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Mexico Primes for the Presidential Oath

November 29, 2012

by Juan Manuel Henao

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.      

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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.      

*Juan Manuel Henao is a consultant based in Mexico City and former Mexico Country Director for the International Republican Institute (IRI), a Washington DC-based not-for-profit democracy promotion organization.

Tags: 2012 Mexico elections, Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico

To speak with an expert on this topic, please contact the communications office at: communications@as-coa.org or (212) 277-8384.
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