Michael Barone

Things have been different since the 2012 presidential election. PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto seemed a depressingly conventional politician, who as governor of the state of Mexico (which surrounds central Mexico City) won publicity for dating a telenovela star.

Pena won the July election handily and on taking office in December called for major reforms. He issued a 34-page Pact for Mexico, which proposed greater competition for Pemex in the energy sector plus education and judicial reforms.

Remarkably, it was endorsed by PAN and PRD, as well as the PRI. Pemex has been a sacred cow in Mexico since the 1930s, when President Lazaro Cardenas seized foreign oil operations and created the state-owned monopoly.

The Pemex union was a pillar of the PRI establishment. Now a PRI president was proposing to reform it, and his move was endorsed by a PRI party convention in March.

Pena also acted on education. In February, Congress passed a law establishing a transparent system for teacher hiring and evaluation.

The next day, the government arrested the head of the teachers' union and charged her with spending $156 million of union funds on luxury goods.

And Pena has moved to deregulate telecommunications, which threatens the position of telecom billionaire Carlos Slim.

There is other heartening news from south of our border. Mexico's economy is moving ahead with 5 percent growth.

Since the NAFTA treaty went into effect in the 1990s, it seemed that Mexico's economy was tethered to ours, leaving it unable to close the gap with the United States. Now as our economy slogs along slowly, Mexico is moving toward catching up. It is, as former Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda has proclaimed, a majority middle-class country now.

It is also a country from which, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, there has been no net migration to the United States since 2007.

All this vindicates our previous four presidents, who pressed for closer ties with Mexico. But most of the credit belongs to the leaders and people of Mexico. Good neighbors.


Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM