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May 19, 2018

Mexican President: Enrique Peña Nieto and his failed presidency

This year will be a very important year for Mexico since it brings the opportunity for change with the presidential election. The past six years have not been very progressive despite strong campaign promises from the current Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto. Enrique Peña Nieto has faced several controversies, his first occurred when he was running for office. During his campaign with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), he was accused of paying television network giant Televisa to show favorable ads about him, while making his opponent look bad. The PRI was in power in Mexico for 71 years straight from 1929-2000. Many Mexican citizens believed that the PRI was sabotaging votes in order to get members of their party to hold office.1

Peña Nieto’s cheating strategies can be traced back to when he was attending Panamerican University.2 He was accused of plagiarizing one of his assignments back in 1991. That was only the beginning of multiple problems that Peña Nieto would face. Two of his biggest campaign promises were to end corruption and stop violence. These promises were not fulfilled and in fact both violence and corruption have become worse. Each year, thousands of people are murdered or kidnapped in Mexico, two of the standards ways drug cartels operate. On September 26, 2014 a group of 43 students went missing in the small town of Iguala, located in Guerrero, Mexico. These students were the victims of corruption and violence that takes place in Mexico every day. The 43 students who were kidnapped were studying to become school teachers. The mayor of Iguala and the police were involved with drug traffickers and are seen as responsible for the kidnappings. There are several theories as to what may have happened to the 43 missing students and why it happened. Family members of the missing students believe that the students are still alive and that the police do not want them to know. A theory as to why the students went missing is that the mayor’s wife was giving a speech that same day and that the mayor was worried the students would protest during her speech. Therefore, the mayor ordered the police to stop the buses that were carrying theses students and forced them to get into their police cruisers. Once they had the students, the police officers turned them over to local drug cartel to be executed. The reason for the kidnappings, however, has not been confirmed, but the mayor’s arrest along with local law enforcement makes this theory believable. President Peña Nieto’s efforts to end corruption have clearly failed in this situation which resulted in 43 students missing for the past 4 years.3

The 43 missing students | Courtesy of The University of British Columbia

Another example of corruption is the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman who was considered the biggest drug lord in the world at the time of his arrest. He was so powerful and was on the US most wanted list. The U.S offered a 5 million dollars reward for information that would lead to his capture. El Chapo was captured for the second time on Feb 22, 2014 in Mazatlan, Sinaloa. This victory for justice in Mexico was short lived and on June 11, 2015 El Chapo escaped once again from prison through a tunnel that was built by members of his Sinaloa cartel. Prison guards were involved in the escape which demonstrates how corrupt Mexico is.4 The level of  federal corruption has surpassed the local corruption at this point. Many elected officials have been involved in various scandals in recent years. Javier Duarte, a former Mexican governor, was arrested last year after being on the run for corruption charges. He is one of 17 officials who have been under investigation since the start of the century, the 43 missing students and the escape of the most powerful drug lord show that corruption goes deeper than paying off a local cop to avoid a speeding ticket.5 Peña Nieto has been unable to stop or even impede drug cartels, who feed the corruption and violence in Mexico. Instead of focusing on these issues, he has taken advantage of his own elected office to give government contracts to companies with which he has strong ties. Grupo Higa was the group from which Peña Nieto’s wife bought a mansion for an estimated 7 million dollars, that same group received numerous government contracts worth millions.6

The tunnel in which El Chapo Escaped | Courtesy of Plugged Entertainment Magazine

Violence and Corruption are not the only issues that trouble Mexico. Lack of education and the level of poverty are extremely high in Mexico, with 50 million people living in poverty who make up 40% of the population. Children are often required to work instead of going to school, 20% of teenagers from ages 15-19 do not go to school but work instead.7 Mexican citizens believed in Peña Nieto when he first got elected, his approval rating was a respectable 61%. Peña Nieto’s approval rating fell drastically to 28% in 2018 after everything that happened in the country in the past 6 years.8 The Mexican government has been paralyzed by corruption for many years now and it seems that it will continue this way for future years to come unless an honorable candidate gets elected during this upcoming election. Mexico has the potential to be a great country; it is a big trade partner with the U.S and attracts many tourists to its lovely beaches and historical pyramids along each of its coasts. Mexican officials should stop trying to make easy money for themselves and focus more on serving their community. The government must start by paying its law enforcement a living wage and increasing the salary for the military too. Mexico can do this by raising taxes in its states. A big problem in Mexico is that law enforcement does not get paid enough and they tend to take bribes because they are tired of living in poverty while risking their lives against drug cartel members who have bigger and better weapons than them. Mexican police officers and military personnel must also be held responsible for being corrupt and an example should be made of anyone who is found guilty of corruption within the government. The citizens of Mexico deserve better and change must start with the president. As of now no candidate has mentioned a plan to combat drug trafficking however Mexico’s front runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has vowed to make changes to end violence in Mexico. Despite not mentioning any of his tactics to combat violence in the city, Obrador has mentioned that he will not follow the same techniques as past presidents. He has also promised to end violence in Mexico in half his term.9 One can only hope that the next president’ promises will be kept, by whoever comes into office.


