Enrique Peña Nieto
- Enrique Peña Nieto
- Early life of Enrique Peña Nieto
- Political beginnings
- Legislative career
- Governor of the State of Mexico, 2005–2011
- 2011–12 presidential campaign
- Presidency, 2012–present
- Economic policy
- Security policy
- Energy policy
- Foreign policy
- Presidential controversies and scandals
- “Acarreados” in fourth year of government conference and presidential plane controversies
- Protests and marches against Peña Nieto’s Government
- Public reception
- Personal life
Enrique Peña Nieto
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Official portrait of President Peña Nieto
|57th President of Mexico|
1 December 2012
|Preceded by||Felipe Calderón|
|Governor of the State of Mexico|
16 September 2005 – 16 September 2011
|Preceded by||Arturo Montiel Rojas|
|Succeeded by||Eruviel Ávila Villegas|
|Born||(1966-07-20) 20 July 1966
Atlacomulco, State of Mexico, Mexico
|Political party||Institutional Revolutionary|
|Alma mater||Panamerican University|
Enrique Peña Nieto (Spanish pronunciation: [enˈrike ˈpeɲa ˈnjeto]), sometimes referred to by his initials EPN, is the 57th and current President of Mexico. Educated as a lawyer, Peña Nieto had served as Secretary of Administration for the State of Mexico (2000–2002), as Representative of the 13th District of the State of Mexico (2003–2004), and as Governor of the State of Mexico (2005–2011) prior to becoming President.
He was elected President on July 1, 2012, winning 39% of the vote and returning the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power after a twelve-year hiatus. The PRI had governed Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years until it was defeated by the National Action Party (PAN) in 2000. Peña Nieto took office on December 1, 2012, succeeding Felipe Calderón. Protests against the election of Peña Nieto drew tens of thousands of people across Mexico, particularly from the Yo Soy 132 student movement, who protested alleged voting irregularities and media bias. National and international award-winning Mexican reporter Carmen Aristegui detailed in 2016 how the Juarez Cartel used a series of shell corporations to fund Peña Nieto’s campaign, and Peña Nieto then allowed the criminals to use government programs to launder money, and gave a previously-arrested cartel mafioso the directorship of a new government program ostensibly to help the poor, but in fact aided the Juarez Cartel.
Peña Nieto began his term as President with an approval rating of approximately 50%, but the falling value of the Mexican Peso and sluggish economic growth had caused this figure to drop to 35% by 2015. Prone to gaffes, Enrique Peña Nieto has also faced several major controversies as President, including the escape of famed drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from Altiplano prison in 2015, and accusations that he had plagiarized his law school thesis. He has also faced criticism for his handling of the abduction and murder of 43 teachers’ college students in the State of Guerrero in 2014. Another crisis emerged on January 1, 2017, due to a 20% increase in gasoline prices that became known as Gasolinazo. According to the Newspaper Reforma, by August 2016, Peña Nieto’s approval ratings had dropped to 23% – the lowest for any president since the paper began opinion polls in 1995. The approval decreased to 12% by January 19, 2017.
Early life of Enrique Peña Nieto
Enrique Peña Nieto was born on 20 July 1966 in Atlacomulco, State of Mexico, a city 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Mexico City. He is the oldest of four siblings; his father, Gilberto Enrique Peña del Mazo, was an electrical engineer; his mother, María del Perpetuo Socorro Ofelia Nieto Sánchez, a schoolteacher. He is the nephew of two former governors of the State of México: on his mother’s side, Arturo Montiel; on his father’s, Alfredo del Mazo González. He attended Denis Hall School in Alfred, Maine, during one year of junior high school in 1979 to learn English. After living in Atlacomulco for the first 11 years of his life,Enrique Peña Nieto‘s family moved to the city of Toluca.
In 1975, his father would often take him to the campaign rallies of the State of Mexico’s governor, Jorge Jiménez Cantú, a close friend of Peña del Mazo The successor of the governor was Alfredo del Mazo González, a cousin of Peña Nieto’s father. During Del Mazo González’s campaign in 1981, the fifteen-year-old Peña Nieto had his first direct contact with Mexican politics: he began delivering campaign literature in favor of his relative, a memory Peña Nieto recalls as the turning point and start of his deep interest in politics. In 1984 at the age of 18, Peña Nieto traveled to Mexico City and enrolled in the Panamerican University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Law..
Peña Nieto is fluent in English, however, he speaks Spanish in formal settings.
Peña Nieto joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1984, and with a law degree nearly completed, he began earning his own money. During his final years in college, Peña Nieto worked for a public notary in Mexico City, around the same time when his relative, Alfredo del Mazo González, was mentioned as a firm candidate for the 1988 presidential elections. In his twenties, he worked at the San Luis Industrial Corporation, an auto parts manufacturer, and at the law firm Laffan, Muse and Kaye. While still a student at the Universidad Panamericana, he roomed with Eustaquio de Nicolás, the current president of Homex, a leading Mexican construction and real estate company. He also befriended and roomed with Luis Miranda, who occupied several offices during the 1999–2000 administration in the State of Mexico.
