“Peña Nieto is signaling that … he is not going to stop confronting organized crime, but that he wants to add the economic relationship with the world and the US in particular to the priority list,” says Eric Olson, the associate director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars.
In many ways, Peña Nieto is in a strong position to push for a new agenda that goes beyond the perennial topics of drugs, immigration, and random but explosive trade conflicts. Mexico’s economy is growing robustly, there is a falling homicide rate after years of mounting deaths, and Mexicans are opting not to migrate to the US, with some experts putting cross-border flows at “net zero” (as we detail in this cover story here).
Of course, Peña Nieto might have a hard sell to his US audience. According to a survey conducted in October by the advertising firm GSD&M and the consultancy Vianovo, 59 percent of Americans surveyed see Mexico as a source of problems for the US, compared with 14 percent who say it’s a good neighbor and partner. Only 17 percent say they view Mexico’s economy as modern. And when asked to describe Mexico in three words, almost half chose the word “drugs.”
Still, the US government seems more inclined to embrace a prosperous Mexico. Some analysts feared that the ties between Mexico and the US would be unbounded by the return of Peña Nieto’s former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which is widely accused of tolerating the drug trade.