By RICARDO CASTILLO
The top criticism of outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his governance team has been repeated time and time again.
“They just don’t understand that they don’t understand,” was the general consensus of top columnists and political observers across Mexico as the president sent his last State of the Nation Address to the joint session of Congress (the Senate and Deputies) on Saturday, Sept 1, an act that kicked off operations for the next six and three years, respectively.
Peña Nieto has not yet uttered a word of his address publicly, but his recent television campaign leaves no doubt about the content of the Informe. The president is not only satisfied with, but proud of his six-year mandate.
But what is it exactly that Peña Nieto and his men and women don’t understand? A reality check has it that each pundit in the Mexican press has his or her own version of what went awry for the president and his team. For some, it is a moral issues, for others, it is economic. But be that as it may, it is clear in the eyes of many that “they don’t understand that they never understood.”
Hence, the Informe is full of selfpraise for an administration that ended up in deep debt with the Mexican people. The Mexican people did understand what Peña Nieto did not, and their resounding reply to his failures was vident in the July 1 election, in which the president’s candidate, José Antonio Meade, got only 16 percent of the total vote.
Excelsior pundit, speech writer and tutor Jaina Pereyra argues from the moral point of view, claiming that the two crises that determined Peña Nieto’s downfall were the “white house” corruption scandal and the massacre and disappearance of 43 rural normal school students in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero, “both of which had deep and catastrophic consequences.”
In his Informe, Peña Nieto said he was always respectful of the freedom of the press, but several columnists recall that the only word to describe the current Mexican administration’s reaction against the small muckraking news agency owned by Carmen Aristegui was brutal, to the point that MVS radio and television stations fired her and engaged with her through a still never-ending court wrangling of suits and countersuits. Aristegui broke the news that Peña Nieto had been bribed with a $7 million mansion in Mexico City’s posh Colonia Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood in exchange for a train construction contract.
Actually, Peña Nieto says he and his wife, soap actress Angelica Rivera, bought the house with her savings. He also claims that his mistake was to let his wife explain that it was her mansion, acquired with honest money. Even now, nobody believes Peña Nieto, nor for that matter, his wife.
In the Ayotzinapa case, the president maintains that the Attorney General’s (PGR) office issued a “historic truth” framed by a compulsive liar, former Prosecutor Jesús Murillo Karam, who finally had to leave the PGR post. His “historic truth” was contradicted by international forensic investigators who said that Murillo Karam’s story that the 43 students had been incinerated at the Cocula township municipal trash trump and washed down a creek could not be proven. The PGR investigators said so, but the international forensic experts said there was no evidence in the area of corpses incineration.
“In both cases,” wrote Jaina Pereyra, “the chosen communication strategy, instead of toning down the citizens’ outrage, only managed to aggravate it because, in part, they (the president’s communicators) never understood the origin, nature or size of their error.”
But that’s not all, folks! What about the economy, which Peña Nieto and his panegyrists claim is great and ebullient?
An array of observers are just pointing out a couple of things that topple the president’s attempt at selfpraising grandeur.
In 2012, when he took office, the public government’s debt was 5 trillion pesos. It is now, as he leaves office, 10 trillion pesos. Back then, the dollar was at around 12.50 pesos per dollar, and now it has climbed to circa 19 pesos. When Peña Nieto received the duty of taking care of the nation’s finances, he received $199 billion dollars in international reserves. The figure has since dwindled to around $173 billion. Deficit, anyone? Note: these are public National Geography and Statistics Institute (Inegi) figures, not mine.
But Peña Nieto does recognize that the straw that broke the burro’s back was the “gasolinazo” – the popular moniker for his freeing of the previously controlled fuel prices because, he claimed just last Saturday, the government could not subsidize them anymore. This only served to spike inflation, which official economists claim is now under control, which is, of course, sheer demagoguery.
The list goes on and on, but let’s first wait for Peña Nieto’s final top performance on Monday, Sept. 3, during his State of the Nation Address to the Mexican people to be delivered from the National Palace.
As for the idea that neither Peña Nieto nor his team of geniuses never quite understood that they did not understand, it is preferable to leave it at that, in ignorance, because if they did know what they are doing, they would indeed be a gang of thieving cynics.