  1. Carol Brennan, Laura Avery, Pena Nieto, Enrique (Farmington Hills, MI: Newsmakers 2014 cumulation, 2014), 371-372.
  2. Salem Press Bio Encyclopedia, 2015, s.v.”Enrique Pena Nieto,” by Micah Issitt.
  3. Funk and Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, 2017, s.v. “Mexico,” by Funk and Wagnalls.
  4. Tessa Berenson, “Timeline of El Chapo’s Major Escapes and Captures,” Times, Jan 8, 2016. Accessed April 15, 2018.
  5. Elizabeth Malkin,” Corruption at a level of audacity, Never seen in Mexico,” New York Times, April 19, 2017,  accessed April 19, 2018.
  6. Jo Tuckman, ” Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto faces outcry over £4.4m mansion,” The Guardian, Nov 10, 2014. Accessed April 15, 2018.
  7. Cheri Spence,” The chance to learn,” Childfund Org, Mar 25, 2013. Accessed April 29, 2018.
  8. Asad Ismi, “A Nation On The Brink,” Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Monitor, no. 1 (Jan 2018): 1-2.
  9. Jose Belmont, “AMLO promote acabar con el narco en 3 anos,” Millenio Noticias, Jan 2, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2018.

Recent Comments


  • Fatima Esparza

    Not many people discuss the corruption issue in Mexico and Peña Nieto’s failed presidency. Reading about the 43 students who were kidnapped and never brought back is devastating. Not many Mexicans want to go against the government since government officials usually have ties with criminals and cartel members. Going against the government is risky in Mexico, and Peña Nieto showed how little he and many other government officials care about the safety of the people.

  • Eugenio Gonzalez

    Great article; presents essential information about the failures of Peña Nieto’s administration. Unfortunately, Mexico lived in a small dictatorship where one political party would control the media and manipulate elections results. It is sad to see a country like Mexico, potentially becoming a world power, be held back by its politicians. Hopefully, future presidents and politicians will begin doing their job correctly and help Mexico fulfill its potential.

  • Manuel Rodriguez

    I really appreciate the rawness of the information that is presented throughout the article. There is no doubt that the government in Mexico has deep roots of corruption that can not be changed from one presidency to the next, but the calls of action that the author suggests in the closing paragraph are defiantly great steps in the right direction.

  • Aracely Beltran

    Thank you for sharing this! It was so interesting to learn about more ways that this man failed his country. Can we be surprised though? Most recent Mexican presidents are full of corruption. They get taxed twice as much as Americans do and yet they are doing so much worse than we are. This man was a joke and I am happy you wrote this.

  • David Castaneda Picon

    This was a great article. It is sad to think that politicians use their power, and the money of the country in order to control everything in their favor instead of doing something great for the community. In Mexico, the media controls everything, from political campaigns, to Mexican professional sports leagues, having said that, it is not uncommon that a politician running for president pay a television network so that they make them look good. I do hope that AMLO keeps his promises of ending with violence and corruption of Mexico, because as the author Julio Morales mentioned in this article, “Mexico has the potential to be a great country” (2018).

  • Samantha Zamorano

    I truly do not understand how the first scandal that surfaced about Pena Nieto paying Televisa to air the ads wasn’t enough to discredit his integrity. It’s infuriating that the PRI backed him in sabotaging votes, because we all know that it happened. We also all know that Pena Nieto allowed the cartels to operate within the country. I think it’s great you pointed out that under his presidency, violence and corruption only became much worse. For the past few years watching the news and reading news articles, it was all about Mexican cartels and the terror they were committing across the country. They were operating with what seemed like complete immunity. The lack of what this man did to improve Mexico and the livelihoods of many truly disgusts me.

  • Andrea Degollado

    Reading this article was very interesting. I think its not very uncommon to read about government officials that are associated with corruption. And Enrique Peña Nieto can be used as an example. I remember hearing about the mansion purchase on the news, and i like how this article highlights how it was purchased with the governments money. I think its sad to read that the people you elect to help you better your country take advantage of that and use the power for their own self interest.

  • Lesley Martinez

    It’s outrageous to read that one political party was in power for 71 years. The violence and corruption in Mexico have certainly become worse. To know that 43 students just disappeared out of nowhere and that the state officials were involved with the drug cartels is sketchy, also considering that the most wanted drug cartel was able to escape a Mexican prison. Reading this today, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador was able to win the presidency, however, I wonder if he has accomplished any of the promises he made. Great article!

  • Francisco Cruzado

    It amazes me how many Latin-American stories are greatly marked by the factor of corruption, as if it was inherent to the foundations of their political and institutional systems. However, I sometimes look with confusion —due to personal ignorance— how does it happen that a party as the PRI, associated with an early-XX-century revolution, could become the party of Obregón or Peña Nieto, and still last for so long. I do hope AMLO may be a motive for change.

  • Leopoldo Martinez-Milland

    The recent history of Mexico has saddened me. With my family being from Coahuila, there was a period of time where we couldn’t go because of how dangerous it was. People such as Peña Nieto are the main reason why Mexico has become a safe haven for criminals but a death zone for civilians. Julio Morales did a great job describing the history of Peña Nieto’s reign as President, highlighting the personal purchase of a mansion with government money as evidence of his corruption while also giving the reader a few solutions to problems faced in the politically corrupt country. Hopefully, now with a humble Lopez Obrador as President, Mexico should be going in for some drastic changes, while Peña Nieto is evading arrest from the Mexican government.

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