For generations, world leaders looked to the United States for consent before approaching Latin American leaders. U.S. presidents James Monroe and Teddy Roosevelt threatened to make war if external powers sought to interfere in Latin America—and European powers, for the most part, followed the script. The tradition continued after World War II and throughout the Cold War, but it changed the day Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) became president of Brazil.
Disinterest, followed by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and financial troubles everywhere, further removed the U.S. from Latin American affairs at the beginning of this century. In a few short years, Silva managed to post the Brazilian colors atop the Latin America stage. Mexico made a similar run, but its internal struggle with organized crime, corruption, dysfunctional politics and constant disputes with the U.S. over a number of political issues limited its chances.
However, today is another day, and Mexico has yet another opportunity to enter the big leagues.
Unlike his predecessor Felipe Calderón, newly-minted Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has decided to place more emphasis on the economy and cross-party negotiation. His leads on international affairs, José Antonio Meade and Eduardo Medina Mora, are experienced practitioners who understand commerce, power, diplomatic speak and international trends. More importantly, these men have the ability to leverage Mexico’s existing relationship with the U.S. and its growing commercial relationship with Asia and Europe to project Mexico’s power and prestige.
Meade was named secretary of state when Peña Nieto assumed office as president. The lawyer and Yale-trained economist has held several positions in government since 1991 in which he developed and promoted national banking and savings policies at different commissions: his most recent public posts included secretary of energy and treasury under Calderón (2006-2012). Most notably, from 2011-2012, Meade coordinated G-20 financial policy when Mexico held the group´s presidency. He has been tested by public opinion and Congress, is well-versed in the Mexican economy and is popular in international circles.
En los últimos sexenios los políticos mexicanos han hablado constantemente de las “reformas estructurales” que el país necesita para modernizarse y progresar y que, por supuesto, casi nunca concretan. Hablan de la reforma política, la reforma educativa, la reforma laboral, la reforma electoral, la reforma energética y otras más igual de importantes. Y en efecto, el país está urgido de esas reformas, aunque éstas sean un poco distintas a las que plantean los miembros de la clase política. A continuación señalo algunas de las más importantes:
Muchos analistas políticos mencionan que el gobierno de Enrique Peña Nieto y el Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) deberán enfrentarse a una fuerte oposición política y que eso les obligará a negociar para concretar las reformas estructurales que proponen para el país.
Pero la realidad es muy distinta. Si la principal amenaza para la presidencia de Peña Nieto son los partidos políticos de oposición, ya puede dormir tranquilo.
Con la renuncia de Andrés Manuel López Obrador, el Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) tiene pocas esperanzas de mantener una votación aceptable en las elecciones legislativas de 2015, pues la mayor parte de sus votos desde las elecciones del año 2000 provenían del llamado “efecto Peje” (sobrenombre del político tabasqueño), y sus actuales dirigentes poco o nada podrán hacer para revertir los efectos negativos que la conversión de Morena (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional) en partido político traerá al suyo. Por otro lado, el enfrentamiento entre las llamadas “tribus” perredistas, especialmente los “chuchos” (dirigidos por Jesús Ortega y Jesús Zambrano) y los “bejaranos” (dirigidos por René Bejarano), ha mostrado claramente las debilidades de este partido político. Los votantes de izquierda difícilmente volverán a apoyarlos tras su clara alianza con los últimos gobiernos, lo que provocó la queja y la renuncia de muchos de sus militantes que ahora apuestan por Morena. Poca fuerza tendría así para oponerse al gobierno, aunque lo quisiera. Sólo le quedan dos caminos: recuperar la dignidad perdida convirtiéndose en oposición real aunque le cueste perder algunas prerrogativas, o continuar buscando el apoyo del gobierno en turno a cambio de sus votos en el Congreso.
A Brazilian government spokesperson announced yesterday that President Dilma Rousseff will visit Mexico in early 2013, likely in March, to build on “the very good impression” made by President Enrique Peña Nieto when the then-president elect visited Brasilia in September. The visit will focus on further reversing the tensions sparked over Brazil’s imposition of quotas in early 2012 as well as on sharing the Petrobras model, Brazil’s state oil company, with Mexican counterparts who are looking at how to reform the Mexican state oil company Pemex.
Plans are already underway for a follow-up visit where Pemex executives will travel to Brazil to learn first-hand how Petrobras functions.
Relations soured between Latin America’s two largest economies when Brazil, in response to an escalating trade deficit with Mexico, imposed import quotas on Mexican vehicles. Brazilian government officials have more recently hinted at the possibility of opening up discussions around the current automobile quotas.
Rousseff’s visit to Mexico may be largely symbolic, but the Mexican business community is awaiting concrete actions. Luis de la Calle, the former undersecretary of international business negotiations at the Mexican Ministry of Economy who actively negotiated the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement said that it was “sensible to maintain a certain level of skepticism. At the end of the day, it comes down to interest and what is best for both Brazil and Mexico as a much more open trading relationship.”
