Is Peña Nieto's honeymoon over in Mexico?
July 20th, 2013
01:22 AM ET

Is Peña Nieto's honeymoon over in Mexico?

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By Global Public Square staff

Elected leaders around the world are struggling. They're down in the polls, their economies are stagnant, their people are protesting, and their oppositions are betting on their failure. There is, however, one leader who has seemingly bucked that trend – and it's not by jailing his opposition or shutting down the press. He's the president of a free, democratic, capitalist country. Is this person Superman?

I'm talking about the young and highly successful president of Mexico: Enrique Peña Nieto. Just compare him with our president.

Obama's approval ratings recently hit their lowest since 2011 – 45 percent. Seven months into the job, Peña Nieto is sitting pretty at 57 percent. And it's not just average Mexicans who have given their president an extended honeymoon…the opposition has, as well. Two major rival parties joined Peña Nieto to form what they called a "Pact for Mexico." Together, they put through a groundbreaking set of reforms in labor, education, telecoms, and TV.

Just this week, the government announced an infrastructure deal worth $316 billion to build roads and railways. Imagine that happening in Washington, where we spend months deciding whether or not we should have filibusters! Drug-related homicides are down in Mexico 18 percent during Peña Nieto's term. This week, local authorities brought down the leader of the deadly Zeta cartel.

More from GPS: Misconceptions about Mexico

It's been an extraordinary start to a presidency. And it comes at a time when experts are hailing Mexico's rise. The New York Times columnist Tom Friedman says that Mexico could be one of the 21st century's big economic successes. Of course on Global Public Square, we have been championing Mexico's prospects for the last two years.

And yet, there are signs emerging that – perhaps – Peña Nieto's honeymoon is coming to an end.

Let’s explain.

It all goes back to that "Pact for Mexico" mentioned earlier – a cross-party alliance to push through much-needed reforms. It seemed to work across a number of industries. But now it faces a hurdle: energy. One company has a complete monopoly over Mexico's oil and gas – the state-owned Pemex. In fact, its hold over drilling is actually enshrined in Mexico's constitution. But Pemex, like many state-owned behemoths, is an ailing, failed enterprise. Its production is below-par, it literally fuels corruption. And therein lies the problem – any attempt to reform this sector is being rejected not only by the opposition parties, but also by factions within Peña Nieto's own party.

Pressures are building on the "Pact for Mexico." Local elections turned sour last week amid allegations of corruption. There were violent clashes, with the opposition parties threatening to abandon the alliance altogether.

The irony is that perhaps Peña Nieto is a victim of his own success. Democracy is catching up with him. The opposition wants to be an opposition. Now, it would be a real tragedy if the president's reform plans fall apart – we all know they make economic sense. But this is how politics works: there are competing interests, there are oppositions. In democracy, not everyone wants to pull in the same direction.

So, it's honeymoon over, and back to reality. Maybe Pena Nieto should come up north and the U.S. could explain to him how to live in a world of polarization, paralysis, and gridlock.

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Topics: Mexico • What in the World?

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. joehefferon

    The best thing we can do for immigration reform is support a vibrant Mexican economy. If no one wants to leave Mexico the borders will be much easier to secure.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:27 am | Reply
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Nieto's honeymoon is far from over. Mexico's economy is still booming. It has more international trade deals than any other country, and exports as many goods as the rest of Latin America combined.

    July 21, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Rising wage costs in Asia and a higher exchange rate are prompting many companies targeting the US market to take a closer look at Mexico.

      July 21, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • Mary

      That's not the problem. The problem is corrupt politicians and businessmen who keep all that "booming economy" money for themselves and pay their laborers $5 a day, which is why many come here where they can make $5 an hour. It's so sad, but very true.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Reply
    • Ben

      Mexico's economy is expected to grow only 1.8%. That is not good. Poverty will not be reduced as president indicated. The reforms the president wants do not really address real solutions that are needed. PEMEX is broke and all Mexico does is borrow more money from the IMF to fool the world that the Mexican economy is improving.

