Few in the US have grasped the changes in Mexico. It is more open to the world, with 44 free-trade pacts and greater manufacturing exports than the rest of Latin America combined. This has forced it to listen more to its foreign critics in honoring the rule of law, labor reform, and human rights. Its politics are more competitive, its civil society and media are stronger, and its governing bodies, such as the central bank and Supreme Court, are more independent.
Mexico even seems poised under Peña Nieto’s coming six-year term to lessen the self-defeating nationalism that has prevented reform of its government-run oil monopoly. Opening Pemex to private, even foreign, investment would mark a shift from the historical Mexican resentments that have also dogged its politics. And it would help turn North America into the world’s energy giant.
One still-uncertain measure of Mexico’s changes will be in the political behavior of Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party. Has the PRI, which ruled from 1929 to 2000, shed its corrupt, power-hungry ways since it lost power – and democracy bloomed?