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'Mexico has a clear project,' presidential front-runner says

September 7, 2011 | 12:27 pm

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The front-runner in Mexico's 2012 presidential election delivered his sixth and final state-of-the-state address in the city of Toluca this week, in an opulent political event that effectively sought to cement Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto as the heir apparent of the resurgent PRI, Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party.

"Let there be no confusion," Peña Nieto said in the capital of Mexico state, where he's served as governor since 2005. "Mexico has a clear project, which is contained in its political Constitution. What is missing is an efficient state that can make it a reality, that will put it into practice in the daily lives of all Mexicans."

Those remarks were the most cited in Mexican news reports because they veered close to the air of inevitability that the PRI is trying to establish heading into next year. The governor's address on Monday "looked like an act of acceptance of the presidential nomination," CNN's Spanish-language service said in this report

PRI governors and bureaucrats, business leaders, and figures familiar to the establishment applauded Peña Nieto after his speech inside the Teatro Morelos, as seen in this video report in Spanish. The attendees included Elba Esther Gordillo, the feared and powerful leader of the teachers union, and the PRI party chief Humberto Moreira, the former governor of Coahuila state who is now facing a federal financial probe.

Pena nieto quien Peña Nieto, the telegenic governor of the country's most populous state, has consistently led in polls on elections to be held next summer.

Although none of Mexico's major parties have decided on a candidate, for now, the conventional wisdom says Mexicans are open to a return of the former ruling party after two terms of conservative presidents who have been unable to deliver on promises of expanding and equalizing economic growth.

Another element of the unspoken appeal of a PRI presidency -- despite widespread corruption and repression of dissent during the 71 years of the party's rule -- is the assumption that a PRI president could find a way to stop the spiraling violence inflicted by Mexico's drug gangs. While visiting Washington in May, Peña Nieto said that there could be no pact with organized crime in 2012 (link in Spanish).

After last month's casino attack in Monterrey, former President Vicente Fox suggested that Mexico should seek a truce or amnesty law aimed at the country's cartels. His comments were widely dismissed and rejected by the current administration of President Felipe Calderon.

[NOTE: This post has been updated.]

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Top Photo: Mexico state Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto delivers his state-of-the-state address on Sept. 5, 2011, in Toluca, Mexico. Credit: La Primera Plana / Bottom Photo: Gov. Enrique Peña Nieto. Credit: Quien

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