A principios de mes, Enrique Peña Nieto tomó posesión de la Presidencia de México en medio de graves protestas callejeras que tuvieron su principal fuerza de choque en la capital. Diferentes grupos como Yosoy132, Morena, sindicatos independientes y otros colectivos campesinos y urbanos protagonizaron duros enfrentamientos contra la policía que duraron más de siete horas y se saldaron con más de 100 heridos. Un día antes, Enrique Peña Nieto hizo la presentación oficial de su gabinete y de un programa de gobierno de 13 puntos.
Por lo que respecta al gabinete, algunos nombres ya se esperaban. Tal es el caso de Miguel Ángel Osorio (Gobernación), Jesús Murillo (Procuraduría General de la República), Joaquín Codwell (Energía), Enrique Martínez (Agricultura), Emilio Chuayffet (Educación Pública), Alfonso Navarrete (Trabajo) y Jorge Carlos Ramírez (Reforma Agraria).
Otros nombres sorprenden pero no extrañan. Tal es el caso de Manuel Mondragón (subsecretario de Seguridad Pública) quien proviene del gobierno de la ciudad de México; Rosario Robles (Desarrollo Social), exgobernadora de la capital del país y expresidenta del Partido de la Revolución Democrática; y José Antonio Meade (Relaciones Exteriores), exsecretario de hacienda del gobierno de Felipe Calderón. Sin embargo, pocos son gente realmente cercana a él, como Luis Videgaray (Hacienda), Gerardo Ruiz (Comunicaciones) y Alfonso Navarrete, lo que nos indica el grado de subordinación que el nuevo presidente tiene respecto al grupo encabezado por Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Incluso una sobrina de éste figura como nueva secretaria de Turismo (Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas). Desaparecen también dos secretarías (Seguridad Pública y Función Pública), cuyas atribuciones regresan a la de Gobernación.
Se presentó también un Programa de 13 Puntos y se firmó el Pacto por México entre los principales partidos políticos, por los que se comprometen a diversas acciones de gobierno y reformas legislativas orientadas a cinco objetivos fundamentales: gobernabilidad democrática; crecimiento económico, empleo y competitividad; ejercicio pleno de derechos sociales y libertades; seguridad y justicia, así como transparencia, rendición de cuentas y combate a la corrupción. Lo que no se dijo es cómo se va a lograr, cuándo y de qué forma. Promesas fáciles de incumplir, tal y como lo hemos visto en los últimos cuarenta años.
La duda es si con el mismo modelo económico que ha hundido al país y con los personajes públicos y privados que lo motivaron, el nuevo inquilino de Los Pinos y su gabinete concretarán todo lo que han prometido. Para financiar los proyectos contenidos en ambos documentos, de acuerdo con Carlos Fernández Vega, harían falta 250 mil millones de pesos (casi 20 mil millones de dólares). Por otro lado, en el presupuesto del gobierno, 90 centavos de cada peso ya están comprometidos y no pueden tocarse (pago de deuda, de sueldos, etc.), por lo que sólo quedan 10 centavos por peso (de acuerdo a la Cámara de Diputados). El secretario de Hacienda, Videgaray, ya dijo que no habrá aumento de impuestos en 2013, pero de acuerdo con Carlos González Barragán, director del Centro de Investigación Económica y Presupuestaria, para solventar los compromisos ofrecidos hace falta una reforma fiscal y hacendaria. ¿De dónde sacarán el dinero entonces?
En otro tema, la seguridad pública, las cosas parece que no van a cambiar mucho, pues el nuevo presidente ya anunció que el ejército seguirá en las calles mientras se prepara un nuevo plan de seguridad. Y con el cambio de sexenio, las muertes no han cesado.
Como bien señala Guillermo Knochenhauer, Calderón deja el gobierno en tan malas condiciones que a Peña no le será difícil mejorar aunque sea un poco cualquiera de las políticas del gobierno anterior. Además, éste contará con un conjunto bien disciplinado de medios electrónicos e impresos que encubrirán cualquier fracaso y magnificarán cualquier éxito.
There is a rising star in Latin America. And it is not the a member of the BRICs, but Mexico.
Mexico has received consisten attention regarding its security challenges, but things have started to change over the past few months. In August, Nomura published a report that forecast Mexico would become Latin America’s number-one economy by 2022, stating that “the recent relative outperformance of the Mexican economy to Brazil could prove to be long lasting."
That’s a controversial argument when considering Brazil’s explosive growth during the past years. While its recent economic performance has been weak, this does not imply that South America’s giant will not be able to recover. Or does it?
Brazil’s rapid economic growth was not only due to a favorable macroeconomic outlook and the timely implementation of much-needed reforms, but also, and more importantly, to China’s insatiable appetite for natural resources. The Chinese government has been progressively increasing its presence in foreign markets to guarantee a steady supply of resources, especially energy. This is critical for the Chinese Communist Party, as its legitimacy rests on providing good economic prospects to its population.
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.
Enrique Peña Nieto’s meeting today with President Obama and other senior U.S. government officials in Washington sets the stage for a productive and vibrant bilateral relationship, but challenges await. As expected, the atmospherics surrounding the brief visit are welcoming and congratulatory. Both leaders seek to establish a meaningful personal connection that will carry them through the coming years of inevitable ups and downs in a dense and fluid bilateral relationship—one of the most complicated, yet potentially rewarding, in the world. At the same time, they are anxious to discuss the outlines of the agenda anticipated under a Peña Nieto presidency, including energy and tax reform, social security, and security, all areas that impact Mexico’s global competitiveness and priority areas for reform.