University plagiarism and masters degree
Peña Nieto’s academic thesis entitled El presidencialismo mexicano y Álvaro Obregón (translated in English as “Mexican Presidentialism and Álvaro Obregón”) expounds upon the comparison between the Mexican presidential system to that of parliamentarism. The 202-page document argued that the administration of Benito Juárez was a “presidential dictatorship”, since he had a powerful executive force during the Reform War, which allowed him to have absolute political power. Peña Nieto interviewed several authors, including Jorge Carpizo, Héctor Fix-Zamudio, Enrique Krauze and Justo Sierra, and listed at least forty books in his bibliography. His work was dedicated to Arturo Montiel Rojas, the former governor of the State of Mexico and relative of Peña Nieto. Decades after, a news report by Carmen Aristegui of Aristegui Noticias (Aristegui News), which was broadcast on 21 August 2016, revealed that Enrique plagiarized 197 of the 682 paragraphs within his University Thesis, which translates to at least 28.8% of the content, from 10 different authors. However his plagiarism was unknown at the time and remained hidden for decades, so Peña Nieto graduated as a lawyer from the Universidad Panamericana without scandals. After Aristegui’s report revealed the Thesis Plagiarism, the Mexican citizens posted an online petition on Change.org asking for Enrique Peña Nieto’s law degree to be nullified by the Universidad Panamericana, gathering 137,000 signatures; the university confirmed the plagiarism but declined to rescind the law degree, a decision which has been heavily criticized among Mexican citizens and the university alumni.
Peña Nieto sought a master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA) at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM), based in the State of Mexico. After his previous plagiarism was discovered in 2016, an online petition made by a student from the Tecnologico de Monterrey, sought for the University to nullify Enrique’s master’s degree due to his previous act of plagiarism, with almost 112,000 supporters, including the rector of the University who accepted a formal meeting to collect the signatures and discuss how to proceed. So far no actions have been taken towards removing any of Peña Nieto’s university degrees by any of the universities so far.
Formal start of political career
Peña Nieto formally started his political career under the mentorship of Montiel Rojas, becoming the Secretary of the Citizen Movement of Zone I of the State Directive Committee of the National Confederation of Popular Organizations (CNOP), one of the three sectors of the PRI. For three consecutive years, Peña Nieto participated as a delegate to the Organization and Citizen Front in different municipalities of the State of Mexico. Then, between 1993 and 1998, during Emilio Chuayfett’s term as governor, Peña Nieto was chief of staff and personal secretary to Montiel Rojas, the Secretary of Economic Development of the State of Mexico.
After 1999, Enrique Peña Nieto went from having low-level secretary positions to higher and more qualified offices. He served from 1999 to 2000 as the Sub-secretary of Government, and as financial sub-coordinator of the political campaign of Montiel Rojas. In 2001, Montiel Rojas named Peña Nieto Sub-secretary of Interior in the State of Mexico, a position that granted him the opportunity to meet and forge relationships with top PRI politicians and wealthy businessmen. After his term concluded, he served as the administrative secretary, as president of the Directive Council of Social Security, as president of the Internal Council of Health, and as vice president of the National System for Integral Family Development – all in the State of Mexico. Under the wing of Montiel Rojas, Peña Nieto formed a group known as the “Golden Boys of Atlacomulco” with other members of the PRI.
State deputy and campaign for Governor, 2003–2005
Peña Nieto was elected to a local deputy position in his hometown of Atlacomulco, State of Mexico, in 2003. Two years later, the governorship of the State of Mexico was sought by Atlacomulco-natives Carlos Hank Rhon, Isidro Pastor, Héctor Luna de la Vega, Guillermo González Martínez, Óscar Gustavo Cárdenas Monroy, Eduardo Bernal Martínez, Cuauhtémoc García Ortega and Fernando Alberto García Cuevas. Peña Nieto was among the crowd, but was not poised as one of the favorites. Nonetheless, in 2005, Peña Nieto was the last man standing, succeeding Montiel Rojas as governor of the State of Mexico. On 12 February 2005, with 15,000 supporters in attendance, he was sworn-in as candidate for the PRI.
Governor of the State of Mexico, 2005–2011
On 15 September 2005, Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn as governor of the State of Mexico at the Morelos theater in Toluca. Among the hundreds of attendes were the outgoing governor, Arturo Montiel; the president of the Superior Court of Justice, José Castillo Ambriz; former governors, members of Peña Nieto’s cabinet and party, mayors, businessmen, and church figures. The centerpiece of Peña Nieto’s governorship was his claim that he was to deliver his compromisos – 608 promises he signed in front of a notary to convince voters that he would deliver results and be an effective leader. According to El Universal, during Peña Nieto’s first year as governor, his administration only delivered 10 of the structural promises he had advocated in his campaign – marking the lowest figure in his six-year term.
By 2006, his administration carried out 141 of the promised projects, making that year the most active in the governor’s term. The 608 projects Enrique Peña Nieto proposed consisted of creating highways, building hospitals, and creating adequate water systems to provide fresh water throughout the state. The most important of these was highway infrastructure, which tripled under Peña’s government. By mid-2011, the official page of the State of Mexico noted that only two projects were left. The major projects in public transportation were the Ferrocarril Suburbano de la Zona Metropolitana del Valle de México and the “Mexibús”, both of which served commuters between Mexico City and the State of Mexico, providing service to more than 300,000 people every day and 100 million a year. Regarding public health services, 196 hospitals and medical centers were built throughout the state and the number of mobile units to attend remote and vulnerable areas doubled. Deaths caused by respiratory diseases were reduced by 55%, while deaths caused by dysentery and cervical cancer were reduced by 68% and 25% respectively. In addition, between 2005 and 2011, the State of Mexico was able to fulfill the requirement of the World Health Organization of having one doctor for every 1,000 inhabitants. The funds for these and all the other commitments were obtained through restructuring the state’s public debt, a strategy designed by his first Secretary of Finance, Luis Videgaray Caso. The restructuring also managed to keep the debt from increasing during Peña Nieto’s term because the tax base was broadened to the point that it doubled in six years.
