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Hola Peña Nieto; Adios Calderon

November 29, 2012

Hola Peña NIeto; Adios Calderon

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Canadian Governor General David Johnston and Prince Felipe of Spain are among the dignitaries due to attend the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City on Saturday, December 1.

The 46-year-old former governor of the State of Mexico will be sworn in as President of the Republic at the San Lazaro Legislative Palace, home to Mexico’s Congress.

Peña Nieto’s inauguration will mark the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000, but was ousted for the last twelve years by the National Action Party (PAN).

In the July 1 election, Peña Nieto beat his closest challenger Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) by around three million votes. But Lopez Obrador cried foul, accusing the PRI of buying votes and exceeding campaign spending limits.

His supporters, along with members of the anti-Peña Nieto #YoSoy132 student movement, are expected to demonstrate outside the congressional building during the inauguration. Concern over potential unrest has prompted an extensive security operation and the erection of a nine-foot portable barricade to seal off the area surrounding the palace.

The 1.5-kilometer perimeter has fenced in hundreds of businesses and homes, disrupting traffic and inconveniencing local workers and residents. It soon drew public anger, with protestors knocking down sections of the wall and Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard condemning it as “offensive to the city.”

With his presidency drawing to a conclusion, Felipe Calderon has been looking to flaunt his legacy this week, hurridly inaugurating (in some cases unfinished) public works across the country and signing historic labor reforms into law.

“I leave having accomplished my duty and responsibility to serve Mexico,” Calderon said in a final televised address on Wednesday. “I have worked to leave a stronger, healthier country, with a better justice system and a solid economy.”

Having overseen a bloody war on drugs that left at least 60,000 dead in six years, Calderon leaves office with an approval rating of 49 percent, according to a November survey by BGC. This ranks well below the final ratings of his predecessors: Vicente Fox (67 percent), Ernesto Zedillo (66 percent) and Carlos Salinas de Gortari (77 percent).

But in retrospect, he may be viewed in a better light than the aforementioned leaders, none of whom are remembered with great fondness in Mexico today.

Calderon can be credited with boosting tourism, extending public healthcare through the Seguro Popular program, and overseeing steady economic growth during a difficult period that included a global economic crisis and the 2009 swine flu epidemic which originated in Mexico.

Even Calderon’s largely unpopular campaign against Mexico’s drug cartels left the impression that he is a more principled – albeit obdurate – and incorruptible man than many former presidents who turned a blind eye to organized crime.

Calderon is likely to move his family to the United States and Harvard University announced this week that he will take up a one-year teaching and research position at its Kennedy School in 2013. Calderon previously earned a master’s degree in public administration at the school in 2000.

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