The pace of Mexico’s fight against corruption is slowing

Mexico’s problems appear to be getting worse.
Mexico’s problems appear to be getting worse.

By Jude Webber / Financial Times

Three things hold Mexico back, according to President Enrique Peña Nieto: inequality, a tricky international economic environment and corruption.

That last factor has long been a problem. As one influential politician notoriously said, “a politician who is poor is a poor politician”.

Mexico ranks 103rd out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. Among the three Mint nations that improved their rankings compared with 2013, it made the smallest advance, while Turkey’s ranking worsened.

In his state of the nation speech in August, Peña Nieto acknowledged that scandals over houses he, his wife and his finance minister had bought from favoured government contractors had caused “anger and indignation”.

He apologised, but appears to have missed the incredulity many felt when a government probe exonerated them of conflicts of interest. Indeed, the contractor at the centre of the scandal, Juan Armando Hinojosa, was a guest at his speech.

Peña Nieto, halfway through his six-year term, seems to be losing the battle for hearts and minds. A Pew Research Center study last month found only 27 per cent of respondents approved of his handling of corruption, a plunge of 15 points from a year ago.

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