During the course of the 2012 presidential campaign, the conservative National Action Party (PAN) questioned the completion of at least 100 of the commitments of Enrique Peña Nieto. The PAN also warned the PRI that they were going to examine each of the 608 commitments and release the information to the public, publicizing the cost of the projects and the supposed locations where the projects took place. The PRI responded to the accusations by stating that the PAN politicians “were the liars.” The PRI presented a web page with the description of each commitment and when and where it was achieved; the webpage included pictures, a detailed description, a notary certification, and the number of people that benefited from the project. The party then claimed that Peña Nieto’s adversaries, particularly PAN candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota, were carrying out a “dirty war” against him. The PAN concluded by claiming that the current administration was allegedly “repairing” the unfinished projects of Peña Nieto’s administration, while the PRI insisted that its opposition was pointing-out projects that were not in the 608 commitments.
Peña Nieto also claimed that he halved the murder rate in the State of Mexico during his time as governor, but retracted this claim after The Economist showed that the murder rate did not diminish and was being measured in a different way.
2006 San Salvador Atenco unrest
During the administration of Vicente Fox in 2002, several farmers in San Salvador Atenco, State of Mexico, resisted the government’s plan to expropriate their lands to build a new international airport near Mexico City. Consequently, on 3 May 2006, state and federal police forces raided San Salvador Atenco and violently took many of its locals into custody, resulting in a backlash of civil unrest between 300 unarmed civilians and 3,000 police officers Some law enforcement officials retaliated for the confrontations of the previous days and tried to break the blockade of a federal highway, stopping a group of flower vendors protesting against the government. The leader of the movement was sentenced to 150 years in prison, and the rest of the members were accused of alleged “organized kidnapping” of police officers and sent to supermax prisons. National and international human rights organizations demanded the release of the activists, whose sentences were turned down until August 2010. According to a report issued by Amnesty International in February 2009, the civil unrest resulted in the detention of 200 people and hundreds of allegations of abuses, including sexual violence against 26 women who were arrested; others were allegedly tortured. In the operations, the police used firearms, tear gas and electric batons. A 14-year-old boy was killed and two young men were murdered by the Federal Police, while hundreds were arrested without warrants and beaten. In response to the abuse allegations, the national Supreme Court of Justice agreed to investigate the incident to establish whether the unrest was an isolated event or if it was part of a larger plot formed by politicians at the municipal and state levels.
Yo Soy 132 protest
The Women of Atenco
In 2016, The New York Times reported that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights was standing up for several women who alleged to have been raped by soldiers during the Atenco incident. It reported that the women had been silenced for a decade, some jailed for about a year while others received death threats. 11 women have shown their faces, while several others have anonymously given testimony to the commission. The case investigates then-Governor Enrique Peña Nieto for hiding the incident from the public, and for pardoning the soldiers involved.
2011–12 presidential campaign
On 27 November 2011, a few days after the book fair, Enrique Peña Nieto was the PRI’s last standing nominee for the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. The former State of Mexico governor completed his nomination at an event that gathered sympathizers and politicians. Six days earlier, the senator and preliminary candidate of the PRI, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, withdrew from the race and gave Peña Nieto a clear path towards the presidency. During a book fair a month later, Peña Nieto’s public image “took a lot of hits” after he struggled to answer a question that asked which three books had marked his life. When he was criticized by Mexico’s intellectuals, his daughter worsened the situation by posting a defamatory message on Twitter, stating that the criticisms were driven by class envy. Later, Peña Nieto was interviewed by El País and admitted that he did not know the price of tortillas. When he was criticized as being out of touch, Peña Nieto insisted that he was not “the woman of the household” and thus would not know the price. In another interview, he admitted to have cheated on his past wife with another woman and fathered two children out of wedlock
Soriana pre-paid gift card vote buyout controversy
At a news conference, Obrador stated that the election was “plagued with irregularities” and accused the PRI of buying votes. He also claims that the PRI handed out gifts to influence voters in their favor. Soriana is a Wal-Mart-style chain of megastores, operating 500 grocery stores around Mexico. During the day of the elections, people who voted for PRI would receive pre-paid gift cards. Nonetheless, the PRI and the store denied the accusation and threatened to sue López Obrador. Peña Nieto vowed to imprison anyone – including members of the PRI – if they are found guilty of electoral fraud. Despite Peña Nieto’s statement, many videos by citizens about the Soriana cards surfaced on YouTube.
