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Candidate for Mexican congress appears topless on billboards

By Rafael Romo, CNN Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
May 22, 2012 -- Updated 1422 GMT (2222 HKT)
  • Philosophy professor Natalia Juarez is running for congress in Mexico
  • Her campaign includes a billboard on which she and other women are topless
  • The candidate says it's her way of giving voters a wake-up call with radical ideas for Mexico
  • "Even if I dressed as a nun ... conservatives are never going to vote for me," she says

(CNN) -- It's a campaign that's raising a lot of eyebrows in Mexico.

The campaign involves a 34-year-old philosophy professor named Natalia Juarez, who's running for the Mexican congress. When Juarez realized her bid for office was off to a slow start a few weeks ago, the leftist candidate quickly decided she was going to be transparent with voters in a way they didn't expect.

Juarez decided to appear topless on a billboard surrounded by half-a-dozen supporters of her party, the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution). The billboard shows the seven women, including Juarez, naked from the waist up and covering sensitive areas with their right hands while they raise their left fists.

The candidate says it's her way of giving voters in Mexico a wake-up call.

"Society is lethargic. We don't seem to be aware of our role. We need to get energized. We need to tell people, 'Hey, wake up because if you don't, sharks are going to eat you up. Wake up, you citizen and politician," Juarez said.

A caption above the women on the billboard reads: "I dare you to build a new project for a nation with no prejudices."

Another billboard shows the bare legs of four women with their pelvic areas covered with a semi-transparent yellow cloth. The caption on the cloth reads: "It's better for one thousand of us to take a step forward than for one leader to take one thousand steps for us."

At a recent campaign stop in Guadalajara, Juarez shook hands with voters and high-fived one supporter.

Juarez heads the philosophy department at the University of Guadalajara. She says she has received strong support from most of her female students, "but some of my male students just look at me from a distance," she said.

So far Juarez has posted the two billboards in Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city and also one of the most conservative. She has been the target of harsh criticism and dismissed as a novice trying to make in politics no matter at what cost.

"Conservative people are never going to vote for me, never!" Juarez said. "Even if I dressed as a nun and carried a rosary and said that my party was going to give away Bibles and rosaries, they wouldn't. Conservatives are never going to vote for me."

Juarez also says she has the full backing of her family, including her elderly mother, whom she describes as a small-town, conservative woman.

And if people were shocked by her first round of campaigning, Juarez says, that is nothing compared with the second one she will unveil in the next few weeks, although she's not giving out details.

In the meantime, she has been targeted on social media. "Who needs brains when you have these?" reads one comment on Twitter.

Juarez says that won't deter her from advancing her political platform.

The bottom line, Juarez says, is that she's a radical candidate with radical ideas for a better Mexico.

"When it comes to drugs and the violence generated by drug trafficking, we need to start thinking in a radical way. What do I mean by that? Well, we need to start a debate. Let's legalize (drugs), tax them and use the money for other things," Juarez said.

Mexico will hold presidential and congressional elections on July 1. In addition to a president, Mexicans will also elect 128 senators, 500 representatives, six governors, 375 local legislators and 641 mayors.

CNN en Espanol's Rey Rodriguez contributed to this report

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