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Happy 47th Birthday to Enrique Peña Nieto President of Mexico born 20 July 1966

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president of mexico

Enrique Peña Nieto (Spanish pronunciation: [enˈrike ˈpeɲa ˈnjeto] ( listen); born 20 July 1966) is the 57th president of Mexico. His six-year term began in 2012.[1] He is a member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and served as governor of the State of Mexico from 2005 to 2011.[2] Peña Nieto was declared president-elect after the 2012 general election was declared valid by the Federal Electoral Tribunal,[1][3] amidst some accusations of electoral fraud.[4][5] He took office on 1 December 2012,[1] succeeding Felipe Calderón as president thereby marking the return to power of the party that ruled Mexican politics for 71 consecutive years.[6][7]

Peña Nieto announced his presidential candidacy in September 2011,[8] four days after leaving office as governor. He formally registered in November 2011.[9] Nieto garnered 38% of the votes and does not hold a legislative majority. His election marked the return of the PRI after a twelve-year hiatus.[10] The PRI had governed Mexico uninterrupted for 71 years until it was defeated by the National Action Party (PAN) in 2000.[11][12]

The return of the PRI was not welcomed by everyone.[13] Marches against Peña Nieto drew tens of thousands of people across Mexico, particularly from the Yo Soy 132 student movement, who protested supposed voting irregularities and alleged media bias.[14][15] Others protested that during its time in power, the PRI became a symbol of corruption, repression, economic mismanagement, and electoral fraud. Many Mexicans and urban dwellers worried that its return to power may signify a return to Mexico’s past.[16] Peña Nieto promised that his government will be much more democratic, modern and open to criticism.[17] He also pledged to continue the fight against organized crime and drug trade and that there will be no pacts with criminals.[17]

The rule of the PAN was marked by an inability to pass reform and the party lacked a congressional majority. The PRI touted that it “knows how to govern” and how to manage the drug cartels, which was compelling enough for many voters.[18] Throughout the election Nieto maintained a wide lead in the polls.[19] Peña Nieto proposed that he will reinvigorate Mexico’s economy,[6] permit the national oil company, Pemex, to compete in the private sector,[20] and reduce drug violence that has left more than 55,000 dead in six years.[21]

Early life and career

Peña Nieto was born on 20 July 1966 in Atlacomulco, State of Mexico, a city 55 miles northwest from the country’s capital.[22] He was the eldest of four siblings in a middle-class family; his father, Gilberto Enrique Peña del Mazo, was an electrical engineer; his mother, María del Perpetuo Socorro Ofelia Nieto Sánchez, a school teacher.[22] Unlike many of Mexico’s past presidents, Peña Nieto did not study at an American university. He attended Denis Hall School in Alfred, Maine, during one year of junior high school in 1979 to learn English.[22] People that knew him in his early years said that he was a sharp dresser, and told teachers at his school that he planned to be governor of the State of Mexico.[22] During his childhood, Peña Nieto was referred to as “Quique,” a nickname short for Enrique.[23] Peña Nieto distinguished himself in childhood for being courteous and tidy and well-groomed.[24] His mother recalls how she would squeeze lime juice on Peña Nieto’s hair to keep his now famous hairstyle in place.[23] Some neighbors in Atlacomulco recall that Peña Nieto was an “overprotected” kid.[24] After living in Atlacomulco for the first 11 years of his life, Peña Nieto’s family moved to the city of Toluca.[24]

Peña Nieto said that he became interested in politics during elementary school, when he was picked as class leader.[22]

As a teenager, he became a fan of football and spent hours playing chess with his friends; he later learned how to drive his mother’s car and was given his first car.[25] During adolescence, his father would often take him to the campaign rallies of the State of Mexico’s governor, Jorge Jiménez Cantú, a close friend of his.[25] The successor of the governor was Alfredo del Mazo González, cousin of Peña Nieto’s father. During Del Mazo González’s campaign in 1981, the fifteen-year-old Peña Nieto had his first direct contact with Mexican politics: he began delivering propaganda in favor of his relative, a memory Peña Nieto still recalls as the turning point and start of his deep interest in politics.[25]

In 1984 at the age of 18, Peña Nieto traveled to Mexico City and enrolled in the Universidad Panamericana, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree;[25] he later went on to obtain a Master’s in Business from Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM).[26]

