MEXICO CITY: Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s upcoming trip to China and Australia was another chance for him to flaunt ambitious economic reforms that have won him international praise.
He graced the cover of Time magazine this year with the headline “Saving Mexico.” Visiting heads of state applauded his sweeping reforms. Investors cheered the breakup of a 75-year-old state oil monopoly.
But international attention returned to Mexico’s horror show of drug violence after gang-linked police abducted 43 college students in the southern state of Guerrero on September 26.
Six weeks later, authorities said Guerreros Unidos gang hitmen confessed to slaughtering the students.
The suspected mass murder undermines Pena Nieto’s assurances that violence is down and overshadows his attempts to focus Mexico’s image on its economic transformation.
“It affects him negatively because Mexico had become very attractive for investors thanks to the reforms, especially in energy,” National Autonomous University politics and security expert Javier Oliva told AFP.
“This obviously gives an image of instability,” he said, adding that Pena Nieto could recover if he changes the militarized drug war strategy that he inherited from his predecessor.
The Iguala case comes on top of an alleged execution of at least eight gang suspects by soldiers south of Mexico City in June and the killing of three American siblings in northern Tamaulipas state last month.
When he flies to Beijing for his six-day trip on Sunday, Pena Nieto will leave behind a country shocked by potentially one of the worst massacres in a drug war that has left 100,000 people dead or missing since 2006.