Pena Nieto’s Rankings Take a Nose Dive

On Monday, September 1, President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico will deliver his second annual report to the Mexican Congress. Popular in foreign business and governmental circles, the Mexican president is likely to emphasize reforms he has promoted in energy production, education, telecommunications, security, and tax policy.

But in the court of public opinion the President’s ratings are tanking, according to the results of three recent polls, all of which show about half or less of Mexicans surveyed giving Pena Nieto a positive grade on his record.

The first poll, conducted by an outside polling firm for the daily El Universal newspaper, reported 46 percent of the respondents approving of Pena Nieto’s performance, while 45 percent disapproved.
The second poll, conducted by another public opinion research outfit for the daily Excelsior, gave Pena Nieto a 43 percent approval rating, with a majority, or 54 percent, giving the President a decisive thumb’s down.  Contracted by Excelsior, the Ulises Beltran and Alejandro Cruz firm credited the vote of no confidence to public perceptions of unfulfilled promises, opposition to the energy and other reforms, and an overall lack of economic improvement.

A projected 2.7 percent growth rate for this year is far below earlier predictions of 3.9 percent; in 2013, the first year of Pena Nieto’s presidency, Mexico experienced a sickly 1.1 percent growth rate, according to the World Bank. Violence, which continues at high levels and has claimed the lives of at least 36,718 Mexicans since Pena Nieto took office in December 2012, was another big factor in the public’s assessment of their president.

“Insufficient government control over what is happening in the country is still observed,” Beltran and Cruz stated.

Both El Universal and Excelsior have long been regarded as among the most conservative media in the country.

A third poll, conducted by the U.S.-based Pew Research Center, found that 47  percent of the respondents disapproved of Pena Nieto’s record, while 51 percent accorded the leader a positive influence. Compared with a similar survey taken in 2013, the president’s approval ranking dropped by nine points.

Yet the most recent Pew poll also found that about 60 percent of Mexicans considered Pena Nieto’s handling of the economy as poor, with nearly the same number opposed to opening up the national oil company Pemex up to foreign investment. In defining national problems, 79 percent of the people polled said crime was the big problem, with political corruption, environmental contamination, health care, and school quality among the other important issues mentioned.

One third of the Mexicans interviewed by Pew said they would migrate to the United States if an opportunity presented. The poll was based on surveys of 1,000 adults during the months of April and May, with a four-point margin of error.

The findings of all three polls could have political ramifications in next year’s crucial Congressional election, as well as impinge on the energy reform that is the centerpiece of the Pena Nieto administration. Opponents of the reform are gathering signatures to force a national referendum on canceling the reform, which allows foreign investment in gas and oil production as well as electricity generation.

Pena Nieto’s September 1 report will come only days after a joint trip to California this week by the President, several of his cabinet ministers and the governors of Baja California, Chihuahua and nine other Mexican states.

The presidential delegation met with migrant associations, California political leaders and business people and awarded several grants to Mexican students studying in California. Moreover, an agreement was signed between Mexican Tourism Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu and Michael E. Rossi, senior advisor to Governor Jerry Brown, committing Mexico and her big northern neighbor to increased cooperation on the tourism front.

The splashy visit was a follow-up to a three-day tour of Mexico last month by large entourage from California headed by Governor Brown.

The Brown tour climaxed with the signing of unprecedented, bilateral agreements between Mexico and California, two of the world’s largest economies, that envisage expanded economic relationships, increased ties between institutions of higher learning, greater labor protections for Mexican guestworkers and mutual action on climate change and other common environmental challenges.

During Pena Nieto’s visit to the Golden State, Brown again expounded on the cross-border environmental question.

“We can come together in many ways. We can deal with climate change,” Brown affirmed. “There’s no better place for sun and wind and geothermal than Mexico and California.”

The Mexican president used the occasion to review the many relationships between Mexico and California, urging the passage of an immigration reform. He spoke as Texas began deploying National Guard forces on the state’s border with Mexico in response to the Central American refugee children crossing the Mexico-U.S. line in search of asylum.

In an implicit criticism of Texas and Arizona, Pena Nieto said some U.S. states had not “evolved” as much as California in their treatment of migrants, warning that they would fall by the historic wayside.

“I have only one thing to tell them: the future, and the very near future, will show their ethical error. Time will show us right,” Pena Nieto insisted.

Protests greeted Pena Nieto on his California visit.  Outside the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, two separate groups protested the Mexican leader’s presence.

One protest, made of a group that had been previously involved in demonstrations against the Central American children, demanded freedom for Andrew Tahmooressi, a former U.S. marine currently jailed in Tijuana for illegally importing three firearms into Mexico. Tahmooressi contends that he accidentally brought the weapons across the border. To get their point across, Tahmooressi’s supporters shouted “Boycott Mexico.”
A second protest, led by Mexican immigrants, articulated grievances analysts cite as explaining Pena Nieto’s unpopularity at home.

Holding placards that read “Traitor” and “Mexico is not for Sale,” the Los Angeles protest group criticized the energy reform and demanded freedom for Michoacan self-defense movement leader Jose Mireles and Guerrero community police commander Nestora Salgado, both of whom are considered political prisoners by a growing number of Mexicans.

“We denounce the sale of our natural resources,” said activist Roberto Moro. “Mexico is for sale.”

A Salvadoran immigrant worker at the Biltmore also had a message for Pena Nieto, telling a reporter that Central Americans passing through Mexico to the United States were horribly mistreated. “I would ask (Pena Nieto) that they don’t treat us badly,” the woman worker said. “Many injustices are committed against Central Americans.”

For an earlier FNS story on Jerry Brown’s Mexico visit check out:

Additional sources: El Semanario de Nuevo Mexico/EFE, August 28, 2014., August 26, 2014. Articles by Maria Pena, Isaias Alvarado and Rosa Elvira Vargas.  El Sol de Mexico, August 26, 2014. Article by Carlos Lara Moreno. AFP, August 26, 2014. La Jornada, August 25 and 26, 2014. Articles by Rosa Elvira Vargas and editorial staff. Proceso/Apro, August 25 and 27, 2014. Articles by Alvaro Delgado and Jose Gil Olmos. El Diario de Juarez, August 23, 2014. Article by Josefina Maritinez. Los Angeles Times, July 10 and August 7, 2014.  Articles by Robin Abcarian.

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