Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, December 09, 2013

Testing the patience of Mexican voters

Richard Fausset, writing in the Los Angeles Times, offers an evaluation of the first year of Peña Nieto's presidency.

After president's first year, Mexico still a mess by many measures
To President Enrique Peña Nieto's supporters, his first year in office has been a time of bold promises kept as he pursues an ambitious agenda of reforms designed, in the long term, to bring peace and economic growth to Mexico…

Peña Nieto
Though he promised to focus on Mexico's economic potential, Peña Nieto has presided over an economy that has hardly grown at all. Though he vowed to reduce the kind of violence that affects innocent citizens, his record has been mixed, with kidnappings and extortion rising nationwide even as the number of homicides drops…

As Peña Nieto marks his first year in office, he has successfully pushed major banking, education, tax and telecommunication reform bills through Congress, and is pursuing changes in the crucial oil industry. Yet the young, confident and telegenic president, who as a candidate promised a "government that delivers," is facing doubts about his ability to do just that.

A poll from El Universal newspaper last month put Peña Nieto's approval at 50% and his disapproval at 37% — his worst numbers so far as president…

It may be a challenge, however, to convince Mexicans that a radical transformation is truly underway. This is a country with a history of passing beautifully constructed laws that often end up doing little to change the real-life status quo. Some critics argue that Peña Nieto and his allies have allowed key elements of their reform package to be watered down and made less effective as they compromised, trying to mollify often raucous special interest groups and opposition political parties who had agreed to a general reform framework in a so-called Pact for Mexico, signed just after Peña Nieto's inauguration…

Peña Nieto has yet to push through the most controversial change of all: a plan to open the bloated and inefficient state oil monopoly, Pemex, to foreign investment. The company supplies a third of the federal government's income, but production is dwindling precipitously, and analysts say Pemex requires injections of foreign expertise and technology to turn itself around. But the constitution mandates that oil is the property of the Mexican people, and the issue touches deep chords of national pride…

On the crime front, federal figures show that homicides for the first 10 months of 2013 were down 16% compared with the same period in 2012, but extortion was up 10% and kidnappings up 33%. Such numbers come with multiple caveats: Prominent critics have charged that the government is manipulating the homicide statistics, while the extortion and kidnapping figures could reflect an increase in the reporting of crimes to authorities…

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