Mexico Elections: Who is Enrique Peña Nieto?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Mexican Flag (StarrGazr/flickr)

In four days, Mexicans go to the polls to chose a new president. It's a vote that's being held against the background of a violent drugs war and a slowing economy.

In this audio essay, Celeste takes a closer look at the frontrunner, Enrique Peña Nieto. Nieto represents the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a party that ruled Mexico for most of the last century and that opponents say is tainted by decades of corruption. Peña Nieto currently leads in the polls, holding 42 percent compared to his closest rival, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who holds 30 percent in a recent poll by the Mexican newspaper Reforma. Young and telegenic, Peña Nieto's opposition has branded him of holding more style than substance. 

A victory by Peña Nieto would bring a return to the interrupted rule of PRI, whose 71-year dominance ended after the conservative National Action Party candidate Vicente Fox won the 2000 presidential election. Fox was proceded by Felipe Calderón, a fellow party member who was elected in 2006 for a six-year term. Calderón's declaration of war against Mexico's numerous and powerful drug cartels has brought results in the forms of high-profile arrests, but they have come at a high price. An estimated 50,000 people have been killed since 2006 as a result of the hardline policy. 

Nieto's opponents warn that the PRI has conspired with the cartels. Tomás Yarrington, the former PRI governor of the state of Tamaulipas, was recently accused by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration of accepting millions of dollars from the Gulf and Zeta cartels. Despite his party's tainted past, the current candidate insists that there will be no sort of negotiation. 

"I can say categorically that in my government there won't be any form of pact or agreement with organized crime," Peña Nieto says. "It's not the path or the route to greater security for the Mexican people."

Peña Nieto's strong lead in the polls and firm support from the states most affected by the drug war violence have marked him as the likely victor of the July 1 election. One student-run organization has been credited with recent drops in his popularity. The "Yo Soy 132" movement has demonstrated against the possible return of a PRI presidency, and has pointed out discrepancies with Peña Nieto's relationships with local media sources. 

“Despite what they say about this being a new PRI, with a new face, for us it’s still the same PRI. The same PRI of repression, lies, and authoritarianism,” says movement organizer Saul Alvidrez. “It’s a PRI that members of this movement aren’t ready to accept.”  

Produced by:

Robert Balint and Mythili Rao

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