President Enrique Pena Nieto Starts New Administration by Signing Political Agreement with Opposition Parties
Navarro, Carlos, SourceMex Economic News & Analysis on Mexico
The election of Enrique Pena Nieto marked the return of the long-governing Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) to the highest office in Mexico, but the jury is still out on whether the old authoritarian party is back in office or whether a transformed party will be governing Mexico for the next six years.
Shortly before and after taking office on Dec. 1, 2012, Pena Nieto took steps to try to convince Mexicans that this is a new era for the PRI and that his administration would be politically inclusive and employ a more efficient style of governance.
One of the new president's first moves was to bring together representatives from his party and the two major opposition parties--the center-left Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD) and the conservative Partido Accion Nacional (PAN)--to hammer out an agreement to promote reforms to strengthen democracy, address social inequalities, and foment economic growth in Mexico.
The accord was negotiated by veteran legislators Santiago Creel and Francisco Molinar of the PAN, Jesus Ortega and Carlos Navarrete of the PRD, and Jose Murat for the PRI. The administration was represented by newly appointed Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray and Chief of Staff Aurelio Nuno.
"This agreement is important because it signals the willingness of all the parties to find areas of agreement without surrendering their political agendas, and to put them in writing," Pena Nieto said at a signing ceremony attended by party presidents Cristina Diaz of the PRI, Gustavo Madero of the PAN, and Jesus Zambrano of the PRD. "This agreement will give Mexico stability, certainty, and direction.
Center-left PRD divided on accord
But the PRD signed the accord without the full agreement of the rank and file in Congress.
Some center-left legislators, including Sen. Dolores Padierna and Deputy Gisela Mota Ocampo, complained that they were not consulted by the leadership, especially Zambrano. "It is not right for the party's national president to make a unilateral decision," said Mota Ocampo. "He is not the only one in the party, and he has to respond to the national committee. This agreement has not been endorsed by us."
PRD secretary-general Alejandro Sanchez Camacho said the PRD does not oppose dialogue among the parties that would lead to a national agreement. He noted that the party would be amenable to an accord that leaves certain issues in fiscal-reform and energy-reform negotiations off the table. In particular, the PRD opposes any move to impose a value-added tax (impuesto al valor agregado, IVA) on food and medicines and any energy reform that could be construed as privatization of the state-run oil company PEMEX.
Some political analysts gave Pena Nieto credit for using the agreement to establish the framework for the parties to negotiate on important issues. "I think this is a very positive move," said Julio Labastida, a social sciences researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. "The question for all of us is whether this rhetoric translates into facts."
While there seem to be some pockets of discontent in the PRD, the participation of Navarrete and Ortega in the negotiations and the endorsement of key legislative leaders like Sen. Silvano Aureoles appears to give Pena Nieto some cover with the PRD. The same is not true with the Movimiento Regeneracion Nacional (Morena), a movement led by center-left candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Morena broke away from the mainstream parties to become an independent movement, with the aim of eventually becoming a political party (SourceMex, Sept. 19, 2012, and Nov. 7, 2012)
Violent protests mar inauguration
On inauguration day, Morena organized a massive rally at a Mexico City landmark, the Angel de la Independencia, to denounce the election that brought Pena Nieto to office. Lopez Obrador and other Morena leaders repeated their complaint that the PRI candidate won the election because of a broad campaign to buy the votes of poor and some middle-class Mexicans (SourceMex, July 11, 2012, and Sept. …