December 7, 2012
On December 1st, 2012, Enrique Pena Nieto became the president of Mexico, replacing Felipe Calderon, who had been president since 2006. The president of Mexico has a six-year term, and cannot be re-elected.
Pena Nieto won the 2012 Mexican election held on July 1st. Mexico has a five-month long transitional period between election and inauguration and on December 1st, that period was finally over. The new Mexican Congress, on the other hand, took power on September 1st.
A little history is in order. Pena Nieto belongs to the PRI (Partido Revolucionario institucional), which ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000. In the historic 200 election, the PRI candidate lost to Vicente Fox of the PAN (Partido Acción Nacional). Six years later Fox was succeeded by Felipe Calderon, also of the PAN.
In 2012, however, the PRI candidate, Enrique Pena Nieto won the election. Therefore, after twelve years, the PRI returns to the presidency.
Outgoing president Felipe Calderon worked closely with the Pena Nieto team in the presidential transition. In fact, the two met together seven times during the past five months in Los Pinos, the Mexican presidential residence.
On December 1st, the big day arrived in the country’s capital, Mexico City. It was a long day, starting at midnight.
Yes, at midnight. The day began at midnight at Mexico’s Palacio Nacional where Felipe Calderon ceremoniously transferred the presidential authority, symbolized by a special Mexican flag, to Enrique Pena Nieto. After that, Pena Nieto received the oaths of office of his “security cabinet”, consisting of the new Interior Secretary (Miguel Angel Osoria Chong), National Defense Secretary (General Salvador Cienfuegos), Secretary of the Navy (Admiral Vidal Soberon) and Subsecretary of the Interior (Manuel Mondragon y Kalb).
At 9:25 a.m., a special session of the Mexican congress began at the Palacio Legislativo de San Lázaro, the regular meeting-place of the Mexican Cámar ad Diputados, equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Before the inauguration, a representative of each of the seven Mexican political parties was allowed to speak, for ten minutes apiece. At 10:25, a congressional representative of the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática) tossed an empty water bottle at congressman Arturo Escobar, who was speaking for the Green Party.
At 11:10, Pena Nieto arrived, followed four minutes later by Felipe Calderon. At 11:16 Enrique Pena Nieto took the presidential oath of office, and at 11:17 Felipe Calderon doffed the presidential sash which was then donned by Enrique Pena Nieto.
(The use of a presidential sash is common in Latin American countries, and is thought to have originated with the colonial governors of the old Spanish Empire days.)
After this ceremony, Enrique Pena Nieto returned to the Palacio Nacional where he received the oath of his cabinet and then delivered his principal inauguration speech.
After the speech, Pena Nieto went to the ceremony at Campo Marte, an equestrian field also utilized for Mexican military ceremonies. There the new president was saluted with artillery. Also, General Cienfuegos, the new Defense Secretary, and Admiral Soberon, the new Navy secretary, spoke briefly, as did Pena Nieto, who is now commander-in-chief of the Mexican military.
From there it was off to the picturesque and historic Chapultepec Castle, where President Pena Nieto hosted a dinner for foreign dignitaries who had attended the inauguration. Guests included U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden and Felipe, Crown Prince of Spain.
All in all, it was a big day. Of course, everybody was not pleased, as there were demonstrations going on in Mexico City, outside the Palacio Legislativo de San Lázaro and elsewhere, some of which were violent.
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Protesters hurled rocks and fireworks, there was even a fragmentation grenade discovered. Riot police had come prepared with long shields and tear gas. Over 100 were detained and at least 76 were injured, including one student protestor who lost his right eye.
Vandalism was rampant, with demonstrators attacking businesses and burning furniture in the streets. Even the recently cleaned-up Hemiciclo a Juárez monument in the Alameda park (just re-inaugurated five days previously) had graffiti on it.
All in all, it was a memorable day. After all Mexican presidential inauguration day only comes once every six years.
Now Mexico has a new president, who has his work cut out for him. Being president of Mexico is not an easy job.
© 2012 Allan Wall - All Rights Reserved
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Allan Wall recently returned to the U.S. after residing many years in Mexico.