Mexico 2012: Tracking Democracy in a Time of Uncertainty

Mexico 2012: Tracking Democracy in a Time of Uncertainty

This project examines political developments in Mexico leading up to the 2012 presidential election.

Mexico 2012 focuses on current and future developments that will affect Mexican economic governance, political stability, and central issues in the bilateral relationship with the United States, including immigration, security, and trade.

The importance of the United States bilateral relationship with Mexico is clear. The 2,000 mile border shared by the two nations, the estimated 400-500 thousand undocumented migrants every year that enter the United States from its southern neighbor, the high levels of economic interdependence and the growing drug related violence throughout Mexico all highlight the strategic nature of U.S. interests to its immediate south.

Following the presidential election of 2012 in Mexico, the return of Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) will determine the future of political and economic reforms that have been initiated over the last decade. The election will also have a far reaching effect on the institutional cooperation that has been built up between Mexico and the United States since 2006, particularly in the area of security. The profound shift in the balance of political power in Mexico should be a priority issue for U.S. officials and analysts looking at the future of the bilateral relationship and the North American region.

For this project, lead investigator Duncan Wood will relase weekly reports of the political situation in Mexico through the Americas Program blog and regular updates to the project's twitter feed. Regular podcasts wil also be made available summarizing recent events.  The project will also feature quaterly publications examining various topics pertinent to the 2012 presidential election.  Following the election in July 2012, a conference will be held at CSIS focusing on the aftermath of the election and a compendium of publications, with project conclusions, will be made available.

This project is made possible by the Tinker Foundation.


