Plenty of world leaders would be thrilled to have the kind of executive hot streak blazed by Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto during his first 16 months in office. In that short span, he and his administration have steered more than a dozen major new laws through congress, overhauling the country’s energy, banking and education sectors, among others.
Peña Nieto has stood up to powerful interests from Mexico’s business world and underworld. He has locked up drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, the world’s most wanted trafficker, quieting doubters in the United States who questioned his crime-fighting mettle. Yet for all the praise he has won in Washington and elsewhere in the world, Peña Nieto’s opening act is getting panned in the only place it really counts: Mexico.
After Time magazine put him on the cover of its international edition recently with the headline “Saving Mexico,” a flood of ridicule and derision followed. Peña Nieto’s approval ratings have fallen fairly steadily since he took office in December 2012, dropping to 37 percent inone recent poll, with other surveys rating him in the mid-40s.