Mexico's new president, opposition agree to push reforms
December 3, 2012 11:28 AM EST
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Sunday signed a pact with the country's leading political parties to increase competition in the telecommunications sector and overhaul the education system.
The agreement was an effort to break through years of political gridlock in Congress on Pena Nieto's second day in office.
Pena Nieto, 46, took office on Saturday, returning to power his centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, after 12 years in the opposition. No party holds an outright majority in Congress.
"We have to negotiate to build consensus. Now is the decisive hour in the history of the country that demands politicians use common ground to reach essential agreements," Pena Nieto said at an event in the historic Chapultepec castle.
Former President Felipe Calderon's National Action Party, or PAN, kicked the PRI out of office in 2000, pledging to reinvigorate Mexico, but it struggled to broker major accords during the 12 years it held the presidency.
Pena Nieto has promised to back some of the same economic proposals that his PRI party fought while it was in the opposition.
PAN chairman Gustavo Madero signed the agreement along with the chairman of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), Jesus Zambrano.
The deal did not mention the closely watched tax and energy plans that Pena Nieto's collaborators have said he will propose during his first year in office.
Parties agreed to work on three reforms: to increase competition in Mexico's telecommunications sector, improve the management of local government finances, and modernize the education system.
Mexico's phone market is dominated by billionaire Carlos Slim's companies, while the television business is largely controlled by broadcaster Televisa. Pena Nieto, who is married to a star of one of Televisa's popular soap operas, is seen as close to the broadcaster's owners.
Political analysts doubted the pact signalled a significant advance that would translate into quick action by lawmakers.
"This is just a bunch of good intentions," said Fernando Dworak, an expert on Mexico's Congress. "There are no guarantees ... there are enormous divisions in Congress."
Mexican lawmakers have been at loggerheads over major economic reforms during the last 15 years, since the PRI lost its majority in Congress. The PRI held the presidency for 71 years until its defeat in 2000.
Pena Nieto pledged to jump-start the country's economy when he was sworn in on Saturday. He also promised to end years of violence after more than 60,000 people died in battles between drug gangs and security forces during Calderon's term.
On Sunday, local media reported seven dismembered bodies were found in an abandoned lot in Torreon in the northern state of Coahuila. The city has seen a 16-fold jump in murders since 2006.
(Reporting By Michael O'Boyle and Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Stacey Joyce)
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