The tenure of President Felipe Calderon, who is preparing to give
his fourth state of the union address, has been marked by the brutal
Mexico drug war and political infighting that's stymied reform.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon kicked off his presidency in
December 2006 with an ambitious reform package. The can-do
technocrat was going to tackle Mexico's entrenched corruption,
disband its behemoth quasi-monopolies, and - most important - take
the fight to Mexico's burgeoning drug cartels.
But in the fourth year of his six-year term, marked by handing
his state of the union address to Congress today, it's become clear
that the country's brutal drug war has sapped his administration's
energy and that political infighting has squelched his reform
agenda. Mr. Calderon will formally deliver his speech Thursday
morning in a ceremony.
To be fair, Calderon is credited, more so than past presidents,
with trying hard to push through energy, fiscal, and education
reform. He scored a big victory early in his term in revamping the
state-worker pension system.
IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war
One of his boldest moves was the shutdown of the giant state
electricity company last year that had long reigned over Mexico
Moreover, people still like him. He enjoys a 57 percent approval
rating, according to a new poll by the Mexico City-based firm
Buendia & Laredo. But the most necessary reforms in the country,
observers say, have ultimately been so watered down that they have
been rendered essentially meaningless.
"[Calderon] has a pretty tough road ahead," says Alejandro
Schtulmann, head of research at the Emerging Markets Political Risk
Analysis consulting firm in Mexico City. "There will be more
reforms, but what we are going to see in the next couple years is a
As eyes turn to the 2012 presidential elections in a country
where reelection is barred, Jorge Buendia, of Buendia & Laredo, has
a less optimistic take: "[Calderon's] agenda is really dead."
All-consuming drug war
Even though some 28,000 people have been killed in four years,
and political kidnappings are an increasing problem, most Mexicans
understand that Calderon, who dispatched the military to fight drug
cartels and has refused to back down, had little choice and they
support his hard stance. He got a big boost this week with the
capture of Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez Villarreal, alleged top member
in the vicious Beltran Leyva cartel.
To render his war on drugs more effective, Calderon has pushed
through judicial reform in hopes that rampant bribery and
intimidation will no longer prevent the sentencing and jailing of
hardened drug cartel criminals. …