MEXICO CITY —One of Mexico's most controversial soccer stars in recent history is on the verge of making history of another sort on the political field.
Former Mexican national team captain Cuauhtémoc Blanco is poised to become the next mayor-elect of Cuernavaca, if the early vote count holds. As of 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, Blanco has a twiggy 3,000-ballot advantage with around 52 percent of the votes tallied.
But he's already feeling good about his chances of pulling out victory. In typical Blanco bravado, the outspoken footballer didn't wait for a vote tally to loudly declare himself the winner shortly after the polls closed on Sunday.
Me los chingué! ("I fucked them over!") Blanco blurted at a rally of his supporters on Sunday before thanking the people of Cuernavaca on Twitter for electing its "first citizen government," followed by the hashtag #I’mLikeYou.
Blanco, who ran on the ticket of the upstart Social Democratic Party (PSD), is one of several political outsiders who's leading in the vote count after Sunday's midterm elections. In the northern state of Nuevo Leon independent candidate Jaime “El Bronco” Rodriguez also shocked the political establishment by apparently winning on a maverick cowboy platform.
Blanco's Social Democratic Party and other small political groups, such as the Green Party (PVEM), lured celebrities and other popular figures into their ranks in an attempt to appeal to constituents and win the required minimum of votes to retain their party status.
Blanco campaigned as a man of the people — a kid who fought his way out of the impoverished Mexico City neighborhood of Tepito to later lead the Mexican national soccer team in several World Cups.
"During my childhood I experienced very difficult situations, shortcomings that many Mexicans experience today, but this was fundamental to reinforce my conviction to carry forward and give my family a better life," Blanco wrote in an open letter to President Enrique Peña Nieto asking him to guarantee security in the Cuernavaca election. "I defended with blood and sweat the colors of my flag as captain of the Mexican national soccer team."
Blanco has a reputation as being a hot-headed troublemaker. His checkered past — on and off the field— includes allegations of beating women, triggering massive brawls in stadiums, punching an ESPN anchor in the face and pretending to urinate on a rival team's goal after scoring.
But it was Blanco's unique brand of on-field magic what seems to have have swayed voters when they entered the booths on Sunday. The soccer star was known for his ingenuity in the field with famous tricks like the celebrated Cuatemiña and controlling the ball with his butt and his camel-hump back.
Blanco's apparent victory also speaks volumes about the threat to Mexico’s traditional parties. Political analysts say the traditional parties failure to reinvent themselves has created opportunities for wildcard candidates like Blanco and Bronco in places where voters want to punish the political establishment for its mediocre performance.
But if Blanco emerges as the next Mayor of Cuernavaca, he'll need all his fancy footwork to avoid getting tripped up on the unfamiliar field of Mexican politics.