Inside Story Americas

The political cost of Mexico's reforms

As Pena Nieto faces the biggest political crisis of his presidency thus far, we examine how far reforms should go.

Last Modified: 26 Apr 2013 12:57
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Protests by striking teachers in the Mexican state of Guerrero intensify as President Enrique Pena Nieto's plan to make sweeping changes to the country's economy wavers.

Pena Nieto is facing what has been described as the biggest political crisis of his presidency so far. Allegations of vote buying by members of his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) have the potential to derail the president's "Pact for Mexico" - a plan to radically change the country's economy.

It's been pretty clear from the very beginning that Enrique Pena Nieto represents the old PRI .... The idea was to create an image of political unity and sort of media support both national and internationally ... The honeymoon is over, and at this moment it is impossible to anticipate how things will evolve.

 John Ackerman, the editor in chief of the Mexico Law Review

The allegations led to the postponement of the unveiling of the finance industry reform this week. Other industries due to see changes are Mexico's powerful telecommunications monopolies and the oil sector. 

Pena Nieto began his reforms in education earlier this year, and teachers in Guerrero state have intensified their protests.

Pena Nieto overhauled Mexico's educational system, making teachers subject to testing. But some teachers say the reforms will mean massive layoffs and privatisation.

Powerful teachers' union leader Esther Elba Gordillo was arrested on charges of embezzling $160m shortly after the law went into effect.

Pena Nieto has also introduced reforms to Mexico's telecommunications duopoly aimed at making cell phone and TV services cheaper and more regulated.

But critics say it is a measure that will benefit well-connected businessmen looking to break into the telecom market rather than new companies. Another key element of what is called Pena Nieto's Pact for Mexico has been boosting private investment in the state oil company.

Pena Nieto has also enacted reforms within his own party - he ended legal immunity for lawmakers and civil servants, but kept it for himself, the president.

He also rewrote party rules to incorporate the president into the PRI's leadership structure, in an attempt to ensure his control of his party.

The president has been praised for going after powerful interests in his own party to reform Mexico's historically corrupt political system. But some say these reforms do not adequately tackle the broader problems of inequality or hit hard enough at Mexico's elite.

So how far should reforms in Mexico go? And who is paying the price of Mexico's reform?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests: Sergio Aguayo, a mexican political analyst and columnist, and John Ackerman, the editor in chief of the Mexico Law Review.

Texas: Whitewashing history?

In Texas, campaigners are preparing for a day of action on Friday in protest at what they say is an attempt to whitewash state university history courses.

The Republican-sponsored bills mean students would no longer be able to study courses such as Mexican American History, African American history or women's studies as a component of their degree's requirements. A similar law was introduced in Arizona in 2010.

So are the state's Republicans trying to whitewash history?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guest Tony Diaz, founder of Librotraficantes ("book smugglers"), a group that is leading the protest against the legislation.

"We never thought we'd have to defend ethnic studies here in our own backyards. These laws will effectively dismantle Mexican American studies, African American studies and women studies programmes. HP1938 will take you as history back to 1938 before ethnic studies existed, and we are not going to stand for that, so we are demanding that these laws be taken off the table."

- Tony Diaz, the founder of Librotraficantes


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