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Column 121012 Wall

Monday, December 10, 2012

Enrique Peña Nieto and His First Week as President of Mexico

By Allan Wall

On December 1st, 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto was inaugurated as President of Mexico, and his first week has been an eventful one.

First impressions are important in politics, and the success, or perception of success, of a new president can affect his entire term.

Inauguration Day was filled with many activities.  There was the taking of command at midnight, his morning oath of office, the inaugural speech at midday, the new president's subsequent appearance and comments to the military at the Campo Marte, and a banquet hosted at Chapultepec Castle for invited guests and visiting foreign dignitaries.

On December 2nd, the Pacto por México, a 95-point agreement, was signed by the president and the leaders of the three major political parties, the president's own Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) of the previous two presidents, and the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), the party that came in second in the past two presidential elections.  (Though the PRD president signed the pact, the party's secretary general said its governing committee rejected it!)

The stated goal of the pact is to promote reform in five general areas:

  1. A Society of Rights and Liberties
  2. Economic Growth, Employment and Competitiveness
  3. Security and Justice
  4. Transparency, Accountability and Combat against Corruption
  5. Democratic Governability

Mexican political history has a long history of ambitious agendas, and an almost magical belief in the power of reform by decree. Let's see what comes of this one.

On December 3rd, Peña Nieto held his first cabinet meeting in the Palacio Nacional.  According to the presidential website, "the meeting had an agenda in which the following subjects were discussed: the five great axes of government to achieve a Mexico at peace, inclusive, with quality education, prosperous, and with global responsibility; the 266 commitments made during the campaign; the 13 presidential decisions announced in the first message to the nation; the accords of the Pacto por México signed yesterday; and the 2013 Economic Packet."

The "Five Axes" and the "Thirteen Decisions" were discussed in Peña Nieto's speech on Inauguration Day, the Pacto por México was signed on the second of December, and the "economic packet" is the president's proposed budget.  Notice too that the administration is referring to 266 campaign promises!

On December 5th, Miguel Angel Mancera took office as the new Jefe de Gobierno, or Chief of Government, of the Federal District.  Mancera ran for office as the standard-bearer for the PRD and two other parties, and was elected to his post (by a majority of 63.56%) on July 1st, the same day Peña Nieto was elected to the presidency of Mexico.

Mexico's capital is a federal district, not part of any state, with a similar status to Washington, D.C. in the U.S.  However, in contrast to D.C., Mexico City has representatives and senators in the bicameral Mexican Congress.  Nevertheless, its governmental authority is still limited and circumscribed, lacking powers of statehood.  Yet through the years it has gained more authority to govern itself and has elected its own Jefe de Gobierno since 1997.

Both President Peña Nieto and Jefe de Gobierno Mancera have expressed the desire to work with the other, which could be a positive sign.

On December 6th, Peña Nieto was in the northern city of Monterrey, on his first trip out of the capital as president.

Monterrey is the capital of the State of Nuevo Leon, with the city and its surrounding urban areas constituting Mexico's third-largest metropolitan area -- plus it is not far from the U.S. border.  Although this area is an economic powerhouse of the country, the region has been hit hard by violence in recent years.

In Monterrey, the new president announced two infrastructure projects.

The first is Proyecto Monterrey VI, with the ambitious goal of supplying the Monterrey metropolitan area with water for the next 50 years by bringing it in a 520-kilometer aqueduct from Veracruz.  The second is the construction of a new line in Monterrey's Metro electric train system.

Both sound like worthy projects on their own merits, and they are also consistent with the interests of Peña Nieto's PRI party.  After all, though Nuevo Leon has a PRI governor, a plurality of its voters, nearly 40%, voted for the PAN presidential candidate in July's election.  Successful infrastructure projects could win more support in the region.

On December 7th, Peña Nieto's Secretary of Finance and Public Credit, Luis Videgaray, delivered the president's proposed budget to the lower house of Mexico's Congress.

The new Mexican president is off to a running start.

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located athttp://www.allanwall.info/.


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