The moment of truth has arrived for Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. When compared with the events that occurred during its first 230 days – a figure to be met in the first half of the current week – the last half of 2013 will show how truly sharpened the claws of “new PRI” are. By saying the latter, we are not mentioning the almost innate abilities of PRI members to masterfully overcome their media scandals or bury their stories in the muddy memory of Mexicans. Nowadays, PRI ought to show its mastery in pushing its agenda in a context of greater political plurality (or jumble), by means of new variables in national context and, particularly, with the whims of political ambitions (not so much ideals) of an opposition that, though battered, could shortly regain its energy, strength and, as difficult as it may seem, its legitimacy.
1-The “doubly” extraordinary session period in the Chamber of Deputies. For the first time in eight years, a full legislature body will be working off calendar. Even though President Calderón called for Congress to return to work off-calendar in the penultimate year of his administration (2011) with the aim of carrying out the labor and money laundering reforms as well as the (umpteenth) political reform, PRI managed to hinder the initiative, particularly at the Senate, where Manlio Fabio Beltrones was the leader at the time. Currently, Deputy Beltrones may have been the key in achieving that extraordinary session to be held between the 16th and 19th of July. Although Senate will not have any activity until August, Congress may conclude several legal procedures (for instance, the reform to the Federal Institute of Information Access, basis for a Single Criminal Code and the creation of a new anti-corruption body). How politically convenient is it to clear the agenda of Congress before the next ordinary session period on September and leave the terrain ready for tax and energy reforms?
2-The faux ambrosia of the Pact for Mexico. After the July 7th election results didn’t favor candidates coming from his political group – particularly, his brother Saúl’s attempt to govern the Zacatecas municipality of Fresnillo – Deputy Ricardo Monreal stated: “Those aligned with the Pact, [receive in exchange] justice and grace. Those of us who do not want to be a part of it, garrote, extermination, lynching”. Meanwhile, Gustavo Madero and Jesús Zambrano maintain their complaints regarding violations of the agreement’s addendum but with the apparent intention of not breaking it (according to them, for the good of the reforms that the country needs). This, rather than an “authority hit” coming from PAN and PRD leaders – both at the twilight of their tenures -, seems more as a desperate cry to taste an imaginary elixir of political “immortality” in the face of their respective party´s leadership succession, not future elections. Until when and how useful will the blackmail used by opposition to retire from the Pact prove to be?
3-Do surveys (especially those that aren’t carried out on election season) really matter? It’s highly likely that in the coming days we’ll start to see some polls on the media regarding the approval levels of President Peña (some more reliable than other, especially when remembering the failure of certain polling houses with their “photographs” of the 2012 Presidential election). In previous days there has been indicators of sympathy about actions and proposals – current and future – coming from the federal government. Worthy of note is the figure provided by CIDE that highlights a 65% disapproval rate among Mexicans regarding a potential foreign involvement in PEMEX investments. Even when the “popularity” of the President decreased, and the public policies undertaken by his government were “unpopular” but, according to his criteria, necessary, how at risk will the legitimacy of his decisions be? Does it matter?
4-The number of teachers and students in public education: the wrong questions are still been asked. This past weekend, two relevant issues regarding public education occurred. On one hand, UNAM presented the results of its second college admission process for the 2013 academic year. On the other hand, the 2013-2014 National Test on Teachers’ Knowledge and Abilities took place, with the goal of selecting those that will hold a bit less than 13 thousand teacher posts in the Mexican education system. In both cases, the complaints of several individuals, particularly coming from the (mediatic) leftwing is focused on the large amount of rejected students – with numbers close to 90% of applicants -; for that matter, there are no recent developments. It’s time for other concerns of greater structural impact to get our attention: why broaden a mediocre teacher’s selection system in which the minimun requirement to pass is a 3.1 grade? Is the problem the lack of places in universities or the lack of alternatives?
5-The 2013-2018 Infrastructure Investment Program of Transport and Communications. On July 15th, President Peña finally announced, in broad terms, how much, when and what does he pretend to invest on infrastructure during his administration. He indicated that, initially, his government will spend around 100 billion dollars in 5,400 km of highways, the enlargement of 60% of seaports, 950 km of railroads and the assessment of a longstanding desire: the design of functional alternatives to air traffic in Mexico City’s airport. The projects of transport and communications would have to stall, due to the recently approved telecommunications reform as well as the coming tax and energy initiatives. With the latter in mind, what would be the main differences in exercising these plans with or without the reforms when they have yet to be presented? Are the pending issues not concluded by the previous administration already settled?
Antonio De la Cuesta