Mexican Presidential Candidate Calls for Reforms
Published: Monday, November 14, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 03:11
Enrique Peña Nieto, the former governor of the state of Mexico, stressed the importance of achieving sustained economic growth while speaking about his vision for Mexico's future to a standing-room-only crowd in Riggs Library Monday.
"If we really want to pay attention to security, education and health, we need to grow first," said Peña Nieto, a likely contender for the Mexican presidency in 2012. "We have not been growing in the last 10 years. Millions of Mexicans have fallen into poverty."
Peña Nieto, who is a member of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, proposed a variety of economic reforms to improve the competitiveness of Mexico's economy. According to Peña Nieto, such measures are critical to instituting better social service programs and reducing poverty.
"In order to get goods and services at a better quality and at a lower cost, we need to promote competition," he said.
Peña Nieto's proposed reforms include better financial regulation of commercial banks, universal social security and tax reforms to increase state revenues. He also advocated reforming Mexico's state-owned petroleum company Petróleos Mexicanos.
Peña Nieto was introduced by Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), (SFS '78), who endorsed the former governor as the best candidate to expand U.S.-Mexico trade.
"The Rio Grande does not divide us. It unites us, as two countries," he said. "Every day, $1 billion worth of goods are traded between the [United States] and Mexico."
Peña Nieto affirmed Cuellar's sentiment.
"Productive integration … like what is happening in other parts of the world with economic blocs, is needed for a more expansive integration of the North American area."
Peña Nieto closed his speech by arguing that the PRI is the sole party capable of successfully introducing economic reforms.
"Only the PRI has what's needed to give the reforms that Mexico needs," he said. "I do not find, on the left or the right, conditions to give impulse to the structural reforms we need in Mexico."
The speech, which was sponsored by the Center for Latin American Studies, the International Relations Club, MEChA de Georgetown the Latin American Students Association and the Office of Federal Relations, was followed by a Q-and-A session, during which both students and the presidential hopeful switched between speaking in English and Spanish.
Many students questioned Peña Nieto about the history of the PRI, which critics charge with electoral fraud and voter suppression during its uncontested rule from 1929 to 1982.
"I can't imagine Mexico going back to old times," Peña Nieto said. "We are part of the changes going on in the whole world. What we see in the world is democracy development. The PRI wants to compete, win elections and govern within democracy." While many students were impressed by Peña Nieto's proposed policies, Colombian student Sabrina Nicholls (GRD '12) thought that Peña Nieto's economic reforms and increased security emphasis would not be enough to ensure economic growth in Mexico.
"If you don't focus on women's development, you won't achieve sustainable economic development," Nicholls said. "I don't think he was prepared for my question about decreasing violence against women and increasing women's participation. Women's issues are low on the political agenda."