Mexico’s Likely Next President Explains How He’ll Stop the Violence and Fight the Cartels

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
May 18 2012 4:34 PM

An Interview With Enrique Peña Nieto

Mexico’s leading presidential candidate explains how he’ll stop the violence and challenge the cartels.

(Continued from Page 1)

The PAN gave a lot of power to the governors, whereas the PRI presidents had total power.

The PAN wanted to do the same thing. The PAN maybe is not aware that things in politics have changed. In the past, our federal system was different because we had not reached this level of democracy. Fortunately for Mexico, that is something we have fought for and now that we have this democratic system, we have to recognize the [democratic] rules that are part of Mexico. One of our main challenges is to go from a democratic system that seems to work well in elections to a democratic system that gives results to the people. ... If you find out the proposals of the three main candidates: There is a big difference with the candidate of the left, the PRD. Maybe the PAN is more similar to us. The difference is who is capable of getting these things done. I remember Vicente Fox—and I have respect for him as an ex-president—pointed out that we will grow at 7 percent per year. I remember President Calderon saying, "Mine will be the government of creating jobs."

Will you be the government of creating jobs?

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I will be the government of increasing economic growth and creating jobs. Take it from me that that's the main issue.

Does that mean you will open up Pemex [the state petroleum company] for foreign investment?

I believe that Pemex as it is today will not be efficient enough to build all the infrastructure and use new technology that can help this Mexican company to be more productive. We need to be more productive in Pemex, and I see a chance to make the reform that can allow the private sector to invest in exploration and refineries.  Let me be clear: That doesn't mean to privatize. I believe the state needs to control hydrocarbons.

You believe that if you get private investment in Pemex, that will increase the output of Pemex and therefore provide more money for the state?

Yes, exactly. The thing is to have more investment in order to be more productive. In 2005, at the top of production, we had 3.4 million of barrels of oil a day and now we have 1 million less. We need to reactivate the capacity of Pemex.

What about the relationship with the United States?

I see a great chance and opportunity to build a very close relationship with the United States for many issues. But I would work on the opportunity of going forward as two governments, starting almost at the same time. For me, what would be something to explore is to go further on what seems to be only commercial relations.

How?

To make closer integration of the NAFTA participants, to make a more productive region in the world (U.S., Mexico and Canada), why not make another agreement - we already have one on free trade. Now in the world you have regional blocs—Europe and Asia. Are we going to compete by ourselves or do we want to do this together?

Do you think you can tackle the oligarchs and open up competition?

Yes, I will. The government I want to lead, I want it to be distinguished by promotion of competition. The actions that we take must keep the macroeconomic stability we have now. Secondly, we will work hard every day on making more competition in Mexico in all sectors. Then, we need to give regulatory institutions more power to fight the monopolies. We need to have special trials to respond and to resolve differences between competitors accused of having monopolistic practices. Third, we need to make energy reform. On the other side, we need to allow private participation in new energy sources, like solar and wind. Fourth, [we need] more credit.

What would you do about poverty?

Something that cannot be forgotten in discussing Calderon's past six years is that poverty has been increased by 12 million people. We have almost 60 million people in poverty. It is time to make a revolution before the revolution reaches us. There are many commitments I have made for reducing poverty. One is to reform social security. Social security reaches only 44 percent of Mexicans. One of my goals is to give social security to all the people.

Does that mean increasing taxes?

No, collecting more taxes. We need to enlarge the taxpayer base. Maybe make the federal and state co-responsible. Ninety percent of taxes collected are at the federal level. I expect my opponents will be more critical. They are attacking me all the time. But ... I believe the first of July I will become president.

Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of the Washington Post.

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