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Column 011915 Thompson

Monday, January 19, 2015


Is President Enrique Peña Nieto Calling the Tune in Mexico?


Barnard R. Thompson


An opinion piece, a rather uncharitable analysis, was published recently about the personae and realities of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, his administration, and those behind him.  All this in the context of who may be some of the backroom power brokers in Mexico, and what could be in store for the nation.


"Zedillo, el hombre tras el poder de Peña," which (taking some liberties) translates as "Zedillo, the man behind Peña's throne," by Jesusa Cervantes, was published on January 9, 2015 by APRO, the news agency of the Mexican news and opinion weekly Proceso.  A wave-making magazine that, more often than not, harshly criticizes the establishment, commonly called "the system" in Mexico.


Quoting Mexico's Finance Minister, Luis Videgaray Caso, the piece begins: "… have no doubt, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto will stay on this path that has yielded fruit, and good fruit, for the Mexican economy for some 20 years."


"Earlier, he said that there could be spending cuts if the economy continues to plummet.  And Agustín Carstens, Governor of the Bank of Mexico, warned of another possible blow to our economy: rising interest rates."


The writer next questionably criticized Videgaray, his remarks and his claims.  Plus, she said, he was not talking about economic policies that began with Presidents Miguel de la Madrid or Carlos Salinas.


"Oh no!  The country's finance man paints his stripe and that of Peña Nieto: the economic model to follow is that of 20 years ago … subtly begun by [President] Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León.


"To Videgaray, 1995 and Zedillo's economic policy marked the turning point of this country.  It is the before and after that 'has paid off.'


"Who has received the fruits?  Not Mexicans, [but] yes to a political group that today centers around Ernesto Zedillo….


"Zedillo Ponce de León today seems to be the man behind the power.  During his six year administration [1994-2000], he had a man as energy minister who, with time, would become key in order to maintain the threads of economic, and therefore political, power: Luis Téllez."


Luis Téllez Kuenzler [56], who holds a Doctorate in Economics from MIT, headed President Zedillo's Office of the Presidency until 1997, when he was named Secretary of Energy [97-2000].  Six years later, during the administration of President Felipe Calderón [2006-2012], Téllez, a member of the opposition PRI, was Secretary of Communications and Transportation until March of 2009, when he was named chairman of the Mexican Stock Exchange (BMV).  He left that position as of December 30, 2014.


Cervantes went on to say that, when Videgaray was named Secretary of Finance, he was at first seen as favoring policies of Carlos Salinas [1988-1994], an expectation that was soon dismissed.  One of the reasons, she notes – among his listened to advisors was Luis Téllez.


Cervantes: "Thanks to the energy reform Videgaray has become a kind of 'viceroy,' as he will decide how, with whom, and how much contracts will be with foreign oil companies.  This has led to the creation of the [Mexican] Petroleum Fund, (where) the carloads of expected money due to the reform will come, and it will be this fund that decides how its considerable resources will be used.


"And Luis Téllez now heads that powerful fund, the man who, like Zedillo, rubs shoulders with financial and corporate royalty worldwide."


With respect to global factors, the piece highlights San Diego, California based Sempra Energy insofar as Téllez has been a member of its Board of Directors since 2010.


Furthermore, "Sempra Energy … has a subsidiary in Mexico named IENOVA, and curiously the chairman of that board is Carlos Ruiz Sacristan, the former head of the Secretariat of Communications and Transportation during Zedillo's administration," Cervantes notes.


"And if you have any doubt about the political and financial frameworks created by Zedillo, here is another fact: Carlos Ruiz Sacristan is a member of other important boards of directors, such as Southern Copper Corp, a mining company that is part of the large Grupo México conglomerate (the same that polluted rivers in Sonora last year, and brought local small and medium entrepreneurs to bankruptcy), and it has among its affiliates the Ferromex and Ferrosur railways, the same that after Zedillo's reforms went into private hands.*"


Cervantes notes that Carlos Ruiz Sacristan is associated with Administradora Mexiquense del Aeropuerto Internacional de Toluca, the company awarded the management concession for the Toluca Airport from 2005 to 2055.  And she suggestively adds that 2005 was the same year that Peña Nieto was inaugurated as governor of the State of Mexico (Toluca is the state capital).


Furthermore, Cervantes writes that Carlos Ruiz Sacristan served on the board of OHL-México with Emilio Lozoya, the current CEO of Pemex.  And she says, "It would than seem that it was the hand of Zedillo who placed Lozoya in the parastatal, through the intervention of the former SCT secretary." 


* MexiData note: In the early years of the Zedillo administration, well connected insiders said that once he left office the President would be rewarded with Mexican railways (possibly comments based on foreknowledge of the 1997-99 privatizations of the same).  As well, after leaving office Zedillo served on the board of Union Pacific Corporation, from 2001 to 2006.



"Zedillo, el hombre tras el poder de Peña," by Jesusa Cervantes, APRO/Proceso, Jan. 9, 2015, Mexico, D.F.  The excerpted translations in this piece have been edited.

Barnard Thompson, editor of, has spent more than 50 years in Mexico and Latin America providing multinational clients with in-depth information as well as actionable intelligence; country and political risk reporting and analysis; plus professional, lobbying and problem resolution services.

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