|Enrique Peña Nieto||Institutional Revolutionary Party||18,727,398||38.15|
|Andrés Manuel López Obrador||Party of the Democratic Revolution||15,535,117||31.64|
|Josefina Vázquez Mota||National Action Party||12,473,106||25.40|
|Gabriel Quadri de la Torre||New Alliance Party||1,129,108||2.36|
|Source: PREP (98.95% of polling stations reporting)|
After ruling Mexico for most of the past century, the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) brought hope to the supporters and fear to those remembering the old PRI tactics of making deals with the cartels in exchange for relative peace. According to an article published by The Economist on 23 June 2012, part of the reason why Peña Nieto and the PRI won lies in the disappointment of the rule of the National Action Party (PAN). Buffeted by China’s economic growth and the economic recession in the United States, the annual growth of Mexico’s economy between 2000 and 2012 was of 1.8%. Poverty worsened, and without a ruling majority in Congress, the PAN presidents were unable to pass structural reforms, leaving monopolies and Mexico’s educational system unchanged. In 2006, Felipe Calderón chose to make the battle against organized crime the centerpiece of his presidency. Nonetheless, with over 60,000 dead, many Mexican citizens are tired of a fight they had first supported.
According to The Guardian, Peña Nieto’s “young, telegenic and impeccably smooth” image has helped gloss over the PRI’s reputation of corruption and authoritarianism. Such views are rare in Mexico City, where the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) holds strong support. Throughout the political campaigns, Peña Nieto poised to steer his party back into power and was, according to the polls, the favorite to win the elections. Some of his adversaries, however, said that the “polls were manipulated” and that the PRI was taking advantage of the poor to gain votes, instead of relying on informed voters. Allegations of vote-buying for Peña Nieto were widespread, but the PRI responded by claiming that its rivals were merely questioning the legitimacy of their victory.
Other media outlets like CBS News stated at the time, that Peña Nieto is the “new face of the old guard,” while several American officials fear that his security strategy may mean returning to the old PRI tactics of “corruption [and] backroom deals” with the cartels.
The Economist at the time alleged that these signs were “not as bad as they look,” since Mexico is more democratic, it enjoys a competitive export market, has a well-run economy despite the crisis, and there are tentative signs that the violence in the country may be plummeting. But if voters want the PRI back, it is because “the alternatives [were] weak.” The newspaper also alleges that Mexico’s preferences should have gone left-wing, but the candidate that represented that movement – Andrés Manuel López Obrador – was seen with “disgraceful behavior.” The conservative candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, was deemed worthy, but was considered by The Economist to have carried out a “shambolic campaign.” Thus, Peña Nieto wins by default and was considered by the newspaper as the “least bad choice” for reform in Mexico.
|Presidential styles of
Enrique Peña Nieto
|Reference style||Señor Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos
“Mr. President of the United Mexican States”
|Alternative style||Señor Presidente
Peña Nieto was sworn-in as President of Mexico on 1 December 2012 at the federal congress and later flew to a military parade to formally take control of the armed forces. During his inauguration speech at the National Palace, Peña Nieto proposed his agendas and reforms for the new administration. Before and after the inauguration, protesters rioted outside of the National Palace and clashed with Federal Police forces, vandalizing hotel structures and setting fires in downtown Mexico City. More than 90 protesters were arrested and several were injured. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard blamed anarchist groups for the violence..However, there is evidence that agents of provocation worked with the police, paid 300 Mexican pesos (about US$20) for their acts of vandalism, according to media reports. Photos show the vandals waiting in groups behind police lines prior to the violence. Previous protests had been entirely peaceful, but on this occasion, in apparent response to violence, the police fired rubber bullets. In contrast to the protests, there were no public celebrations of the new presidency. The day after his inauguration, Peña Nieto announced the Pact for Mexico, an agreement that he had struck with the leaders of two other major parties about the government’s goals for the next few years.
Four major policies have been instated focusing on Mexico’s economy, security, energy and foreign affairs all with mixed reactions.
The auto manufacturing industry expanded rapidly under Nieto’s presidency. In 2014, more than US$10 billion was committed in investment in the sector. In conjunction with Kia Motors in August 2014, the president announced plans for Kia to build a US$1 billion factory in Nuevo León. At the time, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan were already building a US$1.4 billion plant near Puebla, while BMW was planning a US$1 billion assembly plant in San Luis Potosí. Audi began building a US$1.3 billion factory near Puebla in 2013. As of December 2014, two years into Peña Nieto’s term, total investment in the auto sector in Mexico had reached US$19 billion. The Bajío Region has received the majority of this investment, and with its rapidly expanding aerospace industry has become the fastest-growing region in the country.
According to the Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS), between December 2012 and June 2016, more than two million jobs were created in Mexico. Of those jobs, 41% were taken by women and 36% were taken by individuals between 20 and 34 years of age. IMSS also revealed that 86% were long-term jobs and 14% were temporary. These jobs have led to a 26% increase in revenue accumulation for IMSS, an additional MXN$50 billion. More than half a million jobs had salaries worth five minimum wages (about MXN$10,000 per month) and there was a 22% increase in jobs with salaries greater than 20 minimum wages.
Special economic zones
At the end of May 2016, Peña Nieto signed a law that will create special economic zones in economically underdeveloped southern states. The first three are: Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán; Port Chiapas, Chiapas; and in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to better join the ports of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz and Salina Cruz, Oaxaca. Another zone in the petroleum region of Tabasco and Campeche, hit by the downturn in the oil industry, is planned for 2017.