Political beginnings


Peña Nieto joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1984, and with a law degree nearly completed, he began earning his own money.[27] During his final years in college, Peña Nieto worked as a public notary in Mexico City, around the same time when his relative, Alfredo del Mazo González, was mentioned as a firm candidate for the 1988 presidential elections.[27] In his twenties, he worked at the San Luis Industrial Corporation, an auto parts manufacturing industry, and at a law firm named Laffan, Muse and Kaye. While still a student at the Universidad Panamericana, he roomed with Eustaquio de Nicolás, the current president of Homex, a leading Mexican construction and real estate company. He also befriended and roomed with Luis Miranda, who occupied several offices during the 1999–2000 administration in the State of Mexico.[27]

Peña Nieto’s academic thesis entitled “El presidencialismo mexicano y Álvaro Obregón” (translated in English as “Mexican Presidentialism And Álvaro Obregón”) expounds upon the comparison between the Mexican presidential system to that of parliamentarism.[28] In the 202-page document, Peña Nieto argued that the administration of Benito Juárez was a “presidential dictatorship,” since he had a powerful executive force during the Reform War, which allowed him to have absolute political power.[28] Peña Nieto interviewed several authors, including Jorge Carpizo, Héctor Fix-Zamudio, Enrique Krauze and Justo Sierra. Peña Nieto listed at least forty books in his bibliography.[28] His work was dedicated to Arturo Montiel Rojas, the former governor of the State of Mexico and relative of Peña Nieto.[28]

Upon graduating as a lawyer from the Universidad Panamericana, Peña Nieto sought a Master’s degree in the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, based in the State of Mexico. By the side of Montiel Rojas, he formally started his political career and became the Secretary of the Citizen Movement of Zone I of the State Directive Committee of the National Confederation of Popular Organizations (CNOP), one of the three sectors of the PRI.[27] For three consecutive years until 1993, Peña Nieto participated as a delegate to the Organization and Citizen Front in different municipalities of the State of Mexico.[27] Between 1993 and 1998, during Emilio Chuayfett’s term as governor, Peña Nieto was chief of staff for the Secretary of economic development of the State of Mexico and the personal secretary of Montiel Rojas, who was the Secretary of Economic Development in the state.[27]

Peña Nieto served during the years 1999 to 2000 as the Sub-secretary of government,[29] and as financial sub-coordinator of the political campaign of Montiel Rojas.[27] In 2003, he was elected as deputy of the XIII Local District with a seat in Atlacomulco, State of Mexico.[30]

Legislative career

State deputy: 2003–2005

After 1999, Peña Nieto went from having low-level secretary positions to higher and more qualified offices.[31] In 2001, Montiel Rojas named Peña Nieto Sub-secretary of Interior in the State of Mexico, a position that granted him the opportunity to meet and forge relationships with top politicians in the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and wealthy businessmen from the State of Mexico.[31] After his term concluded, he served as the administrative secretary, as president of the Directive Council of Social Security, as president of the Internal Council of Health, and as vice president of the National System for Integral Family Development – all in the State of Mexico.[31] Under the wing of Arturo Montiel Rojas, Peña Nieto formed a group known as the “Golden Boys of Atlacomulco” with other members of the PRI.[32] He later ran for a local deputy position in his hometown of Atlacomulco in 2003 and won.[33] Two years later, the Atlacomulco-natives: Carlos Hank Rhon, Isidro Pastor, Héctor Luna de la Vega, Guillermo González Martínez, Óscar Gustavo Cárdenas Monroy, Eduardo Bernal Martínez, Cuauhtémoc García Ortega and Fernando Alberto García Cuevas wanted the governorship of the State of Mexico.[33] Peña Nieto was among the crowd, but was not poised as one of the favorites.[33]

Nonetheless, in 2005, Peña Nieto was the last man standing, succeeding Montiel Rojas as governor of the State of Mexico.[34] On 12 February 2005, with 15,000 sympathizers in attendance, he was sworn in as candidate for the PRI.[35]

Governor of the State of Mexico: 2005–2011

608 commitments

On 15 September 2005, Peña Nieto was sworn as governor of the State of Mexico at the Morelos theater in Toluca.[36] Among the hundreds of attendes sat Arturo Montiel, the predecessor; the president of the Superior Court of Justice, José Castillo Ambriz; along with former governors, members of Peña Nieto’s cabinet and party, mayors, businessmen, and church figures.[36] The centerpiece of Peña Nieto’s governorship was his claim that he was to deliver his compromisos – 608 promises he signed in front of a notary to convince voters that he would deliver results and be an effective leader.[37] According to El Universal, during Peña Nieto’s first year as governor, his administration only delivered 10 of the structural promises he had advocated in his campaign – marking the lowest figure in his six-year term.[38]

