Pena Nieto's first summit


It's possible to read too much in photos from a summit that took place half a world away. President Enrique Pena Nieto attended a summit of Latin and European leaders over the weekend in Santiago, Chile. But I must say, I was struck with the body language seen in some of the photos. Pena Nieto seemed completely at ease with Cuban leader Raul Castro in the photo above. Someone seems to have told a good joke.

BILATERAL MEXICO ARGENTINA 1These photos are handouts from the Mexican presidency.

In contrast, both Pena Nieto and Argentine leader Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner seem very formal and slightly uncomfortable in the handout photo. It's not like they don't know each other. Pena Nieto visited Argentina last fall before taking office as part of a swing through South America. Language is not a barrier for the two.

Language might be the reason why Pena Nieto and German Chancellor Angela Merkel seem rather ho-hum in this photo. Merkel looks like she knows she's meeting one of those Latin American presidents but can't quite place him. 


The vote is over, but PAN keeps losing

Losing elections can be hell on a political party. Just ask the National Action Party (PAN), which ruled the country until Dec. 1.

As recently as October, the PAN had 1,868,604 registered active members.

But in an interview published in El Universal Friday, PAN President Gustavo Madero acknowledged that many of the members had joined hoping that they’d get jobs under the center-right party, which had the presidency 2000-2012.

So how many members does Madero think will remain with the PAN now as the party finishes its latest registration drive? 500,000.

It could be a long, long time before the PAN gains relevancy again in Mexico.


If not Mexico, how about Anahuac?

Mexico Central Americ_NostA little more than a week before leaving office, President Felipe Calderon has a beef and he appeared before the media to get it off his chest.

“Pardon the expression, but the name of Mexico is Mexico,” he said.

It’s not the United States of Mexico, as the nation’s constitution says. Indeed, before the nation’s delegates at the United Nations, the plaque says simply “Mexico.” Same goes at the Organization of American States.

“When we Mexicans are asked abroad where we are from, we say Mexico. We don’t say the United States of Mexico,” Calderon said.

Calderon referred to history, noting that names bandied about once the country became independent from Spain included: North America Morelos, Mexican America, Mexican Empire, the United Republic of Anahuac, Republic of Mexico, and the United States of Mexico. The last name was chosen in emulation of the neighbor to the north.

Calderon asked Congress to change the country’s name simply to Mexico.

“It is time that we return to the beauty and simplicity of the Mexican name of our country: Mexico. A name that we chant, we sing, that we identify with and that fill us with pride,” he said.


Mexico's cool response to Hugo Chavez

Several hours after Hugo Chavez won a new six-year term as president of Venezuela, Mexico's secretariat of foreign relations sent a short, proper note wishing him well. It said:

The Government of Mexico, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), congratulates President Hugo Chavez for his victory in the presidential elections in Venezuela today.

The Government of Mexico reiterates its full readiness to further strengthen the friendly relations and cooperation between Mexico and Venezuela.

While several other hemispheric leaders took to Twitter to wish Chavez well, President Felipe Calderon here in Mexico remained silent. Perhaps it is not a surprise. Calderon and Chavez have notably chilly relations that date back several years. Blame the Wikileaks scandal over the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. One 2009 cable in particular revealed that Calderon believes that Chavez helped finance his rival in 2006 elections, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, and wanted US help in pressuring Brazil to restrain Chavez.


After a slaying, rancor within a family

It may only be natural that when a loved one is gunned down, some nasty words get spoken. But what the wife of Jose Eduardo Moreira tweeted a few hours ago is worth studying in greater depth.

Mexico Violence_NostThe 25-year-old Moreira was found slain Wednesday night outside of Ciudad Acuna, a border city across from Del Rio, Texas. That's him to the left in an AP photo from 2007.

The slaying has caused an uproar. Moreira was a scion of a dynastic PRI family. His father, Humberto Moreira, served for nine months last year as the president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, assuming the job after a term as governor of Coahuila state from 2005 to 2011. His uncle, Ruben Moreira, is now the governor.

