LATIN AMERICA

Pact for Mexico crisis is far from over, says Peña Nieto’s chief of staff

Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong tells EL PAÍS that PRI will continue to work with opposition

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.Paolo Aguilar / EFE

The chief of staff to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto acknowledged that the political crisis the government is facing, which could lead to a collapse of an historical consensus pact with the opposition, is far from over.

In a telephone interview with EL PAÍS on Wednesday, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong explained that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration was going to work with the opposition to come up with a checks-and-balances system to prevent government resources from being used for election purposes.

Peña Nieto’s far-reaching reforms, which were hammered out with the two major opposition parties last December and are known as the Pact for Mexico, were put on hold on Monday after a scandal broke out in the Gulf state of Veracruz, where PRI officials allegedly conditioned social service aid to needy families on their favorable votes during the July 7 presidential and regional elections.

The conservative National Action Party (PAN), which filed the complaint, announced that it would not be taking part, for now, in any more discussions on banking, education and other reforms after Peña Nieto played down the scandal by saying it was part of the usual attacks by the opposition.

Question. Do you think that the Pact for Mexico crisis is over?

Answer. No, we have to work to resolve this issue of using public resources at the federal and state levels to ensure they are not used as instruments in electoral processes but for the welfare of Mexican families. I received complaints from the political parties in the majority states that held elections, which obligates us to take out-of-the ordinary action on this matter. The idea that the political parties have – which the government also supports – is to put this election process issue on the back burner for now so that the agreements on the more fundamental matters can take priority.

Q. So this alternative would keep the election rivalry from breaking the Pact for Mexico?

A. Electoral processes, especially local ones, are important high-spirit events. What we need to do from this level, along with the other parties, is to come up with an agreement that ensures whatever occurs at the federal level doesn’t incite confrontation in areas that are holding elections. This is what President Enrique Peña Nieto wants.

Q. For any international reader, it seems incredible that one week after the PAN denounced what happened in Veracruz, the Social Development Department fired some employees and its secretary, Rosario Robles, underwent a tough grilling in the Senate. But in Veracruz it seems they are living in another world, not having given any type of explanations.

A. There are two reasons for this and they both have to do with federal and local concepts. I want to reiterate that no other past government took such immediate steps to answer the allegations involving a federal office or program. Without investigating it, and just based on the allegations themselves, the Social Development secretary took opportune and quick action.

What occurs in the states – and forgive me for being so frank – or in this country where there are many entities, including the federal district, with their own electoral dynamics, has to be addressed over there. Simply put, it is another route that has to be taken, but I am not trying to skirt the issue. We all have to be on the lookout and study if there are some local social programs that need better monitoring.