Just a few days before his inauguration, the Mexican president-elect is continuing the old tradition of visits to our immediate neighbors to the north and south. Although they all carry some importance, his visit to the U.S. is, for obvious reasons, always the most relevant.
Every 12 years the start of new administrations in the U.S. and Mexico coincides. If it so happens that the American president is starting a second term, the significance isn't lost: During their second terms, presidents focus more on what really should be done rather than what they want to see done.
Pena Nieto has left his stops in the U.S. and Canada for last as it would have been untimely to go before the U.S. presidential election. Now, with the electoral muscle of the Latinos, particularly Mexican-Americans, demonstrated through their overwhelming support of Obama, fortune is in his favor. That alone, however, means nothing for the future of our bi-national relationship unless Pena is able to take advantage of it. What the new president of Mexico can bring to the table matters now more than ever.
The return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party to the presidency is generating skepticism among some political, academic and business communities in the U.S. More than other countries, our neighbors to the north seem to have bought into a simplistic (or partisan) vision of the story of Mexico's recent history, a history according to which the Institutional Revolutionary Party was the cause and beneficiary of all the country's mistakes. At first, Pena will face some skepticism crossing the Rio Bravo.
The National Action Party allowed a complicated relationship to become categorized: It was either all about immigration or all about drug trafficking. I don't mean to say that they didn't do anything else, but they often looked at the country through a very mono-thematic lens.
The lesson we're left with: The relationship between Mexico and the U.S. is made of an intricate web of relations, tensions and collaborations. It can't be reduced to just one area, just as it can't be scattered about. What's most important is remembering that the power of the U.S. is widely dispersed. It isn't just in the White House, in Congress, on Wall Street or in The New York Times.
The Mexican government has to decide what type of influence it wants to have in the U.S. in order to make progress with different issues. Mexico can't give itself the luxury of continuing to be an uncomfortable and irrelevant neighbor to the U.S. Pena is off to a skeptical and unreceptive Washington. I can only hope that he goes like a hero from the movies, but without having to pay such a high ticket price.