Coahuila state is deeply under the shadow of Los Zetas. While news reports indicate that Ciudad Acuna is a cartel battleground, I was there twice earlier this year and didn’t find it so.

In any case, under the Moreiras Coahuila has run up monumental public debt. Just under Humberto Moreira, the debt rose to $2.6 billion. Some of it went for public works but a lot simply disappeared. The scandal forced Humberto Moreira out of his PRI leadership post.

His father, overcome with grief, stated at the wake that the son was a senseless victim of organized crime. But the widow, Lucero Davis (@lucerodavis), was not singing off the same song sheet. Starting Thursday evening and going into this morning, she sent out three tweets. Here they are in chronological order, two of them addressed to her uncle:

@rubenmoreiravdz I demand justice!!!!! For the murder of my husband Jose Eduardo

JUstice!! Justice!!

@rubenmoreiravdz. You don’t know how to govern!!! This is your f---ing fault!!!! Resign

So the widow blames the uncle for her husband’s murder – not organized crime. Like many cases this muddies the waters. Presumably Lucero Davis was privy to much of her husband’s thinking. She was clearly very in love with him. A tweet she sent in March said: “A handsome, active, intelligent, TOO HARD-WORKING man. Who is it? Yes, my husband @jeduardomoreira”

So if she conflates organized crime with the elected leaders of the state, is it just anguish and bitterness? Or could she know something more? If it is the latter, my money says the rest of us may never learn the truth.


A politician's daughter steps in it

It is more than likely that Sofia Covarrubias’s father has taken her to the woodshed.

She may be only 14 years old but she’s caused quite a stir. And it is because she is the daughter of one of Mexico’s state governors, Marcos Covarrubias of Baja California Sur.

Yesterday, Sofia took to Twitter – okay, that gives you an idea of what is to come. Mix a teenager, a political family and Twitter and you get dynamite. We’ve seen it before here and here. Hundreds of Twitter users are piling on with their criticism of Sofia Covarrubias.

Sofia made fun of young Mexicans who cross the border to San Diego and don’t have money to go to one of the fanciest shopping malls in southern California, Fashion Valley, ending up instead at the more downscale Plaza Las Americas.

Here are translations of her two tweets including of her #esdeindigenas hashtag:

“#itssoindian to get excited when you go to the usa and post thousand photos of each step you take without going to fv hahahah :)”


“haha there’s always some Indian who gets all excited about going to ‘plaza las americas’ haha”

Today, her father admitted that he’d had a good talking to with his two daughters, saying that the household had instilled in them “good education, with principles and values” and that family members try to be “humble and treat equally all those around us.”

But then he told the citizenry and Twitter users to lay off his daughters.

“I share these experiences with you because my daughters, who are 13 and 14, are confronting unprecedented public scorn because of an unfortunate commentary,” he said.

It’s not the first time the Covarrubias family has caught flak in social media. Two months ago, when members of the family posted Facebook photos of their vacation in London, where they flew first class, attended Olympic events and shopped at luxury stores, the trip quickly became a trending topic in social media. See here and here for photos.


Raising Mexico's profile abroad

Brazil Mexico_NostI’ve been based in Mexico since early 2010, and in that period President Felipe Calderon has not offered a single press conference in Mexico City that I’m aware of.

He’s occasionally taken a question or two while traveling abroad. Very few, though. And in reality, Calderon seems press shy. This hurts Mexico.

I bring this up because President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto is now on the fifth day of a trip across Latin America. He’s leaving Chile as I write this and flying to Argentina. Like him or not, Pena Nieto is raising Mexico’s profile abroad, fulfilling a campaign promise. (He's seen here while in Brazil with his wife, the television soap opera star Angelica Rivera.)

Large media are giving him extensive coverage during stops in Guatemala, Colombia and Brazil. And he’s speaking with journalists along the way. While in Brazil, the magazine Epoca published a long interview with him, and this morning El Mercurio (the national newspaper of Chile) published an interview. A press release from his people said he also met with a group of Chilean editors this morning. 