  • Dec 3, 2012
    By George W. Grayson
    Former Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) was sworn in as president of Mexico on December 1.  While criticized for relying on the media appearances and campaigning on generalities, he knows what he doesn’t know and appoints experts to advise him in areas where he is not conversant.  He is highly skilled in public relations and, in this way, resembles the last Mexico state governor to become president, Adolfo, López Mateos (1958-64).  
    Here are some of his cabinet picks.  
    Chief of the Presidential Office (Staff)—Aurelio Nuño Mayer:  Young bright political adviser who is close to former congressional deputy Luis Videgaray.  Born in 1977, Nuño Mayer has a degree in political science and public administration (Universidad Iberoamericana), an MA in Latin American Studies (Oxford University), and was coordinator of advisors for EPN when he headed the Chamber of Deputies’ budget committee (2009-11).  
    Private Secretary— Erwin Lino Zarate:  Controls access to the president, served previously in the Mexico State government and as EPN’s secretary, is a certified public accountant.  
    Director of Social Communications— David López Gutiérrez:  Shrewd politician and seasoned media professional; is a member of EPN’s inner circle.  He was born in 1949 in Mocorito, Sinaloa and has a degree in economics.  
    Chief of Advisers— Francisco Guzmán Ortiz:  Born in Mexico City in 1980, has a degree in economics and coordinated EPN’s advisers during the campaign.  
    Legal Adviser— Humberto Castillejos Cervantes:  He was external adviser to the attorney general (2001-05), coordinator of advisors for attorney general (2006-2008), and legislator in Mexico state (2012).  
    Gobernación/Interior (SEGOB)— Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong:  Could be strengthened by the pending reorganization of Gobernación, which will encompass the Federal Police as well as the CISEN intelligence agency. Former congressional diputado and governor of Hidalgo state during a period of heightened corruption; part of EPN’s inner circle.  Born in 1964.  
    Foreign Relations (SRE)— José Antonio Meade Koribreña:  Extremely close to Luis Videgaray; his forte is finance and economics.  He has a law degree (Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México), a Ph.D. in economics (Yale), and was secretary of energy (2011-12).  
    Ambassador to United States— Eduardo Medina Mora:  He has excellent rapport with Washington policymakers and is well-connected in Mexico; was President Felipe Calderón’s Attorney General (2007-09), and ambassador to the United Kingdom (2009-12).  
    Hacienda/Finance (SHCP)— Luis Videgaray Caso:  Tough, smart, ambitious; the quarterback of EPN campaign team; a possible presidential candidate in 2018.  Born in1968 in Mexico City, he holds a Ph.D. economics (MIT), was finance secretary Mexico State (2005-09), and a congressional deputy (2009-11).  
    Economy— Ildefonso Guajardo Ortiz:  Heavily involved in NAFTA negotiations, he has good ties to business community, especially in Monterrey.  Born in 1957, he has an MA in public finance and served as a congressional deputy (2000-03).  
    Energy (SENER)— Pedro Joaquín Coldwell:  No experience in the energy field, but is the kind of negotiator needed to convince the oil workers’ union to accept modernizing efforts at Petróleos Mexicanos, the state oil monopoly.  A lawyer known to listen as well as talk.  
    Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX)— Emilio Lozoya Austin:  A key figure in promoting international trade and attracting foreign investment; his father, Emilio Lozoya Thalmann, served as head of ISSSTE and the Energy Ministry.  Born in 1974, he has a law degree (UNAM), an MA in economic development (Harvard), and worked for the Inter-American Development and World Banks.  
    Social Development (SEDESOL)— Rosario Robles Berlanga:  A dynamic and attractive activist for promoting social programs. Might help the PRI regain some of the popularity that it has lost in Mexico City. An economist, congressional deputy, and acting mayor of Mexico City (1999-2000).  
    Education (SEP)— Emilio Chuayffet Chemor:  A PRI war horse to lead reform of educational system that the SNTE Teachers’ Union has colonized; the major goal will be to weaken SNTE leader Elba Esther Gordillo, once termed “Jimmy Hoffa in a skirt.”  Born in 1951, has a law degree (UNAM), was mayor of Toluca (1987-89), served as governor of Mexico state (1993-95), secretary of gobernación (1995-98), and was a congressional deputy (2003-06 and 2009-12).
    Communications and Transportation (SCyT)— Gerardo Ruiz Esparaza:  A specialist in  infrastructure.  Born in 1949 in Mexico City, he holds a law degree (UNAM), an MA in public administration (University of Michigan), was administrative director of the social security institute (1993-97), legal director of the airports corporation (1998), and administrative director of the electricity commission (1999-2005).  He also served as Mexico state’s secretary of communications.  
    Health (SSP)— Dr. Mercedes Juan López:  A well respected a specialist  in rehabilitation medicine, she was a congressional deputy (1997-2000).  
    Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT)— Juan José Guerra Abud:  Only member of the Green Ecological Party (PVEM), which formed part of EPN’s electoral coalition, to join the cabinet.  He was also in EPN’s cabinet in Mexico state.  Peña Nieto urged him to join the PVEM as a bridge to the PRI in the presidential campaign.
    Agriculture (SA)— Enrique Martínez y Martínez:  Cattleman close to PRI leader Beatriz Paredes Rangel. An excellent administrator, especially with respect to the state budget, which floundered in red ink under his successors. Mayor of Saltillo (1979-81), congressional deputy (1988-91, 1997-99), and governor of Coahuila 1999-2005.  
    Agrarian Reform (SRA)— Jorge Carlos Ramírez Marín:  Worked on EPON’s campaign.  Born in 1961 in Mérida.  A congressional deputy (2000-03; 2009-12).  
    Labor (STPS)— Alfonso Navarette Prida:  Will be a key player in revising the nation’s outmoded labor law; could become involved in negotiations with Oil Workers’ Union over reforming PEMEX.  Born in 1963, has served in various posts in Mexico state,  including subsecretary of security, secretary of urban development, and attorney-general.  
    Tourism (SECTUR)— Claudia Ruiz Massieu Salinas:  Niece of former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-94).  Born 1972, former congressional deputy (2009-12).  
    Función Pública (SFP)— Julián Alfonso Olivas Ugalde:  This ministry could disappear if EPN creates a national anti-corruption commission.  
    Attorney General (PGR)— Jesús Murillo Karam:  Tough-as-nails governor of Hidalgo and mentor to EPN.  Governor of Hidalgo state (1993-98); undersecretary of Gobernación/security (1998); senator (2006-12); and congressional deputy (2012).  
    Subsecretary of Public Security and Institutional Planning— Manuel Mondragón y Kalb:  Former Federal District security secretary; knows the city and helped reduce its crime rate; vigorous athlete who practices Karate and Tae Twon Do.  Born in 1935, holds a medical degree (UNAM); retired Navy Rear Admiral; 40 years in public service; Mexico City secretary of public security (2008-12).  
    Defense (SEDENA)— Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda:  Good rapport with EPN; most senior general eligible for this post; holds traditional views about the U.S. trespassing on Mexico’s sovereignty.  Born in 1948, he holds a degree in military administration; an MA in military administration for security and national defense (Colegio Nacional de Defensa), and commanded the First, Fifth, Seventh, and Ninth Military Regions.  
    Navy (SEMAR)— Adm. Vidal Francisco Soberón Sanz:  Youngest admiral in Mexican Navy; favors good relations and joint endeavors with the United States; was a protégé and the private secretary of outgoing navy secretary Admiral Mariano Francisco Saynez Mendoza, one of the brightest stars in President Felipe Calderón’s cabinet.  
    Peña Nieto’s cabinet contains a combination of young people and veteran politicians.   A large number of members are from EPN’s home state of Mexico and only three women hold portfolios.  Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray Caso will head a “super ministry” focusing on foreign and domestic economic policy.  The composition of EPN’s “economic cabinet,” Finance Secretary Videgaray and Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo Ortiz (as well as Antonio Meade at SRE), suggests propelling export-oriented development. Emilio Chuayffet Chemor as education secretary will use his political muscle to rein in Elba Esther “La Maestra” Gordillo, boss of the corrupt teachers’ union.  He will lead a headcount to identify the number of teachers in the country, stop patronage jobs, and try to establish a professional service for educators.  
    Furthermore, a traditionalist in charge of SEDENA and a progressive in SEMAR could exacerbate inter-service rivalries.  Few allies of PRI traditional heavyweights—Sen. Emilio Gamboa Patrón, Deputy Manlio Fabio Beltrones, former Yucatán Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco, and ex-Party President Beatriz Paredes Rangel—are in EPN’s cabinet.  Finally, EPN has taken a page from the play book of populist-messianic Andrés Manuel López Obrador in pledging stipends to senior citizens and compensating crime victims—extremely expensive measures.
    George W. Grayson is the Class of 1938 Professor of Government Emeritus at the College of William & Mary.  He is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic & International Studies and an associate scholar at the Foreign Policy Research Institute; his latest book, co-authored with Samuel Logan, is titled The Executioner’s Men: Los Zetas, Rogue Soldiers, Criminal Entrepreneurs, and the Shadow State They Created (Transaction Press, 2012); 757-810-0034;
  • Nov 14, 2012

