Did Mexico's President Plagiarize His Law School Thesis?

A report by one of the country’s top investigative journalists says he did—nearly one-third of it.

Pena Nieto, presidential candidate for the PRI, listens during a news conference in Mexico City in 2012.
Henry Romero / Reuters

NEWS BRIEF In 1991, Enrique Peña Nieto was not yet the president of Mexico. He was a student with a 200-page undergraduate law thesis to turn in—one he is now accused of plagiarizing.

One of Mexico’s top investigative journalists, Carmen Aristegui, published an article Sunday that says Peña Nieto lifted nearly one-third of his thesis. A group of academics reviewed all 682 paragraphs of the piece, titled “Mexican Presidentialism and Alvaro Obregon,” and found Peña Nieto plagiarized 197 paragraphs from 10 authors, and incorrectly cited them in 57 more. In 20 of these instances, he lifted sentences word-for-word, including from a book written by a former president. Here are examples, which Aristegui provided in her article.

For his 1991 thesis, Peña Nieto wrote:

For a book published in 1977, former Mexican President Miguel de la Madrid wrote:

Even if you don’t read Spanish, you can at least see all the words are the same. Aristegui’s report comes at a time when the Mexican public is calling for a corruption investigation of the president, and when murders are rising in the country for the first time since he took office in 2012.

Peña Nieto has already faced media ridicule for not being the country’s smartest president; during his presidential campaign in 2011, he failed to name a single book that had influenced his life, except the Bible. The moment was especially notable because it happened while he gave a speech at an international book festival. He then confused the name of two authors, one of whom was well-known historian Enrique Krauze—an author Peña Nieto is now accused of plagiarizing.

Aristegui was one of the country’s most famous radio personalities until she lost her job last year after publishing a critical investigation on Peña Nieto and his wife. At the time, Aristegui worked at a popular Mexico City radio station, where she and a team of reporters uncovered the story of a mansion built for Peña Nieto’s wife by a company that received hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts. The report implied a conflict of interest at best, and outright corruption at worst. Aristegui lost her job soon after the news broke, which raised suspicion that she’d been fired because of pressure from the Mexican government. But the radio station said it dismissed her because of her connection to a site called Mexicoleaks, a platform that allows people to submit complaints of government corruption that journalists could potentially investigate.

Since then, Aristegui has published some of her work on her own website, where the article accusing Peña Nieto of plagiarism appears.