By 2006, his administration carried out 141 of projects, making that year the most active in the governor’s term.[38] The 608 projects Peña Nieto proposed consisted of creating highways, building hospitals, and creating adequate water systems to provide fresh water throughout the state.[38] The most important of these regarded highway infrastructure, which tripled under Peña’s government.[38] By mid-2011, the official page of the State of Mexico noted that only two projects were left.[38] The major projects in public transportation were the Suburban Train and the “Mexibús,” both of which served commuters between Mexico City and the State of Mexico, providing service to more than 300,000 people every day and 100 million a year.[39] Regarding public health services, 196 hospitals and medical centers were built throughout the state and the number of mobile units to attend remote and vulnerable areas doubled.[39] Deaths caused by respiratory diseases were reduced by 55%, while deaths caused by dysentery and cervical cancer were reduced by 68% and 25% respectively.[39] In addition, between 2005 and 2011, the State of Mexico was able to fulfill the requirement of the World Health Organization of having one doctor for every 1,000 inhabitants.[39] The funds for these and all the other commitments were obtained through restructuring the state’s public debt, a strategy designed by his first Secretary of Finance, Luis Videgaray Caso.[39] The restructuring also managed to keep the debt from increasing during Peña Nieto’s term because the tax base was broadened to the point that it doubled in six years.[39]

During the course of the 2012 presidential campaign, the conservative National Action Party (PAN) questioned the completion of at least 100 of the commitments of Peña Nieto.[40] The PAN also warned the PRI that they were going to examine each of the 608 commitments and release the information to the public.[40] The conservative party also stated that they had plans to publicize the cost of the projects and make a detailed trajectory of the supposed locations where the projects took place.[40] The PRI responded to the accusations by stating that the PAN politicians “were the liars.”[40] The PRI presented a web page with the description of each commitment and when and where it was achieved; the webpage included pictures, a detailed description, a notary certification, and the number of people benefited from the project.[41] The party then claimed that Peña Nieto’s adversaries, but particularly the PAN’s candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, were carrying out a “dirty war” against him.[41] The PAN concluded by claiming that the current administration was allegedly “repairing” the unfinished projects of Peña Nieto’s past administration,[42] while the PRI insisted that its opposition was pointing out to unfinished projects that were not in the 608 commitments and under Peña Nieto’s agenda.[43]

Peña Nieto also claimed that he halved the murder rate in the State of Mexico during his time as governor,[44] but retracted this claim after The Economist showed that the murder rate did not diminish and were being measured in a different way.[45]

2006 San Salvador Atenco unrest

During the administration of Vicente Fox in 2002, several peasants in San Salvador Atenco, State of Mexico, resisted the government’s plan to expropriate their lands to build a new international airport near the country’s capital, Mexico City.[46] Consequently, on 3 May 2006, state and federal police forces raided the San Salvador Atenco and violently took many of its dwellers into custody, unleashing a civil unrest in the area between 300 unarmed civilians and 3,000 police officers.[46][47] Some law enforcement officials retaliated for the confrontations of the previous days and tried to break up a blockade of a federal highway stopping a group of flower vendors protesting against the government.[46] The leader of the movement was sentenced to 150 years in prison, and the rest of the members were accused of alleged “organized kidnapping” of police officers and sent to supermax prisons.[46] National and international human rights organizations demanded the release of the activists, whose sentences were turned down until August 2010.[46] According to a report issued by Amnesty International on February 2009, the civil unrest resulted in the detention of 200 people and hundreds of allegations of abuses, including sexual violence against 26 women who were arrested; others, in addition, were allegedly tortured.[48] In the operations, the police used firearms, tear gas and electric batons.[47] Two young men were murdered by the Mexican Federal Police, while hundreds were arrested without warrants and beaten.[47] A 14-year-old boy was killed too.[49] In response to the abuse allegations, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation agreed to investigate the incident to establish whether the unrest was an isolated event or if it was part of a larger plot formed by politicians in the municipal and state levels.[47]

