(NEW YORK) — Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, started his first day in office by making some big promises, mentioning that his goal is to “set the grounds” for Mexico to become a developed country.
Surrounded by hundreds of foreign dignitaries, and most of Mexico’s political brass, Peña Nieto announced a new “crusade” against hunger, a national crime prevention program, a law that would increase competition in Mexico’s monopolistic telecommunications market, and a plan to make broadband internet access a “right” of every Mexican.
The proposals were neatly packaged into a list of thirteen “actions,” announced by the new Mexican president during his inauguration speech in Mexico City’s Presidential Palace. After each “action” was announced, the select group of politicians, ambassadors, religious leaders and business people who were invited into the palace to watch the speech clapped. They clapped especially hard and long after Peña Nieto talked about reforming the country’s mediocre education system. Here are some of the most significant initiatives Peña Nieto announced on Saturday.
— A crime-prevention program aimed at rebuilding the country’s “social fabric,” which will include input from the ministries of finance, security agencies and the ministry of social development.
— New government licenses for two public access TV channels that will compete with the Televisa- TV Azteca duopoly.
— A new education law that will fund a census of the country’s schools and establish new merit-based procedures for hiring teachers.
— A telecommunications law that will open that sector up to greater competition and declare that broadband internet access is a “right” of all Mexicans.
— Government-sponsored life insurance for single mothers.
— Universal pension coverage for citizens over seventy.
According to some observers of Mexican politics, many of these proposals had actually been put forth by Peña Nieto’s archrival, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during the presidential campaign.
Regardless, Peña Nieto seemed confident that he could carry out these reforms, arguing that the country’s strong institutions and its solid macroeconomic indicators would help him to ease social problems in the country.
“In today’s Mexico, we can no longer accept the situation of poverty and hunger that much of our population is living through,” Peña Nieto said. “If we all contribute with our work and effort, we can turn Mexico into a fully developed country,” he added, as the audience applauded.
Strangely, Peña Nieto did not mention the issues of tax reform, or what he will do with Mexico’s oil sector, two areas that economic experts have said are crucial if the country is going to move ahead.
However Peña Nieto thanked President Calderon for working with this party to carry out labor reforms that will make it easier to hire and fire workers in the country, in what could be a sign that he will continue to try to forge alliances with the National Action Party or PAN, to pass key economic reforms.
Outside the presidential palace, protests against Peña Nieto led to confrontations between citizens and police. Some of the protesters were the same ones who had attempted to break a security barrier around Mexico’s Congress earlier on Saturday.
The hectic activity outside, however, did not seem to dampen Peña Nieto’s mood, and the new President raised his voice as he declared that this was “the moment of Mexico.”
“Six years are a short period in a country’s history,” Peña Nieto said about his brand new presidential term. “But 2,191 days are sufficient to set the bases for what should be our goal,” he added, mentioning again that he wanted to turn Mexico into a developed country.
“Let’s turn Mexico into a country that is not only proud of its past, but a country that is focused on improving its present and conquering its future,” Peña Nieto said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Dave Gilbert, CNN
Angela Dewan and Euan McKirdy, CNN
Catherine E. Shoichet, Max Blau and Steve Almasy, CNN