Progress and disillusionment in Mexico

Mexican side of border crossing from Reynosa, Mexico to Hidalgo, Texas
The view northwards from the Mexican side of the Rio Grande is not optimistic, especially after Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president (source: dpa)

  • Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president catches Mexico at vulnerable moment
  • Structural reforms may bring long-term gains but have had disappointing results so far
  • Scandals have weakened the government, which needs to handle trade talks skillfully
  • Diplomatic tensions may also help President Enrique Pena Nieto rally support

When Enrique Pena Nieto became President in Mexico in late 2012, he ushered in a surprisingly active period of policymaking on vital issues ranging from energy and telecommunications reform to transparency in government and education standards. Even skeptics of the new president had to marvel at the efficient way his administration pushed major reforms through Congress, one after another, often putting together broad coalitions among all the leading political parties.

Today Mexicans are far less sanguine about the Pena Nieto administration and the fate of the reforms he championed in 2013 and 2014. Their implementation has moved slowly and been overshadowed by a series of high-profile corruption scandals and an uptick in gang violence. Economic growth has remained slow, at between 2 and 3 percent for each of the past two years, while public approval of the Mexico’s president and Congress is at an all-time low. On top of this, Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, after he made getting tough with Mexico on trade and immigration the centerpiece of his campaign, has sent tremors through Mexican society. If Mr. Trump sticks to his promises, Mexico may be about to face one of the biggest challenges in its history – right when its government seems to be the weakest in recent memory.

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