The Yo Soy 132 student movement criticized Peña Nieto for his stance on the San Salvador Atenco unrest, which occurred in the State of Mexico during his time as governor.[50] Peña Nieto stated in an interview that he does not justify the actions of the state and municipal forces, but also mentioned that they were not gladly received by the citizens of San Salvador Atenco upon their arrival.[49] He condemned the abuses and promised to fully execute the law and bring transparency to the investigations. He lamented the deaths caused by the unrest but emphasized that risks often occur in security operatives.[49] Peña Nieto concluded by assuming responsibility of the event and insisted that “yellow journalism” has also obscured what actually happened.[49] Infuriated by the response, students of the Yo Soy 132 booed the politician and protested against him, calling him a “murderer.”[50][51]

Death of his wife

During his second year in office, Peña Nieto’s wife, Mónica Pretelini, died on 11 January 2007.[52] Her neurologist stated that Pretelini suffered an epileptic seizure at around 1:00 am, causing her irregular heartbeats and respiratory problems.[53] At around 10:00 am, the doctors confirmed that Pretelini was brain dead at the ABC hospital after treatment at the emergency room in Mexico City, and notified Peña Nieto at 1:00 pm.[52][53]

The couple had married in 1993 and had three children: Paulina, (11); Alejandro (8) and Nicole (6).[52][54] Pretelini had a vital role during the campaign of Peña Nieto’s governorship.[52] Her last public appearance was during the wedding of the municipal president of Ixtapan de la Sal on 6 January 2007.[52]

Presidential campaign: 2011–2012

While at a book fair on 23 November 2011, Peña Nieto presented his book “México, la gran esperanza” (Mexico, the great hope) in Casa del Lago, Mexico City, accompanied by the writer Héctor Aguilar Camín; former governor of Mexico’s Central Bank, Guillermo Ortiz Martínez; and journalist Jaime Sánchez Susarrey.[55] In his book, the politician argues that Mexico needs to expand its economy to create more jobs, insisting that in the past years the country has only created them in the informal sector.[55] He also urged promoting Pemex to compete in the private sector to create more jobs, elevate productivity, and balance wealth distribution across Mexico.[55] Aguilar Camín, however, questioned Peña Nieto’s ideals, and asked him how it was possible for him to speak of transparency when the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was allegedly entangled in economic debts and controversial money transactions.[55] Nonetheless, Peña Nieto then thanked the governor Eruviel Ávila Villegas for being present, and told him that his book was dedicated to the governor’s family and to his wife, Angélica Rivera.[55] Peña Nieto responded by saying that the return of the PRI marks a new era in Mexico, and that the book he wrote serves as a starting point to take Mexico “to better horizons.”[56]

Peña Nieto at the World Economic Forum (2010)

On 27 November 2011, Peña Nieto was the last standing nominee for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for the 2012 Mexican presidential elections. The former State of Mexico governor completed his nomination at an event that gathered sympathizers and politicians.[57] Six days earlier, the senator and preliminary candidate of the PRI, Manlio Fabio Beltrones, withdrew from the race and gave Peña Nieto a clear path towards the presidency.[58] During a book fair a month later, Peña Nieto’s public image “took a lot of hits” after he struggled to answer a question that asked which three books had marked his life.[59] When he was criticized by Mexico’s intellectuals, his daughter worsened the situation by posting a defamatory message on Twitter, stating that the criticisms were driven by class envy.[59] Later, Peña Nieto was interviewed by El País and admitted that he did not know the price of tortillas. When he was criticized as being out of touch, Pena Nieto insisted that he was not “the woman of the household” and thus would not know the price. In another interview, he admitted to have cheated on his past wife with another woman and fathered two children out of wedlock.[59]

On 1 July 2012, Mexico’s presidential election took place. In an initial, partial count issued that same midnight, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) announced that based on a fast vote counting, Peña Nieto was leading the election with 38% of the votes.[60] His nearest competitor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was just 6 points behind him.[60] The figures were meant to be a representative sample of the votes nationwide; but shortly after this announcement, Peña Nieto appeared on national television claiming victory.[60] “This Sunday, Mexico won,” he said. He then thanked his voters and promised to run government “responsible and open to criticism.”[60] At the PRI headquarters in Mexico City, the victory party began.[60] With more than 97% of the votes counted on election day, the PRI had won with about 38% of the votes, just 6.4 points above the leftist candidate López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who refuses to concede the results and has threatened to challenge the outcome.[61][62] At a news conference, the leftist candidate claimed that the election was “plagued with irregularities” and accused the PRI of allegedly buying votes.[61] He also claims that the PRI handed out gifts to lure voters to cast their vote in favor of them.[63] Nonetheless, the PRI denies the accusations and threatens to sue López Obrador.[63] Peña Nieto vowed to imprison anyone – including members of the PRI – if they are found guilty of electoral fraud.[64]

