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Will outgoing President Calderón be remembered for more than Mexico's violence? (+video)

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Much of the work in maintaining a healthy economy began before Calderón took office, but Mr. Acevedo says he considers this administration a potential turning point for the country. Calderón has consolidated Mexico’s export platform, particularly in the automotive industry. Mexico is attempting to become a leader in the areospace industry, what Acevedo calls an example of the evolution of its industrial potential. Mexico is today graduating the same number of engineers as Germany, the government says, and trade with the US is at all-time highs.    

“We are seeing a boom in Mexico,” Acevedo says.

But that optimism is not necessarily reflected on the streets. While Calderón is hailed by academics for shepherding the Mexican economy remarkably well throughout the global financial crisis, the head-of-state who campaigned as the “jobs president” has done little, they say, to make the lives of Mexicans more tenable.

In fact, the number of poor has increased under Calderón's term, with national figures showing 12 million falling below the poverty line between 2006 and 2010. The government itself argues that the ranks of the poor swelled across the globe, and that in Mexico they swelled much less than in previous financial crises.

This is little solace to Juan Centento Reyes, who has sold lottery tickets for 40 years and says that transportation and food costs have gone up but salaries have not. Meanwhile, his 25-year-old son, the eldest of four, graduated as an engineer but has not found work in two years. “I wish politicians would talk to people in the streets and not in offices,” Mr. Reyes says. “Maybe Calderón has been good for the rich. But for the rest of us, there is a lack of money, a lack of jobs, even a lack of food.”

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