Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Peña Nieto Gears Up for Office as Mexican Parties Announce ‘Grand Agreement’

With just days to go until Enrique Peña Nieto assumes Mexico’s presidency on December 1st, the president-elect met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the Oval Office yesterday. As expected, the Mexican leader focused the dialogue on economic rather than security issues, promoting plans to boost commerce with the United States and “modernize” trade deals between the two countries, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, the meeting provided Peña Nieto with an opportunity to push a “different side” of Mexico, offering a fresh narrative of the country to its largest trading partner. 

As Woodrow Wilson Center scholar Christopher Wilson told the paper, “The way to change the narrative is to talk about other things that are going well, and the economy is a good story now.” Despite the violence that has plagued Mexico in recent years, its economy grew by 3.9 percent last year, ahead of Brazil’s growth of 2.7 percent. 

Reuters notes that Peña Nieto also offered support for Obama’s long-awaited overhaul of immigration, saying: "We want to contribute, we really want to participate…in the betterment and the well-being of so many millions of people who live in your country."

Meanwhile, the country’s three main political parties have laid out the framework for a “grand agreement,” intended to guide policy debates during the next six years of Peña Nieto’s term. El Universal reports that the president-elect’s own Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) have agreed to a broad common agenda. 

According to PAN party head Gustavo Madero, the agreement consists of five general goals: strengthening civil society, promoting economic development, bringing about security and justice, increasing transparency and cracking down on corruption. While the agreement is non-binding and its wording is vague, the mere fact that the PRD and PAN agreed to such a pact with the PRI is significant. The move marks a significant departure from the opposition parties’ initial rejection of Peña Nieto’s victory in the July presidential elections, after which the two accused the PRI of corruption and vote-buying

News Briefs

  • In keeping with his reputation as a political iconoclast, Mexican leftist politician Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has rejected the PAN/PRI/PRD agreement. Proceso reports that the former presidential candidate, who recently created a new political party known as the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), has also vowed not to recognize Peña Nieto as the country’s legitimate president.
  • A new report by Mexican think tank Mexico Evalua has found that homicides in the country jumped 36 percent under the administration of outgoing President Felipe Calderon, a figure which tarnishes Calderon’s claims that he has made significant progress against crime in the country.
  • Writing for progressive online magazine Toward Freedom, Pan-American Post contributor James Bargent takes a look at the potential for a successful outcome in the ongoing peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government in light of previous guerrilla demobilizations in the country. He compares the experiences of the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), the 19th of April Movement (M-19) and a subset of the National Liberation Army (ELN) in various peace processes during the late 1980s and 1990s, noting that in all cases ex-rebels faced enormous obstacles in reintegrating into society. While the former guerrillas that Bargent interviewed expressed optimism about the current peace talks (an opinion apparently shared by FARC leaders), all agreed that demobilization alone will not secure lasting peace in Colombia, and that stronger guarantees for ex-combatants are needed in the country.
  • The United Nations General Assembly has backed a proposal put forth by several Latin American countries to debate alternative approaches to the war on drugs, a move which could raise international support for drug law reform and legalization. The motion was initially put forward in October by Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize and Honduras, and has steadily gained support since then.
  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has flown to Cuba for yet another cancer-related treatment, raising questions about his health once again. In a letter sent to the National Assembly yesterday, Chavez said doctors recommended he "begin special treatment consisting of various sessions of hyperbaric oxygenation" and physical therapy to continue "consolidating the process of strengthening health." This latest announcement, along with the fact that Chavez has significantly scaled back his public appearances since winning the October 7th election is likely to rekindle claims that the Venezuelan president is gravely ill and potentially near death
  • The Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean has released a new report on poverty reduction in the region, finding that the poverty level is at its lowest in three decades. Despite this, some 167 million people (29 percent of the population) in the region are considered poor.
  • Reuters reports on the efforts of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to contain fallout from the latest corruption scandal in the country, in which a number of top officials were dismissed after having been linked to an influence-peddling ring.  
  • The largest-ever trial of crimes committed during Argentina’s “Dirty War” has begun, with 68 former military officers facing some 800 charges of kidnapping, torture and murder, reports the BBC.

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