The final election results confirmed that Peña Nieto obtained 38.21% of the votes, followed by López Obrador with 31.59%. Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) got 25.41% votes and Gabriel Quadri of the New Alliance Party (PANAL) 2.29%.[65]

Security policy

The security policy of Peña Nieto prioritizes the reduction of violence rather than attacking Mexico’s drug trafficking organizations head-on, marking a departure from the strategy of the past six years during Felipe Calderón‘s administration.[66] Peña Nieto has set up a number of conceptual and organizational changes from the past regime policy, and one of the biggest contrasts is the focus on lowering murder rates, kidnappings, and extortions, as opposed to arresting or killing the country’s most-wanted drug lords and intercepting their drug shipments.[66] The government of Calderón, however, has justified its position by stating that the current violence in the country is a necessary stage in Mexico’s drug war, as weakening criminal groups fight for territorial control against one another and the government. Moreover, part of Peña Nieto’s strategy also consists on the creation of a national police made up of 40,000 members, known as a “gendarmerie.” He also proposed on centralizing the sub-federal police forces under one command.[66] The president-elect emphasized that he does not support the involvement or presence of armed U.S. agents in Mexico, but considers allowing the United States to instruct Mexico’s military training in counterinsurgency tactics.[67] Beyond that, Peña Nieto promised that no other measures will be taken by the U.S. in Mexico.[67] While campaigning, Peña Nieto appointed a former general of the National Police of Colombia as his external advisor for public security, and boldly promised to reduce 50% of the murder rates in Mexico by the end of his six-year term.[68][69]

Critics of Peña Nieto’s security strategy, however, say that he has offered “little sense” in exactly how he will reduce the violence.[66][68] During the three-month campaign, Peña Nieto was not explicit on his anti-crime strategy, and many analysts wonder whether Peña Nieto is holding back politically sensitive details in his security strategy or simply does not know yet how he will squelch the violence and carry out the next stage in Mexico’s drug war.[68] Moreover, U.S. officials are worried that the return of Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) after ruling Mexico for 71 years may mean returning to the old PRI tactics of “corruption [and] backroom deals” with the cartels in exchange for bribes and relative peace.[70][71][72]

Energy policy

During the presidential campaign, Peña Nieto promised to open Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned oil company, to the private sector.[73] During an interview on 2011 with the Financial Times, he claimed that Pemex “can achieve more, grow more and do more through alliances with the private sector,” and placed particular interest on an economic agreement with Petrobras, Brazil’s oil company.[73] By giving more economic freedom to Pemex, investors say Peña Nieto’s proposal could give joint ventures and even allow private investment to the oil company.[74] Nonetheless, such reforms require congressional support, and Peña Nieto’s party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), only assured a plurality in Congress (more seats than any other party). With just over 38% of the votes, it is unclear if he will be able to work with other parties to achieve an absolute majority (over 50% of the seats) needed under Mexican law to pass reforms, much less than the two-thirds majority needed to change the Mexican constitution.[74] This leaves a lot of uncertainty for investors, since Pemex, after all, was founded through the nationalization of foreign oil interests, and the Mexican constitution bans major outside investments.[75] Changing Pemex can also transform the psychology of Mexico’s business sector and involve cultural and political changes that cannot be rushed.[74][75] Since 1938, when president Lázaro Cardenas seized foreign oil company assets to form Pemex, Mexican oil has served as a symbol of national identity.[76]

