Tag Archives: MORENA

Peña Nieto needs a Trump-sized confrontation to help his ailing presidency

Nearly two-thirds into his presidency, Enrique Peña Nieto is far more unpopular than either of his two predecessors. (Facebook)
Nearly two-thirds into his presidency, Enrique Peña Nieto is far more unpopular than either of his two predecessors. (Facebook)

Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was elected in July 2012 to great fanfare, so it was almost certain that his administration would fall well short of expectations.Mexico Flag Icon

In the leadup to that 2012 presidential election, Peña Nieto spent so many years as such a heavy frontrunner he was practically Mexico’s president-in-waiting. When he ultimately won the presidency by a margin of around 6.5%, it was less than polls predicted, but still the largest margin of victory in a presidential election since 1994. With movie star looks and a bona-fide star for a wife in Angélica Rivera, a model and telenovela actress, his victory was a triumph not only for himself, but for his party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI, Institutional Revolutionary Party), which lost the presidency in 2000 after seven decades of consecutive rule in Mexico and that spent a difficult decade shut out of executive power at the national level. In Peña Nieto, the telegenic former governor of the state of Mexico, with over 15 million people, by far the largest in the country and the surrounding state of Mexico’s central federal district.

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When he rose to the presidency, Peña Nieto was widely expected to do just two things as the face of what Mexican voters believed to be a reformed and a modernizing PRI.

First, Peña Nieto would enact a range of reforms liberalizing everything from Mexico’s energy sector to its tax collections scheme. Second, Peña Nieto would bring peace to a country roiled by drug violence, lethal competition among drug cartel and what seemed like an increasingly self-defeating militarized response to drug violence by Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón, of the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party).

On both fronts, Peña Nieto fell short of expectations.

While Mexico might today be more becalmed than in 2012, violence and government incompetence have dominated headlines. Peña Nieto’s presidency will forever be marred by the abduction and assassination of 43 students in Iguala by police officers in Guerrero state in September 2014. The glory of his government’s capture in 2014 of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, the leader of the infamous Sinaloa cartel, was soon eclipsed by his escape from a maximum-security prison in 2015, and Guzmán, recaptured seven months later, now faces extradition to the United States.

Peña Nieto’s presidency has been a mix of the good (significant political and economic reforms), the bad (corruption, impunity at the highest level of the PRI and his own administration and ineptitude in the face of cartel strength) and the ugly (the Iguala massacre).

By most measures, though, his performance has been far worse than many observers expected, with less impressive reforms than promised and a legacy of sporadic drug violence, police brutalization, personal conflict-of-interest scandals and continuing widespread corruption at all levels of government. That’s all on top of a Mexican economy struggling to deal with far lower global prices for oil and other commodities. It’s so bad that his approval rating sank earlier this month to just 23%, lower than any Mexican president since Ernesto Zedillo faced an acute peso crisis in the mid-1990s.

In the July 2015 midterm elections, the PRI lost nine seats in the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies), the lower house of the Mexican congress, and in the June 2016 gubernatorial elections, the PRI lost power in states it’s held since 1929 — including Veracruz, Tamaulipas Durango and Quintana Roo.

Just this week, as he prepares to deliver his state of the union address on Thursday, Peña Nieto has faced down embarrassing revelations that he plagiarized much of the thesis that he submitted for his law degree. Earlier this month, his wife faced fresh accusations of a new conflicts-of-interest scandal involving the use of a luxury apartment from a Mexican businessman in Miami.

So as the Mexican president prepares to welcome Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for an unexpected private meeting on Wednesday, it’s no understatement that Mexico’s beleaguered president could use a diversion. With his approval ratings so low, though, Trump presents an easy target. Continue reading Peña Nieto needs a Trump-sized confrontation to help his ailing presidency

Mexican left disintegrates as midterms approach


With a little patience and a little luck, the 2015 Mexican midterms could have been the magic moment for the long-tormented Mexican left. Mexico Flag Icon

The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) and one of its founder, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, is widely thought to have been fraudulently denied victory in the 1988 presidential election. In the 2006 presidential election, former Mexican City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or ‘AMLO’) came tantalizing close to winning a race that was presumed his election to lose. In the 2012 presidential election, a race that was supposed to be a runaway landslide for Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto, López Obrador (pictured above) still managed to come within 7% of Peña Nieto.

It’s an understatement to say that Peña Nieto’s presidency has been a disappointment. Mexicans were wary of returning to power the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which governed uninterrupted between 1929 and 2000. Those instincts may have been sharp. Peña Nieto has not inspired confidence in his ability to reduce drug violence and the accompanying corruption that surrounds it, his landmark reforms to liberalize the Mexican state energy company haven’t been followed by subsequent tax reforms, Mexico’s economic growth sluggish by historical standards and Peña Nieto, his wife and finance secretary Luis Videgaray have all been tarred by accusations of personal financial impropriety.

Mexican voters, however, seem disinclined to turn back to the conservative party that held the presidency between 2000 and 2012, the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN, National Action Party), which managed to enact even fewer reforms and performed no better on drug violence. In an alternate universe, that would leave space for a challenge from the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution). Nevertheless, the party and the Mexican left, in general, is so divided that it is in no shape to emerge as a viable alternative.

For starters, the PRD is just as entangled in the mess of violence and corruption as the PRI. Despite the fact that the Peña Nieto administration has received well-deserved grief for its response to last September’s horrifying massacre of 43 unarmed students in Iguala, the PRD governor of Guerrero state, Ángel Aguirre, was forced to resign after his government did little to seek justice, and it was a PRD official who served as the Iguala mayor accused of involvement in, and cover-up of, the students’ murders.

Out of nine states with gubernatorial elections, the PRD is competing in just two of them — Guerrero and Michoacán, both of which have been plagued by corruption and drug violence in recent years. It not only highlights that the PRD’s roots lie in the indigenous-heavy south, but also that the PRD has failed to become a legitimately national party.

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Most polls show that the PRI, despite the pessimism about the country’s course over the past three years, will win the largest share of the vote in the July 7 elections, possibly even perpetuating the party’s narrow hold, with a handful of allies, on the Cámara de Diputados (Chamber of Deputies), the 500-member lower house of the Mexican congress.

mexico chamber

Instead of working together to unite toward the common goal of winning power across Mexico in the 2015 midterm elections and propelling the PRD into contention for the 2018 election, its leaders have engaged in petty infighting and recriminations. Continue reading Mexican left disintegrates as midterms approach

How AMLO’s spinoff movement could help the PRD in Mexico

Since losing the 2012 Mexican presidential election on July 1 to Enrique Peña Nieto, Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been working at every turn to invalidate the result — through mass mobilization of his supporters to a lawsuit (since dismissed) charging wide scale fraud.

López Obrador (known simply as “AMLO” throughout Mexico) came in a surprisingly close second place in July, winning 32% to Peña Nieto’s 38%, and the leftist Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) won 140 seats in the Cámara de Diputados, the lower house of the Mexican Congress, an increase of 52 seats for the PRD, which kept Peña Nieto’s Partido Revolucionario Institucional(PRI) from an absolute majority.  While it is very likely true that the PRI, which ruled Mexico for 71 years from 1929 until 2000, engaged in some amount of fraud, especially in Mexico’s more rural states, some of which have been controlled by the PRI for 80+ years and running — but not the kind of fraud that would make up 6% of the electorate in Latin America’s second-most populous country.

Earlier this month, however, AMLO left the PRD to join forces with the Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (MORENA, the National Regeneration Movement), an umbrella group that combines elements of even more leftist forces in Mexico and the #YoSoy132 youth protest movement that notably highlighted the issue of fraud before the election and served (and continues to serve) as a broad anti-PRI bulwark. It seems clear that AMLO is angling to form a second party on the Mexican left in advance of the 2015 legislative midterm elections and the 2018 presidential election — even before Peña Nieto is inaugurated in December!

That could complicate the PRD’s hopes to consolidate its legislative gains in 2015, and it could yet again deny the Mexican left the presidency after decades of bad luck and wrong turns.

AMLO, the former head of government in the Distrito Federal (the position essentially amounts to being the mayor of Mexico City), very narrowly lost the 2006 presidential election to Felipe Calderón, the candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN).  AMLO thereupon accused Calderón of fraud after that election, and he and his supporters set up camp outside the Zócalo in Mexico City for months to protest the result — going so far as to hold a mock inauguration of the ‘legitimate’ president of Mexico.

It’s those demonstrations — and AMLO’s insistence that he should be the PRD’s 2012 presidential candidate instead of outgoing DF head of government Marcelo Ebrard (pictured above) that have attached to him a bit of a narcissistic — even messianic — image.  In the most recent race, AMLO even ran television ads apologizing for his post-2006 demonstrations and pledged to respect the result of the 2012 election.

All of which is to say that, despite the initial fears of a split left in Mexico, and despite a strong core of personal supporters, AMLO’s departure might well be the best thing to happen for the PRD. Continue reading How AMLO’s spinoff movement could help the PRD in Mexico