While those of us at MUNdi were away on vacation for a few days of much-needed rest and relaxation (bringing you the news you need can be draining sometimes), the Mexican government of President Enrique Peña Nieto was anything but resting. In fact, they have been quite busy in the last couple of weeks.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the arrest of the head of the SNTE (Mexico’s powerful teacher’s union) Elba Esther Gordillo on embezzlement charges. Since then, a Mexican judge has ordered her to stand trial after assessing the government’s case against her. The same judge also ordered her to stay in prison while the trial proceeded. As if things could not get worse for Gordillo, she appears to have been abandoned by the party she helped create (the New Alliance Party or PANAL) as well as the SNTE itself, who moved quickly to find her replacement in Juan Diaz de la Torre. Dias de la Torre, who failed to mention her even once in his first speech as the new leader, also announced that the SNTE would no longer oppose the constitutional education reforms passed by Congress. This is good news as it will give the reforms a greater chance of passing once the supplementary bills are drafted and approved.
In my last article, I also questioned whether or not Peña Nieto and the PRI would stop at Gordillo or choose to prosecute other prominent union leaders. Both the conservative PAN (National Action Party) and the left-wing PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) have called for Peña Nieto’s government to go after the head of the oil worker’s union, Carlos Romero Deschamps. However, Attorney General Jesus Morillo Karam has said the government is not pursuing an investigation into Deschamps at this time despite Peña Nieto himself warning his party that “there are no untouchable interests” in Mexico.
All of this does not mean that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign to reform the PRI and prove to the Mexican public that his party is indeed different has ended. If anything, it has picked up momentum. Last Monday, Peña Nieto unveiled a plan to reform the telecommunications sector of the country, which is criticized for being dominated by a handful of major companies. These reforms would raise or eliminate limits on foreign investment, create two new national television channels, and form a new independent regulatory commission à la the FCC here in the United States. This new commission would have the power to unilaterally punish non-competitive practices while a second independent commission would have the power to order firms to sell off their assets to reduce their market dominance.
The reforms do not stop there. They require TV networks to provide their programming free to most cable operators and said operators must carry all broadcast channels. They also allow for foreign firms, currently banned from radio and TV broadcast, to have as much as a 49% stake and allow for total foreign ownership of all telecommunications and satellite TV services.
All of these changes and reforms to telecommunications will pit Peña Nieto and his administration against the richest man in the world: Carlos Slim. Slim, whose Telmex controls 80% of Mexican landlines and 70% of the mobile phone market, has initially been open and welcoming of the reforms. The proposal of the reforms appear to have been born out of a pact made between the three major political parties in Mexico and have some saying that Peña Nieto is the first Mexican president since Carlos Salinas to exert such executive power.
President Enrique Peña Nieto does not appear to be the only one pushing reforms in Mexico, at least within his own party. A day before Peña Nieto announced to the country his telecommunications reforms, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) voted to alter its platform in order to allow for private investment in the oil industry. This could result in a possible overhaul of the state-owned petroleum company PEMEX, an overhaul that Peña Nieto has been advocating for a long time in order to end PEMEX’s monopoly on oil production while preserving its state-owned status.
In order to cover the projected loss in government revenue from such a move, members of the PRI also unanimously voted to remove their opposition to raising food and medicine taxes. These changes in the PRI are quite ironic considering the same PRI had voted against them when proposed by the ruling PAN between 2000-2012. These proposed changes will also pit Peña Nieto and his party against the left of Mexican politics, who see PEMEX and its state-owned status as a source of national pride and do not want to see it become compromised to foreign investment.
Two weeks ago marked President Enrique Peña Nieto’s first one hundred days in office and boy what a hundred days it has been for him and the country. If I were to ask my parents if they ever thought they would see a day where the PRI would be the party prosecuting the powerful union leaders, pushing through much-needed educational and telecommunications reforms, or even suggesting a break-up of the petroleum monopoly, they would look at me like I was loco. But fortunately for myself, my parents, and many other Mexicans, this is the reality we are facing. And as surprising or farfetched as it may appear to many, the PRI has realized that Mexico is on the verge of becoming a major economic player on the world stage and it can no longer be the ones getting in the way of our country reaching its full potential.This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.