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Mexican new president reaches first agreements with the opposition

Monday, December 3rd 2012 - 05:20 UTC
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Peña Nieto addressing the nation on his taking office speech Peña Nieto addressing the nation on his taking office speech

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Sunday signed a pact with the country's leading political parties to increase competition in the telecommunications sector and overhaul the education system.

The agreement was an effort to break through years of political gridlock in Congress on Peña Nieto's second day in office.

Peña Nieto, 46, took office on Saturday, returning to power his Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, after 12 years in the opposition. No party holds an outright majority in Congress.

“We have to negotiate to build consensus. Now is the decisive hour in the history of the country that demands politicians use common ground to reach essential agreements,” Peña Nieto said at an event in the historic Chapultepec castle.

Former President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, PAN, kicked the PRI out of office in 2000, the first time since the revolution at the beginning of last century, pledging to reinvigorate Mexico, but it struggled to broker major accords during the 12 years it held the presidency.

Peña Nieto has promised to back some of the same economic proposals that his PRI party fought while it was in the opposition.

PAN chairman Gustavo Madero signed the agreement along with the chairman of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Jesus Zambrano.

The deal did not mention the closely watched tax and energy and labour reform plans that Peña Nieto's collaborators have said he will propose during his first year in office.

Parties agreed to work on three reforms: to increase competition in Mexico's telecommunications sector, improve the management of local government finances, and modernize the education system.

Mexico's phone market is dominated by billionaire Carlos Slim's companies, while the television business is largely controlled by broadcaster Televisa. Peña Nieto, who is married to a star of one of Televisa's popular soap operas, is seen as close to the broadcaster's owners.

Political analysts doubted the pact signalled a significant advance that would translate into quick action by lawmakers.

Mexican lawmakers have been at loggerheads over major economic reforms during the last 15 years, since the PRI lost its majority in Congress. The PRI held the presidency for 71 years until its defeat in 2000. It has a reputation of corruption, patronizing and cronyisms. However admitting some of these sins Peña Nieto is expected to represent a new generation of PRI successful politicians, more open minded and ready to admit the awful poverty in which over half the population lives.

However this did not prevent booing and protests even in Congress on Saturday when the swearing ceremony from opposition members complaining vote rigging and other election irregularities. Thousands meanwhile protested in the streets of Mexico City with hundreds arrested.

Peña Nieto pledged to jump-start the country's economy when he was sworn in on Saturday. He also promised to end years of violence after more than 60,000 people died in battles between drug gangs and security forces during Calderon's term.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin American but while the current leader Brazil is losing steam and becomes less attractive for investors, the US neighbour is recovering sustainedly from the last crisis and is beginning to recover much of the industry that had left for China.


Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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