Fundamentally, these are issues for Mexicans to address. The United States can nonetheless assist the new president by taking actions that are in our own self-interest. Foremost among these is immigration reform, which President Obama has promoted as an issue for 2013. The United States could also do more to promote the rule of law, first by curtailing our own demand for illegal drugs and also by curtailing the supply of automatic weapons and ill-gotten financial gains from the United States to Mexico.
But the real opportunity, as Mexico’s Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan has suggested, is to move from a transactional to a strategic relationship, much like the United States enjoys with Canada, especially in the economic sphere. The three nations of North America now make up an integrated platform for manufacturing and production; for example, it no longer makes sense to talk about cars that are “made in America.” Now, they are made in North America, as are numerous other products. Rather than resisting this trend, we should be celebrating and promoting it, because doing so makes our own economy more efficient and our people more prosperous, as it does with both Mexico and Canada.
After much public and legislative wrangling, Mexico’s lower chamber opted to bring the country’s labor code into the twenty-first century. With 361 votes supporting the measure and 129 in opposition, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI), Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party—PAN), Partido Verde Ecologista de México (Green Party—PVEM) and Partido Nueva Alianza (New Alliance Party—PANAL) voted on November 13 to breathe life into the Mexican economy by overturning rules that have idled Mexico’s economic engine for four decades. The bill was subsequently sent to the Senate for a second time, and passed.
Absent from the new law are much-needed transparency measures intended for unions, whose boards are controlled by powerful union bosses who skim profits and use slush funds to reward friends, prop up political campaigns and finance everything from protests to public campaigns against reformers.
Union transparency and accountability were central to the labor bill submitted by President Felipe Calderón and his PAN party to the lower chamber in September, but the PRI and its allies would not have it. In the end, forgoing strong union transparency and accountability measures allowed the bill to pass. PRI legislators promised to hold debate on union accountability legislation in a future session.
The Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution—PRD), Partido del Trabajo (Labor Party—PT) and Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement—MC) voted against the bill. In their view, the bill does little to help workers, a lot to support business owners and validates union corruption. As the bill went up for a final vote, deputies from the three parties ran a banner across the chamber´s speaker´s rostrum stating, “Those who betray workers betray their country.”
Top stories this week are likely to include: Mexico’s presidential inauguration; Kyoto Protocol up for renegotiation; reaction to a new oil field find in Mexico; UNASUR meets in Peru; and Argentina-Ghana dispute to be reviewed by the UN.
Enrique Peña Nieto Assumes Power: On Saturday, President Felipe Calderón will conclude his six-year term and hand the presidential sash to President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto. He won the July 1 election with a nearly 7 percentage point advantage over the second-place finisher, Andrés Manuel López Obrador. In advance of his inauguration, Peña Nieto will travel to Washington DC and meet with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow. “Expect immigration, security, border cooperation, and economic cooperation to be on the agenda but the main takeaway from their meeting will be to lay the foundation for building on the expanded working level cooperation achieved over the last few years,” notes AQ Senior Editor Jason Marczak.
Extra: Look for an AQ Web Exclusive analysis on the inauguration—and the next six years—later this week from Dr. Rafael Fernández de Castro, chair of the international studies department at the Instituto Tecnológico Autonómo de México (Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico—ITAM).
COP18 Gets Underway: The 18th United Nations Climate Change Conference—known as COP18—begins today in Doha, Qatar and runs through December 7. COP18 comes after other UN-sponsored summits—from Rio+20 in Brazil (2012) to COP17 in South Africa (2011) to COP16 in Mexico (2010) —have not managed to renew global commitment toward climate change and with the Kyoto Protocol set to expire this year. The U.S. and Canada are the only countries in the Americas not to ratify the Protocol.
Mexico Finds More Oil: President Calderón announced the discovery of a large oil field in Tabasco state yesterday that may have reserves of up to 500 million barrels. With President-elect Peña Nieto discussing opening up Petróleos Mexicanos (Mexican Petroleums—PEMEX) to private investment, expect discussions this week about what this latest find can mean for its domestic development and geopolitical strategy.
UNASUR Summits: A group of UNASUR defense ministers, known as the South American Defense Council (SADC), is meeting today through Wednesday in Lima. Two working groups, one on the transparency of military stock and the other on the incorporation of women into the defense sectors, are expected to report. The SADC summit occurs ahead of the Fourth Regular Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of UNASUR this Friday, also in Lima.
UN to hear Argentina-Ghana Dispute: After the Argentine vessel ARA Libertad was detained in a Ghanaian port due to unpaid national debts early last month, there has been much back-and-forth between Argentina and bondholders. After Argentine Foreign Minister Héctor Timerman took his complaints to the UN, the UN Law of the Sea Tribunal—based in Hamburg, Germany—will hear the arguments on Thursday and Friday. Read more on the dispute between Argentina and its debt holders.