Mexico's president-elect visits White House

Enrique Pena Nieto promises new PRI leadership

WASHINGTON - Days before his swearing-in ceremony on Saturday, Mexico's president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto met with President Obama on Tuesday in the Oval Office at the White House.

The former governor in his mid-40s has promised a new PRI leadership, no longer the political party that was voted out in 2000 after decades of corruption and mistrust.

In a column for the Washington Post, Pena Nieto describes how he hopes to build on the bonds between the U.S. and Mexico.

"Perhaps the most important issue is finding new ways to bolster our economic and trade relationship to attain common prosperity in our nations," Pena Nieto wrote. "The United States is already Mexico's largest trading partner."

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Laredo, who will be part of the U.S. congressional delegation attending the inauguration in Mexico City, said Pena Nieto has made Mexico's already strong economy a top priority.

"There's been a rise in their middle class. There's been a rise in their financial reserves, and what they've done with their energy," said Alonzo Pena, a former ICE deputy director and an expert in Mexico and Latin American issues.

Both Pena and Cuellar said the new Mexican president's transition team is bright and educated," some likely to be members of his cabinet, much like current President Felipe Calderon's advisers.

"I've realized that these individuals are a young generation of Mexico that want to do good for the country," Cuellar said.

Pena said, "They have to demonstrate through their actions that they are the new PRI."

Both also said Pena Nieto will pick up where his predecessor Felipe Calderon left off, challenging the drug cartels.

However, they said Pena Nieto also will pursue lower-end criminals who prey on Mexican citizens, such as kidnappings, extortions and murders.

Cuellar said as it stands now, only about two percent of criminal cases are successfully prosecuted.

The congressman said Pena Nieto wants to improve Mexico's judiciary and prison systems and create a unified police force.

"Mexico's whole system needs a lot of work," Cuellar said. "Pena Nieto is willing to roll up his sleeves to get that change."

For a list of recent stories done by Jessie Degollado, click here.


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