Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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March 19, 2013

Mexico's president gathers power, pushes reform


The telecommunications reform has been enthusiastically received by most economic experts and civil-society groups in the week since its introduction, with near unanimous praise of its toughening of the Mexican regulatory system. But many say it would only make it easier for Mexico's existing tycoons to enter each other's markets — not for new players.

And it's far from clear when the president's education revamp will result in real change in the classrooms.

Pena Nieto has made other changes that haven't drawn the fanfare, but have potentially far-reaching consequences for the power of the president, a once-imperial role during PRI rule that was weakened after the National Action Party won the presidency 12 years ago and ushered in a more democratic Mexico.

He persuaded the PRI to rewrite its rules this month, incorporating the president into the party's top leadership after years of nominal separation between the party and the government. The move will assure party fealty to the presidential agenda, avoiding the internal splits that weakened the PRI in the past, analysts said.

Providing another potential stick for Pena Nieto, Congress stripped lawmakers and other public servants of their longstanding immunity from prosecution, leaving only the president with total legal protection.

For some observers, Pena Nieto's first days are reminiscent of the splashy starts of other PRI presidents such as Carlos Salinas Gortari, who took office in 1988 and undertook a dramatic series of reforms but left office amid a devastating economic collapse fueled by overspending and budget mismanagement.

"This style is a way of saying, 'I've arrived, I'm a different president, I'm new,'" said Jesus Silva-Herzog Marquez, a political science professor at the National Autonomous Technical Institute of Mexico. "It's an assertion of power, a determination to change the rules."


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