Enrique Peña Nieto is already governing more like a machine politician than a true democrat.
Peace and prosperity in North America is best served not by giving Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, the benefit of the doubt, but by ramping up independent oversight of his actions and proposals. Otherwise, Mexico could follow the path of Egypt, where formally democratic elections have already given way to authoritarian politics under the leadership of Mohamed Morsi. In order to avoid such a scenario, U.S. civil society and the media need to resist the hype driven by Peña Nieto, who was inaugurated on December 1, and his allies in the Washington policy community and pay attention to what is really happening south of the Rio Grande. The hope for Mexico's future does not lie in Peña Nieto, but in the increasingly self-confident and non-violent social movements that will be challenging him at every step.
There has been a push in recent weeks to help Mexico overcome its "image problem" by overlooking news about drug violence, which has taken at least 60,000 lives over the past six years. Mexico, we are told, has become a model of successful economic development in Latin America. It supposedly has a burgeoning middle class, a well-established division of powers, and a free press. Meanwhile, Peña Nieto is painted as a pragmatist who is interested in establishing a close relationship with the United States and wants to implement fiscal, labor, anti-corruption and energy reforms. Recent pieces by Andrew Selee from the Woodrow Wilson Institute, Peter Hakim from the Inter-American Dialogue, Shannon O'Neil of the Council on Foreign Relations and Jorge Casteñeda in Foreign Affairs capture this dominant position well, as well as Peña Nieto's own article in The Washington Post.