Author: Paulina Villegas

Posted on: The New York Times| November 27th, 2017

 

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s finance minister, José Antonio Meade, stepped down Monday and announced his intention to run for president in next year’s election, assuming the coveted candidacy of the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party.
In recent months, speculation has been rampant about whom the president, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his party would select as the party’s candidate.
The president, who is limited to a single term of six years, has received some of the lowest approval ratings in the country’s recent history amid corruption scandals, record-breaking violence and a sluggish economy — making the selection of a candidate to succeed him a delicate matter.
Mr. Meade, 48, holds a doctorate in economics from Yale and is seen as a capable technocrat with a wide range of experience. He has held several cabinet-level positions in rival administrations, making him an attractive selection for the governing party, also known as the PRI, which wanted someone with a clean record.
Under Mr. Peña Nieto, Mr. Meade oversaw the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Social Development Ministry. He also served under Felipe Calderón, who preceded Mr. Peña Nieto, and was a member of the opposition National Action Party, or PAN, as both energy minister and finance minister.
Mr. Meade is, in the eyes of most analysts, the safest bet for the party, which governed Mexico for some 70 years until 2000 and struggles with a reputation for corruption and for wielding a heavy hand when in power. He was not dogged by scandal or controversy during any of the administrations he served in, unlike some of Mr. Peña Nieto’s other cabinet members.
“We are talking about someone who is highly efficient in managing high-level bureaucracy, enjoys a good public image and has a steady dialogue with both the opposition conservative PAN party and the PRI, without being a militant of either,” said Fernando Dworak, a political analyst.
Mr. Meade has kept a low profile and is not officially affiliated with any political party. He has never run for public office, and his speeches are highly technical and, to some, highly boring.
A big question for the candidate will be whether his stellar credentials and scandal-free record will be enough to overcome his relatively low-energy demeanor.
Although Mr. Meade is not the most popular possible candidate among the party’s base, analysts say, party officials hope he will ultimately attract voters from the PAN, which could help fend off the party’s left-wing rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a top contender, who represents a third party.
The decision by the PRI to put forth a candidate with a clean public record and credibility in the business community comes at a moment of increasing dissatisfaction and distrust with political leaders in Mexico.
“It is yet another piece of evidence of the PRI’s profound credibility crisis, so much that they had to turn to someone who is not even affiliated and yet will help calm down the markets, while guaranteeing the survival of the establishment,” said Genaro Lozano a professor at the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City.
Still, having served the entire term under the current administration, Mr. Meade cannot entirely escape scrutiny. His critics accuse him of being opportunistic and accuse him of having taken part in covering up alleged fraud and the diversion of public funds during Mr. Peña Nieto’s administration.
The announcement came only a day after the next most probable candidate, Secretary of Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, was reported to have stepped aside from the presidential race despite leading in the polls.
On Monday, Mr. Peña Nieto publicly expressed his regard for Mr. Meade, praising his “outstanding” performance as the head of three different government agencies during his administration.

 

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