When President Enrique Pena Nieto delivers his annual report to congress, he’ll reflect on a year that has seen rising homicide rates, a sluggish economy and a midterm electoral rout of his party.
His administration has also been stung by a string of scandals as well as reports of alleged torture and human rights abuses by police and troops. And protests by dissident teachers continue to challenge the educational reforms he claims as a major achievement nearly two-thirds of the way through his presidency.
“It’s been a very tough year for the administration,” said Shannon O’Neil, a Mexico and Latin America analyst at the U.S.-based Council on Foreign Relations. “And I think he’s looking now toward the end of his term and to the choosing of the next potential candidate within (his party) and his own sort of lame-duck status. So it’s not an easy speech to give.”
Pena Nieto’s office did not respond to questions emailed by The Associated Press. He is expected to send the written report to Congress on Thursday and speak on Friday.
His report threatened to be overshadowed by Donald Trump’s surprise visit Wednesday to Mexico City, where the Republican candidate and Pena Nieto met privately and later spoke to reporters.
Trump has been widely criticized in Mexico for his promises to build a border wall and for his characterizations of immigrants as rapists bringing drugs and crime to the U.S., and Pena Nieto’s appearance was widely panned by Mexicans disappointed that he didn’t demand an apology.
Trump “came for a photo-op and Enrique Pena Nieto allowed himself to be used to benefit (Trump’s) campaign,” columnist Jorge Zepeda said.
A survey published Aug. 11 by the newspaper Reforma put Pena Nieto’s approval rating at 23 percent, the lowest for any Mexican president since the paper began conducting the poll 21 years ago. Seventy-four percent of respondents disapproved of his handling of the country. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Insecurity is a top concern for many Mexicans. Homicide rates dropped during the early part of Pena Nieto’s administration, which began in late 2012 and runs through 2018, but killings are up 16 percent over the first five months of this year from the same period in 2015.
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