Analysis Agenda. September 2nd 2013

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The only thing missing from the Congress session that inaugurated the first ordinary session period of the 62nd Legislature’s second year was the President’s triumphant return to the Senate to deliver the State of the Union Address. “Little by little”, some might say. Nevertheless, legislators, particularly Deputies, couldn’t have sent a stronger message than starting to work exactly the same day as the official act – something already unusual – but also discussing and voting whose controversial subjects have turned the country’s capital as well as other cities upside down. A few hours later, President Peña hailed those events: “As Mexicans we feel proud when our democratic institutions comply with their responsibility in spite of pressure or group interests”. Are we experiencing one of the first signs of the State recovering the rule of law or is it only a façade of “pre-controlled” scenarios?

1-The rhetoric of the First State of the Union Address: was there any substance? Perhaps only nine months of administrations are not enough to observe a “change of direction” and it may seem unfair to assess a severe evaluation of Enrique Peña Nieto’s performance as President of Mexico. However, one would expect some sort of modesty with the presentation of doubtful figures, “magical” changes and results that, strictly speaking, would not correspond to the report of the state of the public federal administration – for instance, approval of laws. The Presidency is not absolutely sincere either when it claims not to be carried along with the past administration’s inertia, given the fact that the exact opposite is felt in policies as important as security and economy. Knowing that the Head of State, as well as the rest of the politicians in the country, have little sympathy with the general population, could this event have been used in a better manner regarding the government’s credibility?

2-Legislative addendums: “early” democracy? During the last couple of weeks, two controversial laws were approved in the Chamber of Deputies (one at its Conscripto street venue and the other one, at the San Lázaro headquarters) under a sui generis formula. Both the constitutional reform regarding transparency as well as the Law of Professional Teaching Service were discussed with drafts made a few hours before taking stand. In the first case, even applauses were received for correcting some issues deemed as negative by civic associations, mainly. In the other hand, the talk regarding the secondary legislation of the education reform seems to focus on negative concessions made to please the teachers/protestors. The point is that those addendums allowed the transit of the initiatives through a Chamber even though its ultimate fate going through Senate has yet to be seen. How much would this “new” form of legislation enrich the ongoing debate? What would make a fast-track procedure any different from “early” action?

3-“Carrots” for CNTE. Compared with the behavior of the teachers’ protests during the last month while “visiting” the capital, its acts during the events linked to the State of the Union Address as well as the inauguration of the ordinary legislative period – where the Law of Professional Teaching Service (LSDP) end up being approved – has been quite inconspicuous.  What is truth is that the addendum to the LSDP’s draft does relax some issues in order to appease “teachers/protestors”. Some of these concessions might be fair, such as the acknowledgement of different social and cultural contexts in order to assess the performance of teachers; others seem to please the teachers union’s status quo. As if this wasn’t enough, President announced a “special program to support teaching in those states with the lowest education levels”. Will the education reform be “decaffeinating” or is it being arranged to be feasible?

4-What changed from 12-1 Mx to 9-1 Mx? After the sloppy raid implemented both by local and federal police forces the day President Peña took office, on September 1st the story was quite different regarding protests against the government. Despite enclosing San Lázaro and having an important deployment of security in several zones surrounding Mexico City’s Historical Center, neither “one-eyed” martyrs nor excessive destruction of stores, hotels or public sites close to the site occurred (they already have to suffer through the ordeal of shielding themselves every time a protest comes close). The Mayor of Mexico City, Miguel Ángel Mancera, has hailed the coordination between police forces, which would have diminished violence, especially from those groups that call themselves “anarchists”. Have the lessons of 12-1 Mx truly been learned? Was there a better media control regarding the events this time?

Pact or death? After the absence of the PRD national leader, Jesús Zambrano, from the act where the President delivered his first State of the Union Address, he was questioned if his non-attendance was a sign of a breakup within the Pact for Mexico. Zambrano immediately disregarded that claim. On the other side, PAN leader Gustavo Madero did attend, in addition to hail the Pact’s benefits. A few days before, he gave a speech heavily criticizing the current federal administration. In practice, as seen in the recent laws discussed at Congress, PAN and PRD have presented little to no resistance towards the initiatives, changes and agenda coming from PRI. What is the opposition playing with this schizophrenic attitude? How will leaderships within both parties be affected by this in their next internal elections?

Antonio De la Cuesta

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