Posted: 12 Jan 2015 11:06 AM PST
Translated by Amanda MoodyHe was a lucky man. His life had been pampered thanks to the godfathers [including his uncle, former governor of the State of Mexico, Arturo Montiel] and fairy godmothers who had carried him from one pinnacle to another until he arrived at Los Pinos [The Pines, the Mexican “White House”] literally without ruffling a hair on his head [reference to his famously styled hair]. His good fortune seemed to extend through the first months of his administration, when he surprised the country with a new and unexpected Pact for Mexico, full of promising but controversial reforms.
Since then, life seems to have gone over a cliff for Enrique Peña Nieto [peña means “cliff”; the verb used here is despeñarse, “to fall from a cliff”, hence, a play on the president’s name, ]. Today, he faces the lowest approval ratings in living memory – and just think how much “talent” it takes to be more unloved than Calderón, Fox and Zedillo.
The reasons for his collapse are not only attributable to his mistakes, of course. Many of the structural problems affecting Mexico are the result of decades, if not centuries, of inefficient, corrupt governments. Inequality, poverty and the cancer of public insecurity were not born in this term of office. The problem is that the solutions offered by his administration in response to these structural evils are flawed and inadequate in the eyes of public opinion. Worse still, they are solutions that are far below the expectations generated by the much vaunted return of the PRI to power, supposedly the return of those who really did have the experience.
Unfortunately for Peña Nieto, now not even his former good fortune comes to his rescue. The demons released in Tlatlaya and Ayotzinapa, true wild outbursts from the Mexico which the elite class refuse to see, have caused an international scandal of major proportions. No matter what happens during the rest of this administration, the presidency of Peña Nieto will be remembered for the murder of 22 subjugated and unarmed people by the Army in the State of Mexico and for 43 Iguala students, missing in ridiculous and still mysterious conditions. The official theory, that attributes the responsibility for this latest tragedy to organized crime, is displaying more and more holes amid growing suspicions that government forces could be more involved in the disappearance of the student teachers than was thought . If that is the case, the international consequences against the government of Peña Nieto could be legal ones, affecting more than just his image (see my article on the subject “Two Tons of Questions” published in El País: [in Spanish]).
To the previous misfortunes are now added economic mishaps. The President will face an election year [of congressional deputies, some governors, state congresses and municipal governments] with a wallet squeezed by a very unfavorable economic climate. The public sector budget for 2015 was designed based on the expected revenue with the price of a barrel of oil at $79; it’s currently around $40 and falling. In other words, the government will have much less money than expected, which means: a) a cut in spending, resulting in irritation from the affected sectors; b) additional debt, resulting in greater pressure on the peso and greater distrust from international markets; and c) greater pressure on taxpayers in order to achieve higher tax revenues, which – speaking frankly – means that Peña Nieto’s approval ratings will continue to fall due to the discontent of the middle and upper classes and their refusal to continue to be milked.
Worse, the only way that he could substantially increase tax collection is through a frontal attack by the Secretariat of the Treasury on the informal [cash] economy, in which more than 50 percent of the workforce is employed. But that would provoke an even bigger problem, because the informal economy is the only escape valve that Mexicans have in order to avoid unemployment, now that emigration has ceased to be an accessible alternative. If the only way that most Mexicans have to survive, within in a system that ignores them, is cancelled, the consequences could be disastrous.
Things are not looking good for the President and, by extension, for Mexicans. Now it would need a stroke of luck just so that another Ayotzinapa does’t unexpectedly arise somewhere else in the country. Or maybe a wind of fortune which improves the price of oil. Or just to do things better, but frankly at this point I have more faith in fortune than in the capabilities of the Atlacomulco Group. [PRI politicians, including Peña Nieto, who come from the city of Atlacomulco, State of Mexico]