Nonetheless, if Peña Nieto wants to invite investment, he will have to face the challenges of union leaders and local officials who have largely benefited from the oil company’s bonanza.[75] Productivity in Pemex has been declining since 2004, although its decline rate has been slowing down in the past years.[76] Mexico has the 12th largest oil reserves in the world, the 3rd largest shale gas deposits in the world (after Argentina, China, and the U.S.), and is the third-biggest U.S. supplier of oil, just behind Canada and Saudi Arabia respectively;[77] but if Mexico cannot boost its oil sector, North America’s energy sector will be affected, forcing the U.S. to make up for its losses in other oil companies like OPEC.[76] As productivity begins to decline, Mexico lacks the technological expertise for drilling offshore and in its land deposits.[76] But Brazil’s oil success has made many Mexicans wonder why Pemex has not been able to do the same and has shifted popular opinion in support of structural changes in Pemex.[75] In addition, Peña Nieto declared while campaigning that overhauling Pemex will be the PRI’s and his “signature issue,” and wants other oil companies to invest in Pemex exploration and development activities.[75] A large oil discovery could force the need for a technological innovation and force Pemex to look for changes in its oil policy, but unless than happens, Peña Nieto may possibly be just another president fighting for Pemex’s reform.[76]

Televisa controversy

The Televisa controversy refers to a series of allegations published by the British newspaper The Guardian on June 2012 that claims Mexico’s largest television network, Televisa, sold favorable coverage to top politicians in its news and entertainment shows.[78] The documents presented by the newspaper allege that a secretive circle within Televisa manipulated its coverage to favor the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate who was poised as favorite to win the 2012 Mexican presidential elections.[79][80] The unit supposedly commissioned videos promoting Peña Nieto and lashing out his political rivals in 2009.[80] The documents suggest that the team distributed such videos through e-mail, and then posted them on Facebook and YouTube, where some of them can still be seen.[80] One of the documents is a PowerPoint presentation, and a slide explicitly takes an aim on Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the leftist candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).[78]

While it has not been possible to confirm the authenticity of documents – which were given to the newspaper by a supposed employee of Televisa – dates, names, and events largely coincide.[78][81] Televisa refused to talk about the documents, but denied that they had any relationship with the PRI and with its presidential candidate, saying that they had done an equal media coverage for all parties.[80] Televisa also responded to The Guardian and published an article denying the accusations and showing the supposed discrepancies in the documents.[82] And as the protest took pace, Televisa has covered the protests of Yo Soy 132 in detail.[78] Televisa, the largest media network in the Spanish-speaking world, owns around two-thirds of the programmings in Mexico’s TV channels.[78] In Mexico, newspaper is tiny and research on the Internet and cable TV is largely limited to the middle classes; consequently, the country’s two major television networks – Televisa and TV Azteca – exert a significant influence in national politics.[78]

Yo Soy 132 movement

Main article: Yo Soy 132

Yo Soy 132 is an ongoing Mexican protest movement centered around the democratization of the country and its media. It began as opposition to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Peña Nieto and the Mexican media’s allegedly biased coverage of the 2012 general election.[83]

On 11 May 2012, Peña Nieto held a campaign event at Ibero-American University, a private middle-class and upscale university. Most of the attendees questioned and strongly expressed their opposition to the candidate, calling him a murderer. Their protest was centered around the 2006 San Salvador Atenco incident, in which then-governor of the State of Mexico called in the state police to break up a protest by local residents.[50] Two protesters were killed, and human rights groups have charged the police with numerous violations during those raids.[50]

However, during the news conference, Peña Nieto defended his decision to use force in order to prevent an alleged greater evil.[50] His answer inflamed the students, who started to chant the motto “Atenco is not forgotten” and forced Peña Nieto to retreat to a restroom before leaving the premises by the rear exit, according to the radio station of the Ibero-American University.[50] More recently, the movement has led many student protests throughout Mexico.[84]


Presidential styles of Enrique Peña Nieto
Coat of arms of Mexico.svg
Reference style Señor Presidente de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos “Mr. President of the United Mexican States”
Spoken style Presidente de Mexico “President of Mexico”
Alternative style Señor Presidente “Mr. President”

Peña Nieto was sworn in as president of Mexico on 1 December 2012 at Mexico’s federal congress and later flew to a military parade to formally take control of the Mexican Armed Forces. During his inauguration speech at the National Palace, Peña Nieto proposed his agendas and reforms for the new administration. Before and after Peña Nieto’s inauguration, protesters rioted outside of the national palace and clashed with Federal Police forces, vandalizing hotel structures and setting fires in the downtown area of Mexico City. More than 90 protesters were arrested and several were injured. Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard blamed anarchist groups for causing the violent outcomes.[85][86] During these protests, however, there is evidence that agents of provocation worked with the police. Such individuals were paid 300 Mexican Pesos (about 20USD) for their acts of vandalism, according to media reports.[87] Photos show the vandals waiting in groups behind police lines prior to the violence.[88] Previous protests have been entirely peaceful, but on this occasion, in apparent response to violence, the police fired rubber bullets.[89] In contrast to the protests, there were no public celebrations of the new presidency.[90][91]

