Mexico’s ‘For Sale’ Sign

By Omar Cerda

Last week Time magazine released to the world the cover of its latest international issue, featuring none other than Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto standing triumphantly behind the words “Saving Mexico.” Yes, just like you and thousands of other Mexicans, coffee spewed out of my mouth as I stared in disbelief. We all knew Televisa treats Peña Nieto as if he was el galan de la novela de las ocho, but to see an international publication shed this artificial positive light on him was a slap in the face to Mexicans around the world.

As the good Mexicans that we are, we reacted with some classic dark humor, circulating alternate covers on social media. A few days have passed and the humor has turned into anger. Anger in turn has quickly evolved into a deep concern that this is no longer Peña Nieto promoting himself, but this might as well be the official FOR SALE sign being placed in Mexico’s front yard.

Let’s face it, Peña Nieto and his team know how to work the media circus with precision and long-term goals in mind. According to a 2012 article by the UK’s the Guardian, Peña Nieto and Televisa had developed a marketing strategy leading up to the presidential elections of 2012. This strategy dated as far back as 2005 when Peña Nieto was still governor of the State of Mexico and presidential hopeful. When you have the biggest media monopoly in Latin America by your side, it is easy to get away with atrocities such as the ones occurred in Atenco–a severe human rights violation and repression towards rural workers protesting against the appropriation of their lands for the construction of a new airport. People were beaten, women were raped and yet when asked about it, Peña Nieto responded that as the governor of the State of Mexico he reacted to the situation as the law permitted him to. Well shit…

It has been a little over a year since Nieto took residence in Los Pinos and has brought his neo-liberal agenda in full force. As the Time’s cover proclaims, he has put on the table some “sweeping reforms” that are sure to “change the narrative” of Mexico.

First: Fiscal Reform! Raising the property tax and sales tax on the already thin Mexican middle class, resulting in people in Mexico yelling, “Impuestos hasta pal pinche perro!”

Second: Education Reform! Pushing standardized testing, taking away teachers’ benefits accumulated with seniority, and moving education towards the path of privatization, and yet supporters of it claim it will end corruption within the educational system. As if the educational sector was the root of the corruption Mexican institutions are known for.

Third: Energy Reform! It opens up the doors to foreign investors looking to cash in on Mexico’s energy reserves. It also very quietly pushes towards the infamous practice of fracking in a country where the rural population has enough violence to deal with, and now they will have to deal with environmental violence.

Regardless of the situation that Mexicans face on their day-to-day lives, Time  wants the world to believe that Peña Nieto is “saving Mexico.” Michael Crowley, author of the Time article, took to Twitter and urged the Mexican people to read the story, that it “touched” other topics plaguing Mexico like the narco violence and corruption. The article surely doesn’t deny that the problems exist, but that’s it. The rest of it reads like a brochure for a paradise resort or a Caribbean cruise. It’s an open invitation, but only for the rich and business savvy. “Come throw some money this way, and you will leave with a lot more! From the top you might catch a glimpse of Mexican society ripping each other to pieces, but that’s just part of the folklore. Come get it while it’s hot! Drill baby drill!”

[Photo: Flickr/Christian Javan]