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When President Peña Nieto took office in December 2012, forging a cross-party accord to drive through significant structural reforms, he managed for a time to present a different image of Mexico to the violence-riven one projected by his predecessor, Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). The Iguala infamy incontrovertibly changed all that, but Peña Nieto was, understandably, keen to showcase the dynamic reform-minded Mexico during his State visit to the UK.
While delivering the annual Canning Lecture in London on 3 March, Peña Nieto spoke at length about the 11 structural reforms his government has pushed through congress and is implementing: six of these seek to increase Mexico’s productivity and competitiveness, such as the energy and telecommunications reforms, and attract new investment to the country; and five to strengthen social and political rights, such as the education reform and new criminal procedures and legal protection laws to overhaul the justice system. Peña Nieto also discussed Mexico’s leading role in the burgeoning Pacific Alliance trade bloc, which has gone beyond free trade to free movement of capital and services. The UK is one of 30 Pacific Alliance observer nations worldwide.
Peña Nieto said that the reforms all contributed to the overriding objective of improving the quality of life of ordinary Mexicans by bringing greater prosperity, but he admitted that the big challenge was to translate the reforms and constitutional amendments into concrete benefits for all. He singled out the recent launch of a youth employment programme to provide credit support for young entrepreneurs between the age of 18 and 30 who want to launch a business or expand an existing one.
Peña Nieto also briefly mentioned his government’s commitment to transparency and combating corruption at all levels of government. It was clearly not the forum to respond to the recent allegations of conflict of interest against him [WR-15-04], but Peña Nieto possibly missed a trick by failing to mention the anti-corruption law approved by the federal lower chamber of congress on 26 February after agreement between all three major parties, which aims to strengthen oversight of public officials and designate a special prosecutor to tackle corruption.