The special economic zones are meant to alleviate the lack of industry in the South. During the signing, Peña Nieto highlighted the difference between the South and the industrial North and Center of Mexico: two of every three people in extreme poverty in Mexico live in the southern states. While the three poorest states (Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero) have about 10% of the population, they only receive $1 of every $36 in foreign direct investment in the country. He went on to say that there are two Mexicos; one “that competes and wins in the global economy, with growing levels of income, development and well-being”, while the other Mexico “has been left behind [and] hasn’t been able to take advantage of its potential.”
The special economic zones will offer tax incentives (exempetion from the 16% VAT), trade and customs benefits and the streamlining of regulatory processes. There will also be an increase in infrastructure spending in these regions. Private administrators will run the zones on 40-year contracts (managing infrastructure and attracting tenants). According to Peña Nieto, at the latest, each of these zones will have an anchor tenant that will attract suppliers and other industries in the supply chain by 2018. The World Bank advised Mexico during the formulation of the special economic zones plan.
While campaigning, Enrique Peña Nieto appointed a former general of the National Police of Colombia as his external advisor for public security, and boldly promised to reduce the murder rate in Mexico by 50% by the end of his six-year term. Critics of Peña Nieto’s security strategy, however, said that he offered “little sense” in exactly how he will reduce the violence. During the three-month campaign, Peña Nieto was not explicit on his anti-crime strategy, and many analysts wondered whether he was holding back politically sensitive details or simply did not know how he would attempt to squelch the violence and carry out the next stage in Mexico’s drug war. United States officials were worried that the election of Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party may mean a return to the old PRI tactics of “corruption [and] backroom deals” with the cartels in exchange for bribes and relative peace.
In 2012, the president-elect emphasized that he did not support the involvement or presence of armed United States agents in Mexico, but considered allowing the United States to instruct Mexico’s military training in counterinsurgency tactics. Beyond that, Peña Nieto promised that no other measures will be taken by the United States in Mexico.
The security policy of Enrique Peña Nieto has prioritized the reduction of violence rather than attacking Mexico’s drug-trafficking organizations head-on, marking a departure from the strategy of the previous six years during Felipe Calderón’s administration. One of the biggest contrasts is the focus on lowering murder rates, kidnappings, and extortions, as opposed to arresting or killing the country’s most-wanted drug lords and intercepting their drug shipments. The government of Calderón justified its position by stating that the violence in the country was a necessary stage in Mexico’s drug war, as weakening criminal groups fought for territorial control against one another and the government.
On 13 December 2012, a law was approved that included far-reaching security reforms. Mexico’s Interior Ministry, greatly strengthened by the bill, was made solely responsible for public security. Part of Peña Nieto’s strategy consists of the creation of a national police of 40,000 members, known as a “gendarmerie”. The Economist reported that the gendarmerie would have an initial strength of 10,000, but the Washington Office on Latin America reported that it was reduced to 5,000 members and would not be operational until July 2014. The Interior Ministry announced that 15 specialized police units were being formed to exclusively focus on major crimes that include kidnapping and extortion, along with a new task force dedicated to tracking missing persons. Peña Nieto also proposed centralizing the sub-federal police forces under one command.
During the presidential campaign, Enrique Peña Nieto promised to open Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, to the private sector. He also indicated interest in an economic agreement with Petrobras, Brazil’s oil company. By giving more economic freedom to Pemex, investors say Peña Nieto’s proposal could allow joint ventures and private investment in the oil company.
According to the Financial Times in 2012, Peña Nieto’s PRI government, which held just over 38% of the votes in Congress, might have difficulty gaining a majority to pass such reforms, or the two-thirds majority needed to change the Mexican constitution. Pemex was founded through the nationalization of foreign oil interests, and the Mexican constitution bans major outside investments. Changing Pemex could transform the psychology of Mexico’s business sector and involve cultural and political changes that cannot be rushed. President Lázaro Cárdenas seized foreign oil company assets in 1938 to form Pemex, which has served as a symbol of national identity.
Mexican state social investment depends to a great extent on the profits from oil exports controlled by Pemex as a state monopoly. The leftist political movement Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional has expressed concern that Pemex will be systematically excluded as a commercial competitor by the government. They believe that Pemex’s infrastructural decline was due to a deliberate strategy of self-sabotage by the government through lack of reinvestment, and fear that the Mexican oil rent may be taken over by private corporations. The leftist opposition is concerned that energy reform may be a concealed maneuver for privatization. They also worry that laws derived from the constitutional reforms are not explicit in demonstrating that energy reform will avoid having the oil rent be controlled by the private sector. There are questions as to how the Mexican system of public health, education and subsidized transportation (not to mention the newly created presidential fund for retirement and umemployment) would be funded if there is privatization of the oil rent.
Eric Martin of Bloomberg News stated that if Peña Nieto wants to invite investment, he will have to face the challenges of union leaders and local officials who have benefited from the oil company’s bonanza. Productivity in Pemex has been declining since 2004. Mexico has the 12th-largest oil reserves in the world, the 4th-largest shale gas deposits in the world (after Argentina, China, and the United States), and is the third-biggest supplier of oil to the U.S., just behind Canada and Saudi Arabia. Brazil’s 21st-century oil success has shifted popular opinion to support of structural changes in Pemex. Peña Nieto declared while campaigning that overhauling Pemex will be the PRI’s and his “signature issue”, and that he will encourage private companies to invest in exploration and development activities.
