Verónica Agundis, a Deputy Who Looks You in the Eye
By Jesús Aguado
The phrase “deputy close to people” applies to Verónica Agundis Estrada, the Sanmiguelense who represents the second district of Guanajuato—Comonfort, Tierra Blanca, Dr. Mora, San José Iturbide, and San Miguel de Allende—in the federal congress. And the phrase can also apply at the congress, where there are more than five thousand employees. There she greets every person.
The close relationship with citizens that she had during her campaign is the same in the congress where she talks the same and makes agreements with the president of the congress, Jesús Zambrano, and the secretary, Bárbara Botello—former mayor of León—as well as with the popular comedian Carmen Salinas or the author of Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel.
Vero, as she is known to Sanmiguelenses, started working in the media when she was 17 years old. “I have worked all my life,” she told Atención. Her first news program was on a cable TV station, Noti9; she also worked locally as a host for Radio San Miguel and then in the state and the country for TV Azteca. She worked for former governor Juan Carlos Romero Hicks as well as for Vicente Fox. In San Miguel she was Director of Education and Culture, and she participated in the integration of the investigation for appointing San Miguel and Atotonilco as World Heritage Sites. Agundis is the one responsible for the opening of the first public university in this city, UTSMA. She also worked as representative of Senator Luis Alberto Villarreal and federal legislator Juan Pasqualli. At the federal congress, despite her busy agenda, Vero Agundis granted an interview to Atención.
Jesús Aguado: How do you define the congress?
Verónica Agundis: It is the house of the Mexicans and that is how it has to be. I have the opportunity of visiting here and knowing the venue where we reform and respect our constitution.
JA: How was your life previous to the legislature? Was your dream to become a federal legislator?
VA: My sisters and I had a very difficult childhood. My parents were divorced when I was very little. We basically survived. What I dreamed of was having a family. I got married. I have two beautiful children although my marriage did not work. My chances to work came because I took advantage of opportunities. Sometimes I did not know what I was going to do, but I was always open to learn. The opportunity to be a legislator came to me without my looking for it. I did not dream of it, but I have worked very hard for it.
JA: As a director of Education and Culture, what was your best experience and worst?
VA: Being a public servant is a unique opportunity, and I love it. Although the workload is impressive, it was a great opportunity to know San Miguel more deeply and its people who, regardless of the government, work to preserve the customs and traditions, thanks to the foreign community that supports them. The finest achievement was the opening of the first public university, UTSMA. Sometimes people forget to say thank you. When you are in the public service, if everything goes well, thank God. If things are going wrong, it is the government’s fault. But that is the risk you take.
JA: Talking about the congress and the legislation of proportional representation—each party gets about the same percentage of seats in the legislature that it won in the popular vote—are you in favor or against their elimination?
VA: I had the opportunity of having a great campaign. I do respect the deputies who were voted in and selected by their parties because of their experience. But I am also thankful to have been voted in because that generates a major commitment. It would be complicated to eliminate the deputies of proportional representation because then there would not be a balance in the country. Now there are 109 deputies from the PAN party, 207 from the PRI, and 42 from the Green Party. From Nueva Alianza, just one deputy was elected by the population. Ten are for proportional representation; those deputies are the ones who make the balance in the congress.
JA: We live in a country where even actors and comedians, like Carmen Salinas, are deputies. Is that correct?
VA: It is not correct that some politicians have been living off the country for 30 years. They jump from the federal to the state congresses and from there to the senate. In Carmen Salina’s case, she is my partner in the congress and in the commission of Culture, Radio and Television. Carmelita came from proportional representation, but I’d bet that if she could have had a campaign, she would have won the election because she is very popular and beloved by the most privileged sectors. She is a very generous woman. She is a senior citizen who deserves respect.
JA: What would make this legislature historical?
VA: It is historical because we voted for the creation of a new state. Now Mexico City will be a state, and all the delegations will be local administrations. Also, we created the new Secretariat of Culture. The National Council for Culture and Arts disappears, and the new secretariat will be independent from the Secretariat of Public Education, with its own budget. It will be historic also because almost 48 percent of the deputies are women, thanks to previous reforms.
JA: At this moment, what does Mexico need?
VA: Mexicans need reversal of the Tax Reform approved in 2014. It is toxic, and it is exterminating all the small contributors. It is recorded that 30 percent of them have disappeared or have moved to the informal (illegal) sector. In the PAN party we are working to reverse it. We also need work from the federal secretariats. They are not doing their job. They said that the increase of the value of the dollar would not impact the country, and of course it does. We import raw materials for the campo or for industry. Eventually the basic food basket products are going to raise their prices. Nowadays we produce corn here, yet we are importing it from another country! How is that possible?
We also need to generate employment and provide a worthy minimum wage, a salary that can be enough to allow access to education and health. More than 6,000 social programs have not solved the poverty in the country. Besides, there are some families that are benefiting from at least 10 programs because the federal, state, and local offices do not share their information. That issue generates lack of productivity and a triple expense.
The National Institute of Statistics gives the numbers. The National Council of Evaluation measures poverty. If there is a diagnostic stating that there are two million more poor people, why do the offices not share their information? In the marginalized zones, there are women who have up to 10 children, and the two oldest are pregnant. Where is the National Council of Population and Housing with its programs of prevention? A high percentage of children are born in jail, and the conception of those children is during the conjugal visits. Where is the prevention?
JA: Do you believe in the phrase, “Mexico can change”?
VA: First we need to know what we want to change. One of the biggest misfortunes of this country is corruption, and that is not going to change if there is no institution to punish public servants. Mexico will change when Mexicans are aware of where their own rights end and their duties begin.
JA: Is there something else you want to say?
VA: The initiatives for changing this country also have to come from the citizens. A community cannot work without its government and vice versa. I am not a politician. I am a citizen. My email is verónica.firstname.lastname@example.org, and the office in San Miguel is located at Calzada de la Estación, 24 interior 8, from Mon–Fri from 10am–5pm.