In Buenos Aires tomorrow, Pena Nieto is offering a full-fledged press conference. Let’s see if this kind of exposure to journalists will continue after he takes office Dec. 1.


Getting head-of-state treatment

He won’t actually be president for another 10 weeks or so, but President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto is already getting treatment befitting a head of state.

His transition team seems as much in control as Los Pinos, the presidential palace, and his appointees are already roaming various secretariats taking measurements and asking for documents.

Flying aboard a Mexican navy plane (see!), Pena Nieto left yesterday on a six-nation tour of Latin America. He was in Guatemala Monday and is now in Colombia. He’ll go on to Brazil Wednesday, then continue to Chile, Argentina and Peru.

Mexico, of course, has the longest transition between elections and inauguration of any country in the hemisphere that I am aware of. Pena Nieto was elected July 1 and won’t take office till Dec. 1.

It first caught my attention last week. Pena Nieto’s office issued a statement on Sept. 12 lamenting the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the killing of the U.S. ambassador. The statement came just shortly after the foreign secretariat issued its own.

Check out the photo above of Pena Nieto with Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, each nation’s flag in the background. Pena Nieto was whisked through the city in a convoy “similar to those offered actual presidents, according to Guatemalan functionaries,” the El Universal newspaper said. It sent a correspondent along with Pena Nieto, almost as if he already were head of state.


What is President Calderon's future?

The subject of Felipe Calderon’s post-presidency has lingered for much of the year. What will he do once he leaves office Dec. 1? How does he plan to keep his wife and three children safe from gangsters?

Russia APEC_NostCalderon is on a trip to the Far East. He was in Vladivostok for an APEC forum yesterday and is in Singapore on a state visit now.

Los Pinos has sent around a transcript of a press conference Calderon gave while in Russia, and one of the questions was about his plans upon leaving office.

He responded, in part: “I have not yet decided on my future. I'm analyzing the various options presented to me. My priority is, in any case, my family, my children's education and, of course, finding the best options for developing an academic career, which is what I’ll most likely do after the presidency.”

Among Calderon’s apparent concerns for the future is whether victims of violence may come after him in court as they have done against Ernesto Zedillo, who served 1994-2000 and current teaches at Yale. On this front, Calderon (and Zedillo) got good news last week. The U.S. government believes Zedillo should enjoy immunity from prosecution.

But this is not something Calderon wants to discuss. Another reporter asked him about the Zedillo case, and Calderon said tersely: “I respect the decision of the U.S. government and the Department of State in the case of former President Ernesto Zedillo, and I have nothing more to say about it.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Zedillo has wracked up huge legal bills defending himself, which the Mexican government is paying. No president wants to go broke after leaving power.

Some say Calderon is likely to take a post at the University of Texas in Austin after leaving office. When I wrote a story back in January about Calderon’s future, word also was that he might take a U.N. post relating to climate change. We’ll know soon.


Pena Nieto's weird interview with CNN

President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto gave a brief interview to CNN's Fareed Zakaria, and his stuttering performance has set tongues wagging in Mexico. Whether it was audio feedback problems or coaching by someone near him, Pena Nieto did not perform as well as he could. Mexicans who don't support Pena Nieto have set social media abuzz with claims that either Pena Nieto was reading his answers from a Teleprompter or being coached on what to say. Even if you don't understand Spanish, you can see how Pena Nieto pauses, blinks and does not appear comfortable. I'm inclined to believe he remains uncomfortable in front of international audiences, and that is the sum of it. CNN issued a statement about it. I couldn't find it in English but here's a partial Google translated version:

"There was no Teleprompter, and Mr. Pena Nieto heard the questions asked in English by Dr. Zakaria in New York through an intercom or IFB (Interrupted Feedback). We did not use any other audio source."

The responses of Mr. Pena Nieto were in Spanish and rendered into English for Dr. Zakaria and our international audience by a translator. Mr. Pena Nieto provided the answers without the help of anyone. Also, there were no preconditions for the interview, and the questions were not provided in advance to Mr. Pena Nieto." 



This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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