In 2014, Peña Nieto announced an end to Pemex’s monopoly, inviting in both large and small private companies to the oil and gas industry. He said that in early 2015, more than 100 blocks would be auctioned for development. The government believes that changing technology will allow additional drilling in mature fields, such as those near Tampico, as well as larger fields likely offshore. This decision has received international coverage.
Protest against the Gasolinazo 2017
The first day of 2017, public dissatisfaction towards the rising prices of gasoline (known as Gasolinazo(s)) led to protests exceeding that of Independence Day. There were marches in 29 of the 32 states in Mexico, boycotts of gas stations owned by the now-privatized Pemex, and illegal gasoline sales around the country. The people used the hashtag #ReformaEnergetica on social media, the people added “No al Gazolinazo!” to previous anti-Peña Nieto chants. Unlike the previous protest, this bigger protest was acknowledged by Televisa news media Carlos Loret de Mora, who said on Twitter “The President hoped the [energy] reforms would be his legacy […] with the ‘gasolinazo’ he buried them [the reforms]”. Bloomberg stated Mexico tied with South Africa as the “country with most income spent on fuel due to low salaries”, the equivalent of 12 days of minimum wage to fill a tank.
An emergency meeting between the governors of Mexican States, organized by the Head of Government of the Federal District, Miguel Ángel Mancera from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), was scheduled to discuss the consequences of the gasolinazo. Peña Nieto hadn’t confirmed his attendance, nor said anything regarding the matter due to being on vacations with the governor of Sinaloa (also from the PRI).
Odebrecht case and ex-director of Pemex Emilio Lozoya Austin controversy 2017
Odebrecht is a brazilian conglomerate that like Pemex also operates in the field of petroleum. Back in 2010-2012, ex-director of Pemex Emilio Lozoya Austin (who served as director of Pemex for most of EPN’s presidency), was part of the PRI’s supporting team helping during EPN’s presidential campaign. In 2017, brazilian news paper O Globo claimed that Odebrecht gave $10 million to Emilio Lozoya as a bribe during EPN’s presidential campaign, money which helped financing the campaign, then after the elections EPN “wins”, Lozoya is made director of Pemex and Odebrecht wins a huge contracts from Pemex and the mexican goverment. The surfacing of the news involving the controversy surfaced until 2017, further revealing Lozoya bought a $38 million house with a single payment before even being director of Pemex, affording such house did not fit with his salary at the time.
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Presidential controversies and scandals
Time Magazine cover
In February 2014, Time was met with controversy for the release of a cover featuring Enrique Peña Nieto and the legend Saving Mexico (written by Michael Crowley), as the cover article’s title inside the magazine. The controversial article praised the president and his cabinet for reforms like opening oil fields for foreign investment for the first time in 75 years (a reform towards which Mexican citizens have shown mixed feelings), ending the Mexican drug wars (which was not completely accurate), and even going as far as saying “the opposition party blocked major reforms that were necessary”, that “American leaders could learn a thing or two from their resurgent southern neighbor” and saying Mexicans citizens’ “alarms were replaced with applause”. The last part proved false, when the cover immediately spawned heavy amounts of backlash on social media, becoming a meme which spawned multiple parody covers ranging from changing the legend to mock words like “Selling Mexico”, “Slaving Mexico”, “Starving Mexico”, “Who is saving Mexico from this ass-hole?” to editing Peña Nieto into clown make-up, dressed as the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, the Pope, to one featuring an old lady holding a gun with the legend “Saving Mexico… pero de Peña Nieto” (but from Peña Nieto). Multiple articles criticized the article, and some websites even asked Time magazine if Peña Nieto paid for the cover story. This prompted Michael Crowley, the writer of the article, to post on Twitter: “Remarkable how many critics of Mexico’s president seem to believe I must have literally taken a bribe to write a positive story about him”.
The “white house scandal” refers to a journalistic report that revealed that first lady Angélica Rivera’s $7 million house in Lomas de Chapultepec in Mexico City was registered under the name of a construction company property of Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú that received contracts in the state of Mexico when Enrique Peña Nieto was governor. With Peña Nieto as president, a subsidiary of the same company was also awarded part of a huge contract to build a high-speed train from Mexico City to Querétaro. The contract was later cancelled amid protests regarding the bidding process. The revelation about the potential conflict of interest in the acquisition of the house aggravated discontent about the government’s handling of the disappearance and apparent massacre of 43 trainee teachers by a drug gang working with corrupt police and government officers in Guerrero. Rivera released a video in which she detailed her income as a former soap opera actress, stating that she was selling the house and that the property was not under her name because she had not made the full payment yet. However, Enrique Peña Nieto has failed to address the potential conflict of interest in spite of constant demands by Mexican citizens, media and opposition senators.
The white house scandal triggered yet another scandal as Enrique Peña Nieto has been linked to another house owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, owner of Grupo Higa. The house was used during the presidential campaign in 2012 and a few times following his election. The official statement from the President’s office, however, claims that the house was used only a few times for meetings and not when he was president. An article published on Aristegui Noticias provided evidence that the house was indeed used by Peña Nieto after the election.
“Acarreados” in fourth year of government conference and presidential plane controversies
The day after Trump visited Mexico, Peña Nieto gave an annual speech, focusing on his 4th year of government, which was surrounded by controversy after denying plagiarism of his thesis despite evidence and fallout from Trump’s visit. Many media outlets, and figures including PAN President Ricardo Anaya claimed those attending the conference were active members of the PRI, this was strongly supported by many photos shared over social media, extracted directly from many of the attendants Twitter and Facebook accounts, in them many were revealed to have attended previous events from the PRI.
