Friday, November 30, 2012

Enrique Peña Nieto takes the helm in Mexico City

Guadalajara -
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) leader Enrique Peña Nieto is the president of the United Mexican States at this hour - at least insofar as the military chain of command is concerned.

The 46 year old businessman and attorney functionally became the nation's new chief executive when former president Felipe Calderón officially yielded power to him at 11:55 p.m. Six years ago, on Dec. 1, 2006, Calderón's predecessor, Vicente Fox, extended a similar courtesy to his successor just after midnight.

No reporters or photographers were allowed to witness or record the private part of the ceremony, but a brief military protocol was covered by television cameras outside the National Palace in the capital.

Effective immediately, Peña Nieto is commander-in-chief of the country's fuerza publica - all military forces.

Most of the new president's cabinet members, who were presented at a nationally televised press conference Friday afternoon, were sworn in immediately after by Mr. Peña Nieto, and are already in charge of their respective departments.

Although the president won't appear before the national congress for public ceremonies until later this morning, he's now officially in charge of the welfare of an estimated 112 million Mexican citizens.

Before this evening, PRI last held the country's presidency on Nov. 30, 2000. The center-left party dominated Mexican politics for 71 years, from 1929 until its defeat by a coalition of center-right parties led by Fox 12 years ago. Soon after they merged into the modern day National Action Party (PAN), which managed to capture but third place in the July 1 election.

PAN is generally considered the conservative voice in Mexican politics, while at the other end of the spectrum the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) represents ideologies considerably further to the left than PRI. PRD has never won a presidential election in Mexico, but it came very close in 2006, and finished in respectable second place this year, about six points behind PRI. The left is alive and well in Mexico, holds state and federal congressional seats, and is expected to be a serious contender in the 2018 presidential election, for which preparations are already well under way.

Mexico, very much like the United States, is a constitutional republic of 31 partially sovereign states and a Federal District, with a central government to which ultimate authority is reserved on some matters. The country has an executive branch with many cabinet secretaries, a bicameral legislature composed of a senate and house of deputies, and a judicial structure of state and federal tribunals, supervised by the Supreme Judicial Court. Although Mexico is not a common law nation which follows Anglo-American legal precedents or traditions, in the criminal law arena it is rapidly moving in that direction, due to 2008 constitutional amendments which require the implementation of "oral trials" intended to mirror U.S., British and Canadian criminal prosecutions. Unlike American courts, Mexican tribunals frequently refer to and rely upon accepted international legal principles and norms in arriving at their decisions, and show considerable deference to human rights considerations in a wide array of civil and criminal rulings.

Dec. 1 - Peña Nieto takes oath of office before Mexico's congress, but not everyone was applauding
Nov. 29 - PRI's return to power is greeted with skepticism by many Mexicans, PRD senator claims
Nov. 27 - Mexico prepares to change the guard; Enrique Peña Nieto meets with Obama

Mexican public security survey gives poor marks to Calderón, reveals little confidence in Peña Nieto
Gross economic disparity still a hard fact of Mexican life
Mexico's incoming PRI government pays little attention to marijuana legalization efforts in U.S.
Mexican super gangs will present big challenge for Enrique Peña Nieto
Peña Nieto's Colombian drug war czar is U.S. informant, with orders to make a deal with narcos
Peña Nieto transition team confirms: Mexican military will remain on streets to help wage drug war
Enrique Peña Nieto's biggest challenges will be economy and environment, not drug cartels

2012 presidential election
Mexican court rejects leftist bid to void July 1 presidential election; end of the road for López Obrador
July 8 - Mexican voters got suckered on drug war
July 2 - Enrique Peña Nieto captures Mexican presidency, returns Los Pinos to PRI
June 19 - All about Mexico's presidential candidates
June 19 - All about Mexico's election, 2012
June 11 - New York Times got Mexican presidential candidates' drug war strategies wrong

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