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El Universal, Mexico

Obama-Peña


By Manuel Camacho Solis

Translated By Kate Wheeler

12 November 2012

Edited by Mary Young


Mexico - El Universal - Original Article (Spanish)

With all their differences, the governments of Enrique Peña and Barack Obama will face each other in an upcoming political meeting. In front of them lie colossal obstacles; they are dealing with limited political capital. Both leaders come from polarized elections and will have divided governments (neither enjoying the advantage of his party’s majority in Congress). They will have to fight against great challenges without having a command of Congress. Both presidents have high expectations but few resources to help them achieve said goals — a very short time to prove their effectiveness.

Obama has already lived through the difficult chapter during which disagreements with the Republican opposition put the country on the edge of a new economic crisis. Obama will have to return to work on this drama right away. If he is able to create a budget that the opposition — who hold a majority in the House of Representatives — will support, it will clear the path for Obama to capitalize on the movement and manage the debt problem. If he can't convince the Republicans of the need for a more equalized fiscal budget, the risks of a stalemate will be high.

Peña is just beginning to experience the difficulty of a government in which he does not have a clear majority. One false move could activate dissent among the public and produce problems of violence, insecurity and impunity that will affect the economy, society and the state itself in various regions. Or, if he gets it right, he could pacify the country and take advantage of the favorable external winds of the Mexican economy. If Enrique Peña can make serious agreements, it will ease the start of his term and increase the possibility of achieving results before widespread desperation festers, making it impossible to contain the delinquent epidemic.

The re-election of Obama, a moderate progressive, is the best result that could have happened. For the world it minimizes the risk of new military adventures such as those desired by the neo-conservatives, which would have been catastrophic. For the EU, Obama’s moderation presents the only hope that Democrats and Republicans can construct a legislative agreement that deals with the budget, and that they can manage the economy after the extreme polarization that has been in place over the last few years.

If Peña can facilitate an agreement about security, justice and fiscal solidity, he will consolidate his government and garner international prestige. But if he does not manage to do this — or worse, if he attempts changes and they fail — he will see that economic opportunities, political governance and security will become a never-ending nightmare for him and his closest collaborators.

In his next meeting with Obama, Peña will win over more center-leaning voters — by meeting with a president who has suffered the onslaught of rightist ideology — rather than repeating the neo-liberal litany. Offering more petrol or tightening of security will be unnecessary there and will be viewed from here as a submissive act. There are other, more promising ideas, for example: to open space (without being mandated to do so) for correction in justice and security, to retake the initiative in favor of migrants and to renew cooperation with Central and South America. Moderation is best before a man who has already tried the difficult work of governing and before an inaugural ceremony on Dec. 1 in Mexico that will mark the beginning of his administration. Moderate in his background and in his way of being. An act of frivolousness or a declaration of more than what he can accomplish will be viewed badly in the U.S., but above all it will face disapproval in Mexico.

For Peña, the principal issue is internal. It is to win political authority. Neither his ascent nor the election will give him that automatically. He will win it if he shows that he can control his own party and establish a serious relationship with the social and parliamentary opposition. Credibility will be won when what he says can be accomplished, and in a political situation such as Mexico’s, credibility is also gained when what one says and does is not perceived as arrogant or offensive to the majority.



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