Cat Runs for Mayor in Beleaguered Mexican Town

PHOTO: "Tired of rats, vote for a cat," says this campaign poster for Morris, a cat that is "running" for mayor of Jalapa, Mexico. In Mexico "rats" is a euphemism used for corrupt politicians.
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Frustration with do-nothing politicians has sparked a surreal situation in the eastern Mexican city of Xalapa, where two students have nominated a cat for that town's upcoming mayoral election.

Morris is the feline candidate's name. He has a Facebook page and Twitter account where he promises to "rid the city of rats," a local euphemism for corrupt politicians.

Besides going after rats, Morris only says that he will eat, sleep, yawn and conduct other cat-like activities. His campaign managers say that this is exactly why you should vote for him.

"Candidates here almost never fulfill their promises," said Jair Cuevas, one of the students who came up with the Morris campaign. "Our candidate promises to sleep, eat, yawn and play in the dirt and that is what he will do if he wins the election."

The gimmick became wildly popular after local newspapers picked it up this week, with Morris' Facebook page going viral. On Friday afternoon, Morris had more Facebook followers (50,000) than any of the city's human candidates, crushing Americo Zuñiga, who is currently the frontrunner in the race for mayor, by 20,000 "likes."

Melina Zurita, a local journalist, said that Morris has picked up steam on social media because he represents indignation with Mexican politicians, who win elections by buying votes, and negotiating corrupt deals. Zurita also added that with his sense of humor (and cute looks), Morris is an appealing candidate for the thousands of people who do not identify with the traditional politicians who are running for office in Xalapa and elsewhere in the country.

"These feelings [of frustration with politicians] are not just shared by people in Xalapa," Zurita said, pointing out that Morris gets messages of support from all over Mexico, and has even been mentioned in several foreign papers.

Morris will not be allowed on the ballot in Xalapa. But his campaign staff are asking people to write his name on the ballot on election day nevertheless, or draw the face of a cat, in order to send a message to the city's politicians.

Officials in Xalapa warned on Thursday that ballots marked with Morris' name or any pictures of felines will be counted as invalid votes. But that did not seem to worry his campaign team, which wrote on Facebook that the more attacks Morris gets, the more important he becomes.

Here are some of Morris' Facebook memes. And an interview where Morris himself tells you what he really thinks of his competitors.

This story was updated on June 8, 2013.

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