During the conference, Enrique Peña Nieto said he would go on an international trip the next day, claiming to only travel with people who were pivotal to such trips. On 2 October 2016, Aristegui revealed evidence of at least 12 friends and family members have made unnecessary trips aboard the presidential plane, including his brother, his sons (9 occasions) Grupo Higa President Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantu (whose company was part of the house scandal), first lady Angelica Rivera (17 occasions), her sisters (7 occasions, including an unnecessary stop in Istanbul) and a friend of Peña Nieto’s daughter, Paulina Peña.
Accusations of violence towards news journalists
During his tenure as president, Peña Nieto has been accused of failing to protect news journalists, whose deaths are speculated to be politically triggered, by politicians attempting to prevent them from covering political scandals. The New York Times published a news report on the matter titled, “In Mexico it’s easy to kill a journalist”, on it mentioning how during EPN’s government, Mexico became one of the worst countries on which to be a journalist. The assassination of journalist Javier Valdez on May 23, 2017 received national coverage, with multiple news journalists asking for “real protection”, as well as freedom of speech. The president announced to be “deeply wounded” by such death, Despite this Mexican citizens, as well as political party of opposition perceived, the presidential words as hypocritical, and the outlook does not look favorable with Mexico already leading as the country most journalist killed in 2017, with 5 assassinations.
Accusations of spying on journalists, civil right leaders and their families
On June 19, 2017, The New York Times in conjunction with news reporter Carmen Aristegui, and backed by Televisa news reporter Carlos Loret de Mola, reported that the Mexican Government uses a spyware software known as Pegasus, to spy on targets such as Mexican News reporters (and their families) and Civil Rights Leaders (and their families) using text messages as lures. Since 2011, the Mexican Government invested $80 million worth of spyware. Pegasus spyware infiltrates a persons cellphone and reports every detail of their messages, e-mails, contacts and calendars. After the revelation, the Israeli manufacturer of the Pegasus spyware, NSO Group, re-stated it only sold such technology to governments with an ‘explicit agreement’, that such technology was meant ‘only to combat organized crime’ by spying on it; although once it sells the software it can not control who they use it against and basically leaves the government’s on their own to monitor themselves on not abusing the software. The New York Times and independent forensic analysts analyzed the data of ‘dozens of messages’, multiple times before proving their accusation, and commented of such espionage towards news journalists and civil rights leaders, as ‘an effort from the Mexican Government to thwart the battle against corruption infecting every limb of Mexican Society’, and how highly unlikely it would be for such espionage it to receive ‘Judicial Approval’. Edward Snowden who worked for US goverment’s NSA before revealing it to spy on its citizens, also said all evidence points to the mexican government being the spy, and on twitter said it is “a crime to the public”.
The hacking attempts were ‘highly personalized’ for each target, they would consist on sending text messages with an attached link, and for the spyware to enter an users smartphone, all it needed was for the smartphone owner to click on the link. The news reporter Carmen Aristegui received 22 hacking attempts, the most for any journalist who has been found targeted, one of those attempts disguised as a message sent by an American Embassy in Mexico, trying to help her with a problem with her Visa; additionally Aristegui’s son Emilio Aristegui received attempts for 23 months despite being an under-age 16 year old teen. Previously in 2014, Carmen Aristegui had revealed a conflict of interest regarding the president ownership of a Mexican “Casa Blanca (White House)” she was unfairly fired from her job for airing such investigation, herself and news media perceived attempts at her as revenge. News reporter Carlos Loret de Mora received 8 attempts. While, Juan E. Pardinas, the director of the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness, also received multiple attempts where he was told men with guns were outside his house and another where a contact not on his list invited him to his father funeral because saying he was a “close friend”, the attempt on his wife went as far as claiming Padilla was having an extramarital affair, but she could only see the evidence if she clicked the link. Also, most of the parents, protesters and the major leaders of the investigations of the “Ayotzinapa, 43 Students Massacre” received spyware messages, so did the “Women of Atenco” (a scandal directly tied to Enrique Peña Nieto’s time as Governor of the State of Mexico).The New York Times article contained a picture of EPN.
On June 20, 2017, the day after. The opposition political party, National Action Party (PAN) denounced the Mexican government to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for suspicions of violations towards human rights and requested them, to lead an investigation citing such spying causes violations towards the article 16th of the Mexican Constitution, as well as violating article 11th of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While, in response to the accusations, Peña Nieto made public that such technology was bought and indeed used by the Mexican government, but he denied misuses, and stated that it was only used to protect Mexicans by searching for criminal by saying he “also felt spied upon, but there was nothing more fake than blaming the (Mexican) government”, and that there was “no proof”; saying he ordered the PGR an investigation and that he hoped “under the law, it can be applied against those that have raised false accusations against the government.”, with the last part of the quote making journalist hacking victims feel threatened. Which forced the Mexican president to call writer of the article Azam Ahmed to tell him, he was not menacing him. However, due to his previous presidential scandals, Peña Nieto words lacked credibility to most Mexicans, with journalist like Jorge Ramos complaining about how Enrique Peña Nieto remains in power despite his illegal actions. Later on the day political rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) who competed for the presidency against EPN in 2012 and intends to compete again in 2018 as the candidate from the MORENA political party, was also revealed to be among the hacking targets, with his son also as a target. On June 23, 2017, the National Human Rights Commission (Mexico) opened a case regarding the government espionage.
