Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Mexico’s Congressional Agenda for 2013

by Shannon K. O'Neil
February 5, 2013

Members of the Mexican congress attend a session over the immunity of fellow congressman Julio Cesar Godoy in Mexico City December 14, 2010 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Members of the Mexican congress attend a session over the immunity of fellow congressman Julio Cesar Godoy in Mexico City December 14, 2010 (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

With Enrique Peña Nieto’s first congressional session just starting, expectations are high. Between now and April 30th, when the sixty-second Congress will adjourn, many hope the administration will tackle the deep seated structural issues that hold the nation back.

Mexico’s Congress has much going for it, as momentum for reform—lacking for years—is there. This new Congress began its tenure last September (working with President Felipe Calderón), and during its first go round, it passed a labor reform that enables greater flexibility in hiring and firing workers and an education reform that changes the way teachers will be hired, evaluated, and promoted. Though some deemed the reforms as watered-down, these significant pieces of legislation represent a break from the gridlock of the past.

Another advantage lies in the congressional leadership. The heads of the PRI delegations—the largest in both houses—are adept political operators. Senator Emilio Gamboa Patrón brings over thirty years experience working in a multitude of government positions to the table. Even stronger is Manlio Fabio Beltrones in the lower house, recognized by supporters and critics alike as one of Mexico’s most gifted politicians. Their developing agenda complements much of the PAN’s, where they may find willing partners.

Finally, Mexico’s three main political parties have already identified the substantial common ground on what needs to be done. The Pacto por Mexico is comprised on five central areas (constructing a law-based society, promoting economic growth, employment and competitiveness, improving security and justice, enhancing transparency, and furthering democratic governance) and includes ninety-five proposals that address everything from breaking up monopolies to investing more in science and technology. Though moving from principles to details is always difficult, this underlying consensus provides a starting point missing in the past.

So what will be on 2013’s agenda? The Pacto por Mexico lays out complete first and second semester schedules that can be found here and here, but the items to watch are fiscal and energy reforms. On the tax side this will mean changes that both increase contributions and better collection. On energy it means reforms that open up the sector in some capacity to foreign involvement, bringing in the needed technology, expertise, and investment to make sure oil and gas exploration and production grows. Changes in telecommunications—to increase competition, strengthen regulation, and boost investment—are also vital, as this sector is both more expensive and less efficient than those of many other emerging economies, including Brazil, South Korea, and China. As important are judicial and political reforms to foster greater transparency and accountability more broadly.

How successful the Peña Nieto administration is in 2013 will determine not only the legacy of his six year term, but also in no small way Mexico’s future. The president and his team need to take advantage of the political capital and parties’ consensus before midterm politics emerge (which will occur in 2015 ). The next ten months will decide whether the optimism is warranted.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Jose Angel Flores

    Shannon,

    We are ever so glad that the elections are over and that there are new winds of change once again in Mexico. One of the best things that are happening to Mexico, and one that will influence Peña Nieto´s quest for reforms more than anything else, in my opinion, is the split that has already taken place in the Mexican left. The radicals are walking out of the PRD and moving into the PT and Convergencia or Morena, AMLO´s personal movement. This split is important because it separates once and for all the moderate leftist from the radicals. Peña Nieto can appeal to the first, and has already done so successfully as they adhered to his National Unity Pact. This gives PRI and Peña Nieto plenty of room to negotiate reforms and advance his political agenda. In the long run.

  • Posted by Carlos Castañeda

    I agree that the winds of change are favoring progress in Mexico in the legislative front. I wonder though if the hundreds of ‘amparos’ (legal remedies challenging the constitutionality of a governmental action) challenging the labor and education laws will hinder progress.

    Though I was not quite fond of Peña Nieto, his (and the PRI’s) political pragmatism is working well so far, a necessity as the PRI and its allies (the PVEM and PANAL) barely constitute a majority in Congress and 2/3 approval of Congress will be needed to consumate some of the constitutional reforms.

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