In My Opinion

Andres Oppenheimer: Mexico showed the way in 2013


Of all the things that happened in Latin America in 2013, the one that could have the most positive long-term impact — if it's implemented properly — is the agreement between Mexico’s three biggest political parties to approve fundamental reforms.

Granted, the so-called Pact for Mexico — the deal between Mexico's biggest political parties that was sealed in December 2012 — has already been broken. Its leftist members abandoned the deal recently in disagreement with the newly-approved energy reform, which will open parts of Mexico's oil industry to the private sector for the first time in 70 years.

And, granted, the Pact for Mexico's newly-approved political, educational, labor, telecommunications, fiscal and energy reforms may be watered down under pressure from various interest groups in the near future, when the Mexican Congress issues regulations to implement the new laws.

And it is also true that President Enrique Peña Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has led the passage of the new reforms, deserves a medal of political hypocrisy for having systematically blocked these same reforms when it was in the opposition.

But the fact remains that in 2013, Mexico was the only country in the Americas —including the United States — where the government and opposition parties broke decades of political paralysis to approve profound reforms that could speed up the country's development for many decades.

That's no minor achievement in a region where some presidents — Venezuela’s, for example — refer to peaceful opposition leaders as “enemies of the fatherland,” and where some legislative blocs such as Tea Party Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have almost brought their country to a halt by relentlessly blocking most agreements.

Consider what the Mexican deal between the ruling PRI, the center-right National Action Party and the center-left Party for the Democratic Revolution achieved in 2013, before the agreement's de facto dissolution:

• Education reform: Mexico's political parties passed a law in September that will break the country's once almighty teachers unions' control over the education system and will allow for the first time the hiring, promotion and even firing of new teachers based on standardized tests and periodic evaluations. Until now, Mexico had thousands of teachers who couldn't be fired even if they failed to show up in class.

• Political reform: Mexico's Congress agreed to change electoral rules to allow future members of Congress to be re-elected and to reserve half of congressional seats for female candidates. Re-election of legislators had been a long-sought demand by citizens' groups, which complained that, without re-election, Mexican legislators were not accountable to their constituents, but rather to their parties' bosses.

• Fiscal reform: The Mexican Congress, with major backing from the left-of-center Party for the Democratic Revolution, passed a fiscal law that will raise taxes on the wealthiest and impose a new tax on soft drinks and stock market gains.

• Labor reform: In the biggest labor law shakeup in four decades, Mexico's Congress passed a law aimed at making it easier for employers to hire and fire workers. The new law’s intent is to drive millions of people out of the underground economy.

• Telecommunications reform: Under the new law, two new regulating agencies will try to bring about more competition in the telecommunications industry, which has been dominated by companies owned by billionaire Carlos Slim.

• Energy reform: By far the most covered by foreign media, Mexico's new energy reform will change the Constitution to allow private firms to work with the giant state-owned Pemex oil company in the exploration and drilling of new fields. The constitutional overhaul is expected to bring billions of dollars in foreign investments over the next decade.

“Mexico has proved capable of doing the politically impossible,” Mexican Congressman David Penchyna, who heads the congressional Energy Committee, wrote in the daily newspaper Reforma this week. “We have opened a new page in history.”

My opinion: It is too early to tell whether Mexico's 2013 reforms will indeed turn the country into the new star of the emerging world. Much of it will depend on whether Peña Nieto is able to keep the new laws from being watered down by special interests in the implementation process.

But Mexico has given the Americas a lesson in civility, which many countries in the hemisphere would do well to emulate. Wouldn't it be great to see a Pact for Argentina, a Pact for Venezuela and a Pact for the United States 2014? It seemed impossible in Mexico, and yet it happened. Happy holidays!

Read more Andres Oppenheimer stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    Andres Oppenheimer: Venezuela sanctions won’t have major impact

    Despite the excitement among many in Venezuela and Miami about the newly announced U.S. visa restrictions against top Venezuelan officials linked to human rights abuses, I’m not so sure that the measures will have much impact.

  • In My Opinion

    Andres Oppenheimer: Brazil crossed the line on Israel

    While most of the world has condemned the violence in Gaza, in most cases blaming both sides with various degrees of criticism for one or the other, Brazil has crossed the line by virtually endorsing the Hamas terrorist group’s narrative of the conflict — and for going even beyond countries such as Egypt and Jordan in its actions against Israel.

  • In My Opinion

    Andres Oppenheimer: It’s time for International Anti-corruption Court

    The more I read about the massive government corruption in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela and other countries where top officials have been accused of stealing fortunes with near total impunity, the more I like a new proposal that is making the rounds in world legal circles — creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category