because of the law, he said, two PAN members born in San Diego who won their party’s nomination for a Tijuana electoral district and the Tijuana city council never became candidates.

“All we are asking is that whoever registers as a candidate fulfill the requirements,” de la Rosa said.

The Baja California tribunal’s action was the latest in a series of rulings that have thrown a wrench into the state’s Aug. 5 election, when voters are scheduled to choose a new governor and replace all five mayors and the entire state legislature.

Last week, the tribunal blocked the candidacy of a major gubernatorial candidate, Jorge Hank Rhon, Tijuana’s mayor-on-leave. The ruling was based on another section of the Baja California constitution that bars those serving in elected positions to leave before the end of their term to run for another office.

Yesterday, the state tribunal blocked two other candidates for political office on the same basis as Hank, both of them members of a PRI-led coalition: a candidate for the Ensenada mayor’s seat and another running for a Tijuana council position.

Hank has appealed to the federal electoral tribunal, and the others are expected to as well. The legal disputes have created much uncertainty about who will be on the ballot come Aug. 5.

Victor Alejandro Espinoza, a political analyst at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana, said that in the past, U.S.-born Mexicans had to choose a citizenship when they turned 18.

But since 1998, Mexico has accepted dual nationality, and Mexicans born in the United States can maintain rights in both countries.

In other cases such as Astiazarán’s, the federal electoral tribunal has favored local constitutions. “If we look for precedents, in all cases, they have said that the local law must be respected,” Espinoza said.

But Astiazarán said he is not giving up: “I will do the impossible to defend my candidacy. We are going to fight until the end.”

Sandra Dibble: (619) 293-1716



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