During a 2012 joint appearance in Mexico City with then presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, I saw that the Mexican media was attacking him savagely. His critics argued that he was inexperienced and untested, a pretty boy with a TV-star wife; they were skeptical that his party, the ancient PRI, would reform the country and take on the drug cartels. Yet it was obvious to me that he had boatloads of charisma, a quick grasp of the issues and a self-deprecating humorous side.
Since his narrow election victory, Peña Nieto’s stock has skyrocketed, with near unanimous praise from across Mexican society. He signed a “Pact for Mexico” in December with the two opposition parties and has enacted significant labor reforms. He’s proposed significant changes in the energy and telecommunications sectors, as well as improvements in the nation’s finances. At the Organization of American States, he has led the fight against countries like Ecuador that seek curbs on press freedoms.
The U.S. shouldn’t treat Peña Nieto like a patsy. He combines Reagan’s charisma with Obama’s intellect and Clinton’s political skills. This is a leader to watch.
Richardson is a former governor of New Mexico
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