Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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National and World

March 19, 2013

Mexico's president gathers power, pushes reform

MEXICO CITY (AP) — New President Enrique Pena Nieto has been fast out of the blocks in attacking some of Mexico's toughest issues in a country often stymied by monopolies and corruption.

He arrested the most powerful woman in Mexico, leader of the largest union in Latin America, on allegations of corruption that previous presidents saw but were too compromised to tackle. He is taking on the richest man in the world, Carlos Slim, and pledges to bring diversity to a television industry dominated by the head of the largest network in Latin America, a scion of one of Mexico's leading families.

At one time all three were key allies of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled for 71 years with a combination of coercion and corruption before being voted out of office in 2000. Now, Pena Nieto is declaring that there are no more sacred cows.

The moves have built momentum behind what could be his most dramatic and difficult reform — modernizing and drawing foreign and private capital to the behemoth state oil company, a long sacrosanct but increasingly inefficient pillar of the Mexican economy. On Sunday, at a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the nationalization of the Mexican oil business, Pena Nieto said again that he will transform Petroleos Mexicanos. The longtime head of the Pemex union, who had been expected by many to fight any changes but has been the subject of questions about unexplained family wealth, pledged his support.

Pena Nieto says his plan will make Mexico more democratic and competitive in the world economy, and his drive for reform is fueling international confidence about Mexico. Rating company Standard and Poor's raised the country's long-term sovereign credit rating from "stable" to "positive" last week, citing optimism about the government's ability to carry out structural changes. The Mexican peso is stronger against the dollar than it's been in a year and a half.

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