Mexico's New President Faces Big Challenges

But monopolies in other areas must also be tackled. Mexicans are forced to get most of their bread from Bimbo and almost all their cement comes from Cemex. Companies owned by billionaire Carlos Slim control 70 percent of the mobile phone market, and 75 percent of all broadband internet connections. According to The Economist, this situation makes connecting to broadband in Mexico twice as expensive as in Chile.

If Peña Nieto truly wants to help Mexicans "afford more" with their salaries as his campaign ad says, he will have to tackle these monopolies, and confront their allies in the Mexican Congress.


Irene Mia, from the Economist Intelligence Unit, argues that Mexico is not at a "state of development where it can compete on the costs of labor."

This means that if Mexico is going to continue to grow and provide its people with better paying jobs, it must transition from areas like manufacturing (where investors look for cheap labor) to areas like research and technology development, which rely on a more educated labor force.

But Mexico currently has one of the lowest educational standards among the world's larger economies. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only 18 percent of Mexicans aged 18 to 64 are college graduates. OECD figures say that in Chile, 24 percent of people in that age group have a college degree, while in Israel that number shoots up to 45 percent.

Another problem in Mexico, according to Mia, is that the number of engineering and science students is relatively low because curriculums that make subjects like math more interesting to students have not been implemented.

To improve Mexico's education system, Peña Nieto will have to tackle strong teacher unions that administer posts to family members, and not to those who are best qualified to teach. He will have to implement measures that are unpopular with the unions, like forcing teachers to take standardized tests, and linking teachers' tenure to results. It will be a complicated task, as many leaders from Mexico's one million-strong Education Workers Union have close links to PRI politicians at the state and national levels, and the union actually forms part of the PRI's electoral base.


Peña Nieto takes over a country plagued by violence. NGOs estimate that more than sixty thousand people have died from drug violence over the past six years. The number of cartels with the capacity to export large drug shipments to the U.S. also increased from four to seven during outgoing President Calderon´s six-year term, according to the BBC.

However, security analyst Jorge Chabat says there is little the new president can do to change Calderon´s strategies, which included deploying the military in some areas of the country.

"He's got little margin to maneuver because [drug violence] problems are structural," Chabat said. "It's a problem that has to do with social exclusion, the corruption, and ineffectiveness of institutions that goes back many years."

One advantage Peña Nieto seems to have is that the wave of violence seems to be slightly decreasing. A recent analysis of government data shows that the number of preliminary homicide investigations reached a 24-month low in October of this year and was 20 percent lower than in October of 2012. This could mean that the homicide rate will drop in 2012.

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