For weeks, Mexico’s Estado Mayor (Secret Service) and Secretaría de Seguridad Pública (Public Security Secretariat—SSP) have been laying the groundwork for a safe and peaceful transfer of power on December 1, when Enrique Peña Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) takes the oath of office.
The ceremony is scheduled to begin at nine in the morning with the naming of a special committee to escort Peña Nieto to the chamber of deputies, where he will take the oath. Should the chatty bunch in the chamber decide to keep a tight schedule, Peña Nieto can expect to take the oath and deliver his first speech around 11am.
The new cabinet takes its oath on November 30 at midnight, hours before the president-elect takes his. Peña Nieto´s long-time friend, confidant and campaign manager Luis Videgaray will become treasury secretary, while another PRI party heavy-weight, national president Pedro Coldwell, will take over the Energy Ministry. Another important appointment includes the naming of seasoned político Miguel Osorio Chong to the Ministry of the Interior. The Interior Ministry, the strongest of all the ministries, will have additional powers as Congress moves to eliminate the SSP and place all federal police operations under the control of the interior minister.
Peña Nieto´s main nemesis, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), promises that the inauguration of the new president on December 1 will be no picnic for Peña Nieto or the PRI. López Obrador and his newly-founded MORENA movement will hold opposition rallies throughout Mexico´s zócalos to remind voters that Peña Nieto “did not win the presidential election.”
Both the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN) and PRI are determined to prevent the kind of spectacle the nation witnessed in 2006, when Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD) deputies tried to prevent Calderón from taking the oath. That endeavor involveded deputies sleeping near the speaker´s rostrum and over entry points in the chamber of deputies to prevent Calderón from entering the chamber. This year, PAN deputies have publicly sworn to defend the outgoing president should any left-of-center deputies attempt any acts of violence during the ceremony.
Meanwhile, Peña Nieto concluded his first meeting with President Barack Obama, Department of Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano and congressional leaders from the Republican and Democratic parties in Washington DC. In the Oval Office, Peña Nieto asserted his interest in helping Obama craft and pass meaningful immigration reform, and reiterated his desire to continue forging stronger economic and commercial bonds with the U.S. and the region.
As the meeting took place, Republican senators John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Jon Kyl introduced legislation to allow young illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. under certain criteria like serving in the military or attending a technical school or university.
Back in Mexico, PRI, PAN and PRD negotiators were haggling over a multi-party pact entitled Compromiso por Mexico (Agreement for Mexico), which seeks to set the legislative agenda for Peña Nieto´s presidency in five general areas. The agreement emulates the Spanish-style Moncloa Pact of 1977 to ensure democratic governance and transformational policies to make Mexico a first-rate nation.
The five main themes of the pact are: social justice; economic growth, employment and competition; justice and security; transparency and corruption; and governance and democracy. Sub-themes in the agreement include: human rights, security, education reform, sustainable development, poverty, penitentiary system reform, and fiscal reform.
PAN senators loyal to president Felipe Calderón oppose the pact, saying it will only strengthen the PRI. PAN deputies and national and local leaders, including party president Gustavo Madero, think otherwise. The pact will likely be signed as this piece posts.
On the main issue of organized crime, a recent El Universal Buen Dia/Laredo poll reveals 59 percent of Mexicans believe the incoming president should continue the fight against organized crime. Forty-nine percent believe Mexico´s organized crime problem began during PRI rule in the last century, and 33 percent believe drug traffickers are responsible for spilled blood in recent years, versus the 27 percent who fault Calderón for the violence.
As Peña Nieto takes the oath and Calderón leaves for Cambridge to lecture at Harvard´s Kennedy School, one thing is clear: Mexico´s democracy is functioning and moving at an acceptable pace. As President Enrique Peña Nieto takes the helm, we can only hope he takes his oath seriously, moving Mexico in the right direction and improving the lives of his countrymen.
Top stories this week are likely to include: López Obrador files a legal challenge to Peña Nieto’s win; cholera spreads in Cuba; standoff between Bolivia and a multinational Canadian mining firm; the Chávez factor in the U.S. presidential election; and Unasur sends a delegation to Paraguay.
López Obrador Contests Peña Nieto’s Victory: Although Enrique Peña Nieto won the July 1 presidential election according to the independent electoral authority Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Electoral Institute—IFE) earlier this month by over 6 percentage points, runner-up Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has now filed a legal challenge to the ruling, claiming fraud on the part of Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI). AMLO’s team says it will prove that “illicit money” was used to buy votes. Despite IFE having recounted over half the ballots and still upholding its verdict of Peña Nieto’s win, AMLO’s legal challenge submitted to IFE will now be forwarded to the Federal Electoral Court; in turn, the Court will deliver a ruling before early September.
AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini notes, “While fraud remains a problem in Mexican elections and with it people's trust in the results, AMLO is going to have an uphill battle explaining the direct, logical connection between any allegations of fraud and 3 million plus votes of difference between him and the winner, Enrique Pena Nieto."
Cuba and Cholera: According to the Cuban health ministry in a release over the weekend, there have been no new cholera-related deaths since the three ones reported earlier this month in the eastern city of Manzanillo. However, the health ministry has reported 158 cases of the disease, a significant increase from the 56 initially disclosed. Given that the health ministry has remained rather quiet, leading to rumors about a wider problem with the outbreak, pay attention this week to growing concerns about the spread of cholera.
Japanese investment bank Nomura released an analysis yesterday with a very positive outlook for the overall Mexican economy.
The brief highlights the country’s growing middle class and its strong financial sector. As well, it is optimistic about much-needed reforms in the labor and energy industries which will likely have the backing of both the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which just won the presidency and the most seats in the legislature, and the National Action Party (PAN), Mexico’s second largest political party in Congress. This environment for potential collaboration between the two parties could pave the way for legislative accomplishments that would set the conditions for Mexico to outdistance Brazil as the largest economy in Latin America.
Mexico is already set to compete with Brazil in the auto industry and in other manufactured products due to growing wage inflation in China. This means it is less likely to be affected by a Chinese economic slowdown than commodity markets such as Brazil.
Some conditions must be met for Mexico’s growth to take off, says Nomura. Maintaining collaborative relations with the United States—to which Mexico sends 80 percent of its exports—and a steady improvement of the U.S. economy are two critical factors. The bilateral relationship, however, will not change despite both countries holding elections in 2012, according to an article by AQ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Sabatini in El Universal.
Mexico´s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) began the day with a salute and honors to the Mexican flag before the start of an extraordinary session. Mexicans across the country began voting at 8:00 am. If all goes according to plan, the country will have a president-elect by night´s end along with 500 new deputies and senators, six governors and a fresh body of mayors and city councilmen. A total of 2,127 newly elected officials will take office between September 1 and December 1.
Close to 99 percent of all polling stations are operational and no incidents have been reported to election authorities. Army and Marine elements are patrolling the streets to maintain order and peace in several states where organized crime may pose problems for voters or seek to corrupt the vote counting reporting process. These include the border states of Nuevo León and Tamaulipas and the Gulf state of Veracruz where dozens of headless bodies have been found in recent months.
This Sunday, the citizens of the State of Mexico, the country’s most populous state, will elect a new governor. But Sunday’s election is more than just a state contest: it has the attention of the entire nation. The current governor, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), is the clear frontrunner for the 2012 presidential election and this weekend’s contest is seen as a test for him and his party.
Every electoral poll published in the last three or four years has consistently noted the popularity of Peña Nieto. According to recent polls, if the elections were held today, the PRI would return to the presidency after 12 years of Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) governments. And this would happen by a wide margin.
And this election is the first battle for the presidency. If the PRI wins, the popularity of Peña Nieto and his party would be validated. But it is also an opportunity for the PAN and Partido Revolucionario Democrático (PRD), to beat Peña Nieto and PRI or, at least, to weaken his position. Indications are that Sunday will be a PRI victory: polling suggests that Peña Nieto and the PRI will win with a clear advantage –more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round.
A victory would reinforce the PRI’s position as the strongest party in the country. It has won over significant governorships and some large cities or municipalities. What has made it so strong is being mostly united behind Enrique Peña’s presidential bid. In this sense they learned their lesson from the 2006 election where two main groups fought for the candidacy and ended up sending the PRI to third place.
This time we shouldn’t expect this to happen.
On July 25, Andrés Manuel López Obrador emerged from his long self-imposed silence, took to a stage in the heart of Mexico City and announced his intention to run for president in 2012. It was not unexpected, as ridiculous as his candidacy may seem to many.
Plaza Zócalo was filled with supporters welcoming “El Peje,” as López Obrador is known, and chanting “Es un honor, estar con Obrador” (It’s an honor to support Obrador). Confetti flew, arms raised in unison and slogan-covered signs flourished among a group that, once again, threw their hearts and hope at the once and future candidate.
This scene brings to mind the magical town of Macondo, created by Gabriel García Márquez in Cien años de soledad, where the whole population loses its ability to remember. And as in the Macondo of Cien años, it seems we in Mexico need our own José Arcadio to figure out how to get the population to remember again.