On 13 December 2012, a law was approved that included far-reaching security reforms. Mexico’s Interior Ministry, greatly strengthened by the bill, has been made solely responsible for public security. A new gendarmerie, with an initial strength of 10,000, is being deployed to Mexico’s most dangerous areas, while the Federal Police will be focusing on investigating crime. The Interior Ministry announced that 15 specialized police units were being formed to exclusively focus on major crimes that include kidnapping and extortion, along with a new task force dedicated to tracking down missing persons.[92]

Family and personal life

Peña Nieto was born in Atlacomulco, a city that is known for being the birthplace of many renowned politicians in Mexico, whose linkages extend for more than 100 years.[93] Peña Nieto is related to four former governors in his home state.[93] Through his mother, he is related to Arturo Montiel Rojas, who preceded him in office. Montiel Rojas’ father was the mayor of Atlacomulco in 1971–72, the hometown of Peña Nieto. His grandfather was Enrique Nieto Montiel, who served as mayor of Atlacomulco from 1953–1954.[93] Nieto Montiel was married to the sister of the Governor Salvador Sánchez Colín. A daughter from Peña Nieto’s grandparents is the wife of the Governor Alfredo del Mazo González’s cousin. Del Mazo, in turn, is the son of Alfredo del Mazo Vélez, the former governor of the State of Mexico from 1945–1951. Peña Nieto’s brother was also the mayor of Atlacomulco from 1994 to 1996.[93]

In 1993, Peña married his first wife, Mónica Pretelini, and the couple had three children: Paulina, Alejandro and Nicole. Pretelini died on 11 January 2007 as the result of an epileptic episode.[52] During a political campaign in the State of Mexico in 2008, Peña Nieto hired the Televisa soap opera actress Angélica Rivera to publicize his government work.[94] In the beginning, their relationship was discreet with many even describing it as contrived.[94] The two would often be seen in restaurants, but in public, their displays of affection were timid. When Peña Nieto announced on television that he was involved in a romantic relationship with Angélica Rivera in 2008,[95] the story became popular among politicians and celebrity press.[94] After dating for some months and while on a trip to the Vatican City, Peña Nieto presented his engagement ring to Rivera. Pope Benedict XVI also blessed the couple. Peña Nieto and Rivera finally married on November 2011 in Toluca.[94]

Peña Nieto has a son with Maritza Diaz Hernandez, born in 2005 while he was married to Mónica Pretelini. He has said that he takes care of his son’s material needs, but has little contact with him. During the same time period, Peña Nieto conceived another son who died as an infant with an undisclosed partner.[96] On January 2012, Maritza Diaz Hernandez published on Facebook that Peña Nieto is a neglectful father, in response to pledges by PRI to protect and support all Mexican children.[97] Peña Nieto, however, said that he had provided for his child.[97]

Public perception

The Peña Nieto Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Enrique Peña Nieto 2012–
Secretary of Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong 2012–
Chancellor José Antonio Meade Kuribreña 2012–
Secretary of Finance Luis Videgaray Caso 2012–
Secretary of Defense Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda 2012–
Secretary of the Navy Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz 2012–
Secretary of Economy Ildefonso Guajardo Villarreal 2012–
Secretary of Social Development Rosario Robles 2012–
Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam 2012–
Secretary of Public Security Manuel Mondragón y Kalb 2012–
Secretary of Civil Service Julián Alfonso Olivas Ugalde 2012–
Secretary of Communications and Transportation Gerardo Ruiz Esparza 2012–
Secretary of Labor Alfonso Navarrete Prida 2012–
Secretary of Environment Juan José Guerra Abud 2012–
Secretary of Energy Pedro Joaquín Coldwell 2012–
Secretary of Agriculture Enrique Martínez y Martínez 2012–
Secretary of Education Emilio Chuayffet 2012–
Secretary of Health Mercedes Juan López 2012–
Secretary of Tourism Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas 2012–
Secretary of Agrarian Reform Jorge Carlos Ramírez Marín 2012–
Legal Counsellor TBD 2012–
*Died in office **Retained from previous administration