On August 2017, the President of “Mexicanos contra la corrupcion (Mexicans against corruption)” Claudio X. González Guajardo, was also another hacking target with EPN going as far as telling his father Claudio X. González Laporte (who is s one of Mexico’s top investors) during a meeting “Your son should not be so critical about the government. Civil society should not spend so much time talking about corruption”. To what the father replied “Im proud of what my son is doing.” EPN denied the claims, but news journalists included Loret de Mora argumented to not believe EPN.
Protests and marches against Peña Nieto’s Government
Mexican citizens have organized protests to express their disapproval of Enrique Peña Nieto’s government.
Global Action for Ayotzinapa 2014
Mexico’s Grito de Independencia 2016
A month after the visit of Trump, during the Independence Day celebration on 15 September 2016, thousands of citizens marched, yelling and holding papers with mottos such as “Fuera Peña! ” and (Get out Peña!) and “Renuncia ya! ” (Resign now!). The protesters attempted to enter the Zocalo and protest peacefully while the president gave the traditional Grito de Indepencia (Cry of Dolores) , but the protesters were blocked by a wall of soldiers. The president gave the Grito, and news outlets failed to acknowledge the protest. While the Zocalo wasn’t empty during the Grito, there is a strong belief among Mexican citizens, that the people who attend were poor people, bussed in from other states, offered a “free trip to the capital, a big great show” and food. This perceived practice is called “bringing Acarreados“, which means bringing people who have nothing to simulate support. (The term also applies to hand-picking people of the same political party to events to simulate more support.) Citizens also complained about the coverage of the protests.
Lowest presidential approval in modern history
On 1 January 2017, gasoline prices increased 20% in what became the Gasolinazo 2017 crisis. Soon after on 19 January 2017, Reforma polled again and found Peña Nieto’s approval rating decreased to 12% – less-popular among Mexicans than U.S. President Donald Trump. On 22 February 2017, Aristegui revealed during the same time-frame trough 12–15 January, an unpublicized survey by CESOP (Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinion Publica de la Camara de Diputados) (English: Social Study Center and of Public Opinion of the Chamber of Deputes), titled Prospectiva Electoral 2018 (Prospective Election 2018), placed Peña Nieto’s approval at 6%.
Enrique Peña Nieto has been known for his occasional lapses in memory or gaffes during public events or interviews. The most-noted incident occurred during the International Book Fair of Guadalajara on 3 December 2011. On that day, during a question and answer session, he was asked by an audience member to name three books that had influenced him, being only able to correctly reference the Bible. He then “rambled, tossing out confused title names, asking for help in recalling authors and sometimes mismatching” the two others. Other incidents have involved him not being able to recall Benito Juárez’s year of birth, being unable to remember the acronym of the Federal Institute of Access to Information (IFAI), changing the date of foundation of the state of Hidalgo, mistaking the capital of the State of Veracruz, mentioning the U.S. presidential candidate “La señora Hillary Trump” (Mrs. Hillary Trump), among others, of varying degree of substantiation or credibility. However, they have become viral on social media, especially Twitter and a website that counts the number of days since his last gaffe.
In 2008, Peña Nieto began a relationship with Televisa soap opera actress Angélica Rivera, who he had hired to help publicize his political campaign for the State of Mexico. The couple married in November 2011, although media outlets have questioned the validity of the marriage as of 2015, alleging that Mexico’s Catholic Church bent rule or that the marriage could have been a publicity stunt to help his presidential campaign.
Peña Nieto has said that he provides for the son he fathered with Hernández, but has little contact with him. His support for the child became a political issue during the 2012 presidential election, when both Hernández and rival candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota accused him of not supporting the child.
- National Order of Juan Mora Fernández, Grand Cross with Gold Plaque, awarded by Laura Chinchilla on 19 February 2013.
- Order of Prince Henry, Grand Collar, awarded by Aníbal Cavaco Silva on 2 June 2014.
- Order of Isabella the Catholic, Grand Cross with Collar, awarded by King Juan Carlos I of Spain on 6 June 2014.
- Order of the Sun of Peru, Grand Cross with Diamonds, awarded by Ollanta Humala on 17 July 2014.
- Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross, awarded by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom on 3 March 2015.
- Order of the Quetzal, Grand Collar, awarded by Otto Pérez Molina on 13 March 2015.
- Order of the Southern Cross, Grand Collar, awarded by Dilma Rousseff on 26 May 2015.
- Order of Charles III, Grand Cross with Collar, awarded by King Felipe VI of Spain on 20 June 2015.
- Order of King Abdulaziz, Collar, awarded by King Salman of Saudi Arabia on 17 January 2016.
- Order of the Elephant, Knight, awarded by Queen Margrethe II of Denmark on 13 April 2016.
- Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, Grand Cross with Cordon, awarded by Sergio Mattarella on 21 July 2016.
- Order of the Liberator General San Martín, Grand Collar, awarded by Mauricio Macri on 29 July 2016
Andrés Manuel López Obrador often abbreviated as AMLO, is a Mexican politician who is the President-elect of Mexico until his inauguration as President on 1 December 2018.