But some analysts warn against mistaking style for substance and making early declarations of victory against entrenched powers built up by the very party that now says it's trying to bring them to heel. It will take many months, in some cases years, before Pena Nieto's reform agenda becomes law and produces its first results, plenty of time for big promises to be derailed by special interests, institutional inertia and the PRI's old guard.
"It's quite remarkable to me that people are assuming that somehow we're at a new stage in political or institutional or economic development in Mexico," said John Ackerman, a law professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a visiting scholar at American University in Washington. "Increased competition is great. But the central problem that's holding back Mexico's economic development is the concentration of political and economic power at the top, and with Pena Nieto we see more of this, we see a consolidation of this in fact."
While Pena Nieto has pledged to drive down violence, he has made few changes to Mexico's security policy. There has been no credible sign of a slowdown in the waves of killings that have turned many states into battlegrounds. The most significant change, critics say, has been a clampdown on official information about crime, part of a government-wide attempt to refocus national and international attention onto Mexico's economy.
The day before his Dec. 1 swearing-in, Pena Nieto and his team got the three main political parties to sign a 94-point national legislative agenda known as the Pact for Mexico that promises everything from efficient harvesting of rainwater to opening Mexico's behemoth state oil company to private and foreign investment. The Pact for Mexico was dismissed as theatrics by some observers at the time, but it has become clear Pena Nieto intends to push for every promise to become law as quickly as possible.