Mexico: what would improve under a Peña presidency?

The front running ex-Governor of Mexico State has declared.

Within a decade from now, Mexico's economy is predicted to exceed Canada's to become the eleventh in the world. And ten years later it should reach the top ten. Even without solving the narcotics issue, or electing Peña, the Central American giant should outperform. 

However, Enrique Peña Nieto, the rising star of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has long been considered the front runner for the July 2012 presidential poll. This social democratic 46-year old ex-state governor has a record in office of compromise, inclusivity and target-driven socio-economic achievement. He appears to be no radical, and in spite of his party affiliation and personal political leanings, allegedly supported the incumbent centre-right President Felipe Calderón for re-election in 2006.

Calderón's approval ratings are persistently high, but he is prevented by the federal constitution from running for a third term. Peña Nieto's election would probably produce a business-as-usual result. And coming from a political family, Peña's instincts appear sound. No ruffled feathers in Washington, I presume, or at the at the World Economic Forum at Davos, or in Brasilia.

Brazil and Mexico vie for regional power status and Latin leadership. Both have ambitions of permanent membership of the top table UN Security Council. So, friendly rivalry would undoubtedly persist (until one of them attained that status).

But Peña Nieto would be unlikely to deliver a major shake-up in the way Mexico is governed. Huge social challenges remain:
  • An over reliance on a low-wage economy
  • Unacceptably high levels of unemployment
  • A wide disparity between the rich and poor
  • Little achievement in the development of poverty-stricken states in the South, where indiginous Amer-Indians are prevalent
  • A narcotics war rages, cartels are over-powerful, and 45,000 lives are estimated to have been lost in recent years
  • Mexico City is slowly sinking due to excessive extraction from the subterranean water table and, being a mega-city of 8.9 million, is hampered by stiffling air and problematic water pollution.
Any president would be hard-pressed to address such issues speedily. But a pragmatist like Peña Nieto might have a better chance than other more contentious characters. 

The next president has to make strides to raise wages to halt the flight north to the US. Concerns in Arizona have engendered growing anti-immigrant sentiment. And if Arizona's stringent migrant policies are copied by other US states, tensions could rise further between these two neighbours who, with Canada, trade freely within the tri-partite North Atlantic Free Trade Area (NAFTA).

Unless the political campaign now underway draws blood exposing unexpected weakenesses or strengths, it's unlikely any Peña presidency would dramatically alter Mexico's course.

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