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Mexico presidential campaign: Off to a good start

The two frontrunners in the Mexican presidential campaign now talk of reforming the state oil monopoly, Pemex. It's a sign of Mexico's hopeful future, despite the drug wars.

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Enrique Peña Nieto, a presidential candidate for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and his wife Angelica Rivera, greet his supporters.

Carlos Jasso/REUTERS

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As Mexico starts the official campaign for a July 1 presidential election, a big political taboo has been broken – one of many signs that Mexicans are defying old stereotypes, from gender to economics.

The two presidential frontrunners, Enrique Peña Nieto and Josefina Vázquez Mota, have both endorsed major reform of Pemex, the state oil monopoly long held dear as an icon of national pride. It’s also Latin America’s largest corporation.

Pemex’s production has fallen by a quarter since 2004. Mismanaged as a cash cow for government coffers, it lacks the expertise to tap the huge reserves in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The two candidates want to open up the petroleum giant to private, perhaps even foreign, investment.

Other economic reforms could be in the offing after the election, such as breaking up a telecom monopoly or labor reform. More than half of Mexicans now see themselves as middle-class and want change. They have tired of the war on drug cartels waged by outgoing President Felipe Calderón. The war has seen nearly 50,000 people killed since 2006.

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