Mexico’s scandal-plagued president is obviously having a rough time

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not seen) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 12, 2016.
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REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Much heralded when he took office in late 2012, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been dogged by scandals and bad press throughout his first three years in office.

And, despite his movie-star good looks and his administration’s efforts to influence the media’s coverage of him, his time in office has been marked by photos that portray “Mexico’s savior” in a less-than-flattering light.


Peña Nieto used a home owned by Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, a contractor who had donated to Peña Nieto’s political party, as an office while running for president in 2012.

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Mexico’s President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto meets with the foreign press in Mexico City, July 2, 2012. Pena Nieto pledged to prioritize energy, labor, and tax reforms and said he hopes to strike deals with opponents to help push some changes through Congress even before he takes office in December.
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REUTERS/Claudia Daut

Source: The New York Times


Peña Nieto also used a helicopter owned by one of Hinojosa’s companies free of charge during his presidential campaign. Hinojosa won billions of dollars in contracts while Peña Nieto was governor of Mexico state and president.

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Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto speaks at the Allen & Co. annual conference at the Sun Valley Resort on July 11, 2013, in Sun Valley, Idaho. The resort hosted corporate leaders for the 31st annual Allen & Co. media and technology conference, where some of the wealthiest and most powerful executives in media, finance, politics, and tech gather for weeklong meetings.
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Getty Images

In mid-2015, reports emerged that Peña Nieto appeared to have misrepresented how he acquired a piece of property outside Mexico City on disclosure forms filed in 2013. He amended the forms the following year, but questions remained about where he got the property, as well as how much it was worth.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto attends the second working meeting of the G20 heads of state and government, heads of invited states, and international organizations at the G20 Summit on September 6, 2013, in St. Petersburg, Russia.
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Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Reuters


Peña Nieto was heralded for the reduction in violence that occurred during his first years in office. But in September 2014, Mexico experienced one of its most notorious crimes: the abduction and likely killing of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college in Ayotzinapa, in the southwest state of Guerrero.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto attends 2014 Appeal of Conscience Foundation Awards at The Waldorf Astoria on September 23, 2014, in New York City.
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Getty Images

Source: The New York Times, Reuters


The Ayotzinapa 43 disappearance has dogged the Peña Nieto administration, because of both the complicity of local police and other government officials in the crime and the government’s deeply flawed investigation.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, and China’s President Xi Jinping stand in front of national flags during a signing ceremony after their meeting at the Great Hall of the People on November 13, 2014, in Beijing, China.
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Getty Images

Source: Reuters


Weeks after the Ayotzinapa 43 disappearance, Peña Nieto’s ties to the contractor Hinojosa reentered the spotlight. His government canceled a multibillion-dollar high-speed train contract in which Hinojosa was involved.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto looks on during a meeting with lawyers in Mexico City, November 21, 2014. Pena Nieto faced questions about his dealings with a company at the center of a conflict-of-interest scandal, after it emerged that he enjoyed rent-free use of a house belonging to the firm as a campaign office.
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REUTERS/Tomas Bravo

Source: Business Insider, Aristegui Noticias


That cancellation was followed days later by the revelation that Peña Nieto’s wife had bought a home in an upscale Mexico City neighborhood on favorable terms (and with a loan) from one of Hinojosa’s firms.

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Getty Images

Source: Business Insider, Aristegui Noticias


International outcry over the Ayotzinapa 43 disappearance, coupled with mounting suspicions over Peña Nieto’s dealings with Hinojosa, dogged the president into 2015.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto wipes sweat from his brow during a signing ceremony among the Pacific Alliance at the Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, in December 2014.
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Juan Karita/AP

By early 2015, with pressure mounting, Peña Nieto ordered his government to launch an investigation into allegations of influence-peddling swirling around his dealings with Hinojosa.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto looks toward US President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House in Washington January 6, 2015.
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Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Source: Vice News


Many Mexicans rolled their eyes, however, when in February it was announced that the man who would lead the investigation was the federal comptroller Virgilio Andrade, a longtime friend of the finance secretary Luis Videgaray, who also purchased property from one of Hinojosa’s firms.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, sits at the top of the table with Nick Clegg, British deputy prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democrats party, during a business breakfast meeting at Buckingham Palace on March 4, 2015, in London, England.
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Getty Images

Source: Vice News, The New York Times


Mexico’s 2015 midterm elections occurred while the investigation in Peña Nieto’s property dealings and recriminations over the Ayotzinapa 43 disappearance continued.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto during an investment announcement from brewer Grupo Modelo in Merida in Yucatan state, at Los Pinos Presidential house in Mexico City, May 29, 2015.
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REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Source: Business Insider


The midterm election was seen as a litmus test for Peña Nieto’s administration. Protesters burned ballot boxes in several restive southern states in an attempt to disrupt the voting, while officials said the vote was proceeding satisfactorily despite “isolated incidents,” according to the AP. “Peña Nieto doesn’t know how to defend us because he is a donkey,” said one relative of an Ayotzinapa student.