After ruling for most of the past century in Mexico, the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has brought hope to those who gave the PRI another chance and fear to those who worry about the old PRI tactics of making deals with the cartels in exchange for relative peace.[98] According to an article published by the The Economist on 23 June 2012, part of the reason why Peña Nieto and the PRI were voted back to the presidency after a 12-year struggle lies in the disappointment of the ruling of the National Action Party (PAN).[99] Buffeted by China’s economic growth and the economic recession in the United States, the annual growth of Mexico’s economy between 2000 and 2012 was of 1.8%. Poverty exacerbated, and without a ruling majority in Congress, the PAN presidents were unable to pass structural reforms, leaving monopolies and Mexico’s educational system unchanged.[99] In 2006, Felipe Calderón chose to make the battle against organized crime the centerpiece of his presidency. Nonetheless, with over 60,000 dead, many Mexican citizens are tired of a fight they had first supported.[99] The Economist alleges that these signs are “not as bad as they look,” since Mexico is more democratic, it enjoys a competitive export market, has a well-run economy despite the crisis, and there are tentative signs that the violence in the country may be plummeting. But if voters want the PRI back, it is because “the alternatives [were] weak.”[99] The newspaper also alleges that Mexico’s preferences should have gone left-wing, but the candidate that represented that movement – Andrés Manuel López Obrador – was seen with “disgraceful behavior.” The conservative candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, was deemed worthy but was considered by The Economist to have carried out a “shambolic campaign.” Thus, Peña Nieto wins by default and was considered by the newspaper as the “least bad choice” for reform in Mexico.[99]

According to The Guardian, Peña Nieto’s “young, telegenic and impeccably smooth” image has helped gloss over the PRI’s reputation of corruption and authoritarianism.[100] Such views are rare in Mexico City, where the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) holds strong support.[100] Throughout the political campaigns, Peña Nieto poised to steer his party back into power and was, according to the polls, the favorite to win the elections. Some of his adversaries, however, said that the “polls were manipulated” and that the PRI was taking advantage of the poor to gain votes, instead of relying on informed vote.[100] Allegations of vote-buying for Peña Nieto were widespread, but the PRI responded by claiming that its rivals were merely questioning the legitimacy of their victory.[100] The Yo Soy 132 student movement shook up the campaign, but it did not have a major impact on the opinion polls in favor of Peña Nieto.[100] Other media outlets like CBS News have stated that Peña Nieto is the “new face of the old guard,”[101] while several American officials fear that his security strategy may mean returning to the old PRI tactics of “corruption [and] backroom deals” with the cartels to bring peace to the country.[70]

In an article written by Los Angeles Times on 9 July 2012, Peña Nieto is described as a “man of mystery” whose real convictions – as perceived in the eyes of many Mexicans – remain in doubt.[32] To some, the PRI politician is simply a creation of the party’s cabal and of Mexico’s omnipresent and key television network, Televisa. His cipher-like aspect, along with his steady rise to the presidency, reinforced that opinion.[32] Yet, other observers note that Peña Nieto was smart enough “to know what he doesn’t know” and surround himself with sharp politicians educated at places like Harvard University and MIT.[32] In public appearances and interviews, the newspaper states that Peña Nieto is well-rehearsed, charismatic, and never goes too far from his script. According to his close advisors, his charismatic aura was what caught the attention of the PRI kingmakers who launched him for the presidential bid.[32]

Media mistakes

Besides his political career, Enrique Peña Nieto has been known for his repeated mistakes during public events or interviews.[102] The most noted incident occurred during the International Book Fair of Guadalajara on 3 December 2011.[103] On that day, during a question and answer session, he was asked by an audience member to name three books that had influenced him, being only able to correctly reference the Bible.[104][105] He then “rambled, tossing out confused title names, asking for help in recalling authors and sometimes mismatching” the two others.[106] Other incidents have involved him not being able to recall Benito Juarez‘s year of birth,[107] being unable to remember the acronym of the Federal Institute of Access to Information (IFAI),[108][109] changing the date of foundation of the state of Hidalgo,[110][111] mistaking the capital of the State of Veracruz,[112] among others,[113] of varying degree of substantiation or credibility. However, they have become viral on social media, especially on Twitter.[114][115] There is even a website which counts the days passed since his last mistake.[116]

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