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Mexico inaugurates new President Peña Nieto, but takes on 'old' party reputation

Corruption will likely be a constant challenge for Peña Nieto and his PRI party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years largely through graft before it lost the presidency in 2000.

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Mexico's President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto listens as US President Obama speaks prior to their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 27. Nieto takes office Saturday, but when Mexicans chose him as president in July, they voted for more than just a presidential platform.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto takes office today, but when Mexicans chose him as president in July, they voted for more than just a presidential platform. Voters elected to bring back to power a party that ran the state for 71 years through a combination of corruption and cronyism, and, at its worst, with a repressive authoritarian hand. 

Some Mexicans do fear a return of past practices: Immediately upon his victory, Mr. Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) faced a scandal alleging that they systematically handed out gift cards in exchange for votes.

Many others, however, seem to think that Mexico of the 21st century leaves no space for the free reign that the PRI enjoyed while in power in the last century. and the PRI itself maintains it’s a new party, just as committed to democratic principles as any other.

Still, it is corruption, in its many different forms, that is likely to be the party’s constant challenge for the next six years.

Not only will the PRI likely have to continuously prove clean credentials to skeptics, corruption itself is deeply rooted in Mexico, affecting everything from fighting drug traffickers to collecting taxes. The National Action Party (PAN), which took power from the PRI in 2000, made some limited progress, but graft remains rampant. And corruption has morphed from a more localized problem of bribing to a sophisticated, multi-country phenomenon that involves multinationals and all three branches of government. Exhibit A is the recent Walmart scandal in Mexico, in which the American corporation allegedly bought permits to more quickly construct big-box stores here.

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