The Old Shuffle Off as Peña Goes for Boring Youth

All of a sudden the airwaves and newspapers have identified new presidential candidates from the governing party as a dismal nation looks ahead to 2018 for someone to take the country in a new direction.

Not so fast. It was only a fortnight ago the same people were telling us Manlio Fabio Beltrones, the new president of the PRI was a lock for the candidacy. And the party machine is his.

Aurelio Nuño, the new Education Minister, and Jose Meade, the new Social Development Minister have never been elected to public posts and have shown not a sign that they would make viable candidates. And neither of them has a strong support base.

So why is the government’s spin pushing them forward? My guess is they want us to talk about anything but the economy, corruption scandals, rising crime, the escape of El Chapo, inflation and the deepening unpopularity of the president.

In fact yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle did little more than push a few ageing loyalists into retirement and move a couple of key personnel into positions of electoral power. Another missed opportunity to re-invigorate the administration with an exciting, surprising, charismatic new minister or two.

The president’s loyalists now at education and social development have huge budgets that are spent in poorer areas where the president will want to shore up electoral support. Meade is a brilliant mind, smooth operator and effective administrator who knows the inside of government operations better than almost anybody.

It is a great move for him because barring a scandal he will be the decent, caring and spending face of the administration.

Nuño they say has a keen mind, but if the education reform runs into difficulties, as it probably will with 1.5 million unruly teachers struggling to adapt to performance evaluations, the attacks will be constant and vicious.

Monte Alejandro Rubido’s exit as National Security Commissioner makes him the scapegoat for El Chapo’s escape. He is a good man who has spent his life helping to build up Mexico’s security and intelligence capabilities. And he did not deserve this, especially as Peña had much more deserving candidates for fall guy.

Finally, the new Foreign Minister has no experience or qualifications for the job other than that she is the niece of former president Carlos Salinas. And the new Tourism Secretary is the son of a former president but he does have the experience and the chops to do the new job.

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