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Mexico and the Ismthus: more of the same?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New president, new party, same policy may be what Central America is going to see, following last week’s election of Enrique Peña Nieto, as chief executive of Mexico.

Peña Nieto is a fresh face, young and telegenic.

He won by a healthy margin – six percentage points more than his nearest rival – which suggests that his popularity is real.

But he may be tied to old money, according to reports, which claim that he and the giant Televisa network made a deal, to give him favorable coverage.

Nor is it precisely true that his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI, in Spanish) represents new ideas, after twelve years out of power.

Many technocrats, who guided the economic policies of the last two administrations – both National Action Party – were PRIistas.

In addition, he faces the same problem as his two predecessors, when it comes to moving forward with his agenda, since the PRI controls neither house of Congress.

Nieto’s approach to the drug war could make a difference to Central America, where thousands die each year, in drug-related violence.

This situation may change, if Nieto focuses – as he has suggested he might – on coming to terms with the traffickers, as opposed to continuing with the war.

But it will be hard to find a new way to deal with an old problem, in part because Washington is likely to pressure on Mexico not to abandon the fight.

Even within Mexico, a softer policy on drugs could create new concerns, if local consumption were to increase.