      September 9, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Reply
  3. Lazlo

    Mr. Zakaria is too generous to the Mexican political system, as Peña Nieto's party was the one responsible for 12 years of "polarization, paralysis, and gridlock" while they were out of power. Peña Nieto himself cynically instructed the lower house to obstruct may of the reforms he now champions, to deny his adversaries the political and economical success that would diminish his chances to in back the Presidency for the corrupt PRI.
    From this side of the border, it looks more like certain American politicians are the ones coming to Mexico to learn how to undermine an administration in order to look as if they were to "save the day"and be compared to, say, Superman.

    July 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Reply
    • larry

      Our Republicans got their training and ideas from their PRI on obstructing our congress.

      July 22, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Reply
    • GP

      You are so absolutely correct. All the PRI did the last 12 years was to put roadblocks for any and every initiative put forward by the ruling party.

      July 23, 2013 at 12:50 am | Reply
  4. Tom Douglas

    As Lazlo says 'Mr. Zakharia is too generous to the political system'. My point however as an educated foreign professional who has lived here a number of years, is that all I can tell you is, that to a person, all Mexicans who I know, only roll their eyes in amusemnet when we foreigners talk about how politics can be the art of the possible.It is implicitly understood that politics serves the political elected representatives in terms of plundering the state. One gets into the racket to enrich themselves. It's moreso true here in Mexico as to who you know. not what you do or the measured content of your character.Mr. Peña Nieto as the governor of Mexico State presided over one of the most corrupt regimes in the history of the Mexican nation (look it up and you'll see). Of course the point about breaking the stranglehold that Pemex has over the collective imagination and history is true however, the larger nut to crack is the 'perfect dictatorship' the the ruling PRI created over an uninterrupted period of 72 years in power at the executive and state and municipal levels. It's a perfectly precise centralized humming monster of patronage a political syndicate that has not yet run its course. We need a real amount of time to analyze and discover if this country is on the verge of a democratic breakthrough. Of course there is a rise in economic growth, but you don't have to be an ideologue to see that it doesn't in any way shape or form to the more than 50% of the dispossessed here among us. Every corporation is here with investments and employment opportunities, but how in a real way is it changing the social and political landscape of ordinary Mexicans.The fox (PRI) is ruling the henhouseonce again after a short 12 year respite, and it's way too early to talk about the political reforms producing anything remotely tangible. At least in Brazil there was a spontaneous taking of the street from an an antagonized populace. We are light years away from producing anything approaching an educated middle class pushback to the ruling class patronage trough!!

    July 21, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply
  5. Olga

    Ha,ha,ha Mr. Zakharia should ask to the 50 millions of poor people in Mexico! all the supposed decrease in crimes is only a dream. Ask the people in the border towns that suffer it everyday. In the economy, what about the projected 0% growing for the next year?
    This is the kind of journalism that we obtain from reading somebody that only obtain the information from official sources.

    July 22, 2013 at 11:46 am | Reply
    • Uriel Garcia

      The Mexican economy is expected to grow above three percent this year. You should consider obtaining your information from official sources.

      July 23, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
    • Uriel Garcia

      Next year it could top 4%. Make that 6% if Peña Nieto get's energy and tax reform through. What "official source" of yours is projecting Mexico to grow at 0% next year?

      July 23, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Reply
  6. Jorge

    The author forgot to explain about Mr. Peña Nieto´s fraudulent presidential campaign. Has an approval rating of 57%??? Ask any Mexican that lives in Mexico if they approve of Mr. Peña Nieto and the most popular answer you will receive is a ¨NO¨. Visit Mexico and speak to the people and then write your article.

    July 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Reply
    • larry

      I agree. Also, his real name should be Pendejo Nieto.

      July 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm | Reply
    • Aaron

      Im Mexican and you are right !...I do not know where this guy gets this 'Ratings' Im Guessing TELEVISA ...Oh wait thats where his wife used to work ...for those who do not know, televisa is a major TV network at Mexico.. CNN keep up the good work lol

      July 22, 2013 at 11:47 pm | Reply
  7. Alex

    Mexico, has ALWAYS been an economic promise. They first need to tackle corruption.

    July 22, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  8. al

    the article failed to mention security pena nieto is nothing but a bag of air. all of what is mentioned can go down the drain if he doesn't address the issue of security for his people.