Source: Business Insider


Peña Nieto’s governing coalition maintained its legislative majority after the midterm elections, but just weeks after the ballots were cast, his administration was again embarrassed by a lapse in security when Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán tunneled out of a high-security prison on July 12.

Pena Nieto, who had traveled to France for an official visit when drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped, returned to Mexico and said in a speech on July 17 that the jailbreak has caused “indignation, frustration, anger in broad sectors of society.”

The humiliation for Peña Nieto’s government was deepened when, months later, it was revealed by Mexican news magazine Reforma that, while flying to France, Peña Nieto decided to continue his game of dominos after learning that Guzmán had escaped.

Source: Associated Press, Reforma


Guzmán’s flight from justice became a source of continuing frustration for the Mexican government. In the weeks afterward, dozens of prison officials would be arrested in relation to the escape, and details about the jailbreak that trickled out revealed numerous lapses in judgment and performance by officials at the prison.

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President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto drinks some water as he prepares to address the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2015, in New York City.
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Getty Images

Source: Insight Crime, Reforma


Guzmán returned to his home turf in the mountainous region around Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico, and security forces hunting him followed his trail. In late 2015, it was reported that Mexican marines searching for the drug lord in the hills of Durango state had fired indiscriminately at people on the ground. “I could see the helicopter stop and shoot directly at the house,” a woman from the area told AFP. “I was scared, screamed and cried, although I knew it was useless.”

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, right, and Cuba’s President Raul Castro attend an official welcoming ceremony for Castro at the Yucatan State Government Palace in Merida, Mexico, November 6, 2015. Castro was in Mexico on an official three-day visit.
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REUTERS/Henry Romero

Source: Vice News, AFP


Mexico recaptured Guzmán in a city in northwest Sinaloa state on January 8, 2016, seemingly putting an end to the fiasco the drug lord created with his escape. But the following day, Rolling Stone published Sean Penn’s bombshell interview with the fugitive kingpin.

Source: USA Today, ET Online


News that a famous Hollywood actor had been able to meet with the world’s most wanted man seemed to again tar the administration. Peña Nieto’s government has said the interview helped it track down Guzmán, which Penn has denied.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto talks with Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya, right, chief executive officer of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex) during the 78th anniversary of the expropriation of Mexico’s oil industry in Mexico City, March 18, 2016.
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REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

Source: USA Today, ET Online


With Guzmán back in custody, Peña Nieto’s government is now working toward what will likely be the drug lord’s extradition to the US, sure to be a protracted process. Guzmán’s legal challenges are not the extent of the government’s woes, however.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, talks with Finland’s President Sauli Niinisto during the first plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, April 1, 2016.
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REUTERS/Jim Bourg

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider


Data released in early 2016 showed that homicides in Mexico rose nearly 8% in 2015, the first rise in Peña Nieto’s time in office. The continued global-oil-price slump has also battered the country’s state-run oil company, Pemex. Pemex’s financial struggles prevented the reforms Peña Nieto fought to implement from yielding the results he promised.

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Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not seen) at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 12, 2016.
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REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

Homicides in Mexico increased in 2015 after two years of declines, and the total for last year may go up as more data is released.

As global oil prices fell throughout 2015 and early 2016, Pemex’s production costs reportedly outstripped the profit it was making. The shortfall reportedly led to budget cuts at the firm, seeming to undercut the Peña Nieto’s comments about the benefits of energy reform, which put “Mexico’s energy sector officials are in crisis mode.” argued El Daily Post’s Dwight Dyer.

A poll released by Mexican newspaper Reforma found that the president’s approval fell to 30% in the first quarter of 2016, compared to 39% in December, while 66% of respondents say they disapproved of Pena Nieto’s job performance. Both ratings were historic lows going back at least 20 years, according to Reforma.