    By Duncan Wood

    On November 13, the Mexican Senate approved a labor reform bill that will now be sent to outgoing President Felipe Calderón for his signature. The labor reform has taken almost three months to negotiate since first presented by Calderón in September, as a Preferential Presidential Initiative. A fascinating process to observe, it is one that offers clues as to what may be possible in the congress in terms of other structural reforms.

    The labor reform that the president initially presented not only included provisions for making hiring and firing easier, restricting the right to strike, addressing outsourcing and hourly (as opposed to daily) pay, it also took on the thorny issue of union transparency. The question of opening up the unions to public supervision, and to accountability to members, was seen as crucial to changing the anti-democratic practices of such unions as the SNTE (teachers’ union) and the STPRM (the Pemex petroleum workers’ union).  And, it was a priority for Calderón and his National Action Party (PAN). Moreover, President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto supported the initiative.

    Once the legislative negotiations began, however, an alliance between the PAN and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was created in the Chamber of Deputies. This alliance, on the basis of demands from the PRI (which feared jeopardizing its support from the unions), stripped provisions that would have strengthened union transparency.  Deputies then approved the bill and sent it over to the Senate. There, paradoxically, an alliance emerged between the PAN and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) that insisted on re-inserting the transparency provisions. The changes were then approved and sent back to the Chamber of Deputies for consideration. The Chamber of Deputies approved the legislation in general, but again removed the transparency provisions. This version of the bill was then accepted by the Senate on November 13.

    This intricate and politically complex game of volleyball between parties and the two houses of congress resulted in a political victory for President Calderón and for President-elect Peña Nieto, who described the outcome as “transcendental.”  More importantly, it gives us a clue as to the political horse-trading that will likely mark legislative progress under the coming administration. And it shows encouraging signs of collaboration between the PRI and the PAN, which will be fundamental to getting major policy initiatives approved. This is particularly important when we consider that the next major reform to be presented to the congress is energy—a whopper.  Meaningful progress on that issue will require a constitutional change, which, in turn, will require a two-thirds majority in both houses.  

    Duncan Wood is a senior associate with the CSIS Americas Program.
    Photo Credit: Mexican Senate, used under the Creative Commons License