    July 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  9. notevensurprised

    you country is doing well because you send all of you unemployed mexican over here to steal jobs and send money back to help prop up your economy

    July 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Reply
    • Adrian

      If you don't want illegals in your country, DON'T HIRE THEM!.... illegals don't employ themselves and don't steal anything.

      It's clear that US Employers hire these people to save hundreds of thousands of dollars paying less than the minimum wage, avoiding taxes and so on... CORRUPTION!

      July 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Reply
    • larry

      You sound like a clueless Republican. Don't forget to take your meds BEFORE you comment.

      July 22, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Reply
    • al

      id like to see you working in the fields doing a back breaking job for peanuts trying to pay for your internet use on those kind of wages

      July 22, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  10. Pablo Escobar

    Mr.Zakharia,

    Please refrain from writing articles about a country that has no 'say so' about approval rating. Ask a real mexican from Mexico and see what they say. I think someone from the PRI must've paid you to write this. The real power lies with the leaders of the cartels in Mexico. Look up El Chapo, his approval rating are extremly high!

    July 22, 2013 at 4:41 pm | Reply
  11. Pepe Arenas

    Of course Mr. Pena Nieto wants to privatize the oil monopoly! His two Godfathers are Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Carlos Slim. Carlos Slim became the "richest man in the world" serving as Mr. Salinas' front man during the latter's presidency from 1988 to 1994. Mr. Salinas didn't SELL the government owned telecommunication businesses and the banks, he BOUGHT them by using people like Carlos Slim as his front men.
    Pena Nieto wants to privatize Pemex, not because the infrastructure is old and decrepit and the company is grossly corrupt and inefficient. He wants to privatize it so he and his two Godfathers can own it. Why allow the biggest business in the country to be in the public's hands when you can put it in your pocket?

    July 22, 2013 at 6:03 pm | Reply
  12. MLind

    Whatever Pena Nieto has done has had no effect on my grandchildren who live in an indigenous village in the mountains of Oaxaca. Poverty, discrimination, inferior education, rising prices for food they don't grow themselves.

    July 22, 2013 at 7:57 pm | Reply
  13. gchiriboga

    the person who wrote this article probably googled some facts and went on wikipedia, its so poorly written and misleading. Granted, trapping the Zeta Cartel boss is a huge boost of confidence for his administration, but that barely chips enough ice from his iceberg of problems to put in my drink. Approval ratings? Try Rafael Correa of Ecuador, those are numbers that show real sign of progress in the country. Is Obama ever had 87% approval rating I think Washington would implode.

    July 24, 2013 at 9:31 am | Reply
  14. Rick McDaniel

    Actually, his relations with America are all about taking advantage of America........so he has already learned how to beat America.

    July 25, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  15. Neri

    Yo vivo en Nuevo Leon MEX después de leer este articulo solo me queda decirles que es todo pura mentira, eso del rating, como leí en otro comentario, no se de donde lo sacaron ya que nadie quiere a ese presidente, las elecciones fueron un fraude, un buen amigo fue asignado en una casilla de votaciones y antes de que entregáran las urnas con los votos (que en su mayoria fueron para Lopez Obrador) ya estaban declarando presidente a Peña Nieto.

    Con respecto a la "Seguridad" no ha disminuido en lo más minimo solo que las televisoras ya no transmiten ese tipo de noticias para que así pensemos que disminuyen los asesinatos, robos, secuestros, extorsiones etc etc.

    Si pueden mejor no vengan a NL que sigue siendo un mundo de inseguridad y corrupción y aqui nos quejamos mucho epro la verdad no tenemos la cultura como ciudadanos para hacer que cambie lo que nosotros podemos cambiar.

    July 30, 2013 at 11:52 am | Reply
  16. RAi

    Peña Nieto represents all the wrong doings from the past, he is the store front of the worst latin mafia, http://www.informador.com.mx/mexico/2013/475302/6/escalofriante-la-pobreza-en-mexico-amnistia-internacional.htm

    ..and please if you want to make a statement about Peña you have to be a correspondant that truly knows the idiosyncracy of this country and have lived enough in this country.

    A LIE OF A REPORT

    July 30, 2013 at 7:52 pm | Reply
  17. ESO Guides

    Come on, stop!
    ESO Guides http://esoguides.tumblr.com

    April 7, 2014 at 8:07 am | Reply

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