LATIN AMERICA

Mexican president tries to contain political crisis with economic plan

Peña Nieto promises state of Guerrero tax deferrals, work programs and toll road discounts

Mexican President Peña Nieto during his visit to Acapulco.
Mexican President Peña Nieto during his visit to Acapulco.Pedro PARDO (AFP)

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday made his first trip to the state of Guerrero since the disappearance of a group of trainee teachers there nearly 70 days ago triggered a national crisis.

But the leader did not set foot in Iguala, the town whose mayor fled after allegedly ordering the students turned over to a local criminal gang. This group, Guerreros Unidos, is thought to have murdered the youths and buried their bodies at an undisclosed location.

Much less did he go to Ayotzinapa, the town where the victims studied and a known breeding ground for rebel left-wing movements in Mexico.

Instead, Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), showed up in the once-popular resort of Acapulco to announce an economic plan aimed at reactivating regional tourism, which has dropped as organized crime has risen in the state.

The visit to Acapulco is taking place at the most delicate moment in the president’s term so far

The president is attempting to reduce the effect of the political crisis eroding his administration with financial initiatives such as tax subsidies, support for small and midsize businesses, part-time work programs, and discounts on road tolls.

The visit to Acapulco is taking place at the most delicate moment in the president’s term so far. Besides citizen anger at the lack of results in the ongoing investigation into the case of the missing students, Peña Nieto now has to face allegations that he may have favored a specific construction company that won a contract for a high-speed train link, one of the president’s star infrastructure projects. 

In his speech in Acapulco, Peña Nieto asked for a collective effort to “overcome the pain” of the students’ disappearance. “There are many more residents of Guerrero who want peace and order in the state,” he said, promising to help the iconic tourist destination return to better days through deferred taxes, the creation of a special fund for struggling small companies, a part-time work program that will help around 130,000 families, and a 50 percent discount on tolls for the Carretera del Sol, the main road connecting Guerrero with the Federal District.

More information
Power, blood and corruption in Iguala
Students set fire to Guerrero state headquarters over missing youths
Mexico’s new generation of cartels

National and international flights to Acapulco have fallen 37 percent in the last seven years, while hotel occupancy rates have been at their lowest levels in the last four years, registering just 31 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, homicide rates in Guerrero have risen 66 percent while kidnappings have tripled in the last decade, according to official figures.

Guerrero governor Ángel Aguirre resigned in October following widespread protests over his alleged mismanagement of the state, which fell under the rule of organized crime during his leadership.

Interim governor Rogelio Ortega praised the president’s visit and stated that the people of Guerrero need help rebuilding the social fabric after having it ripped apart by organized crime.

“Crises are opportunities. Let us view this as an opportunity,” he said.

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