New York Times
By Kirk Semple and Elisabeth Malkin
September 7, 2016
Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s finance minister and one of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s closest allies, has resigned and been replaced by José Antonio Meade, the president announced on Wednesday.
The resignation came a week after a meeting between Mr. Peña Nieto and Donald J. Trump, which engendered widespread dismay and anger among Mexicans and reportedly divided Mr. Peña Nieto’s cabinet. It was Mr. Videgaray’s idea to invite Mr. Trump, according to several Mexican news reports, though Mr. Peña Nieto later insisted it was his own.
At a news conference, the president did not give a reason for Mr. Videgaray’s resignation. But some analysts have interpreted it as the latest, and most dramatic, effort by Mr. Peña Nieto to regain the trust of the Mexican public after his meeting with Mr. Trump, the Republican nominee in the American presidential race, who has made repeated criticism of Mexicans and Mexico an incendiary motif of his campaign.
The meeting and its aftermath have been widely viewed as another in a series of embarrassing missteps by Mr. Peña Nieto, whose approval ratings have plummeted this year.
In the days after the meeting, the president scrambled to contain the fallout and repair the damage in a television interview, a newspaper column and a town hall-style meeting. But these steps seemed to do little to mollify many Mexicans, who accused the president of humiliating the nation, first by inviting Mr. Trump and then by failing to use the opportunity to push back against the candidate’s criticism of Mexico and Mexicans.
The discontent has continued to boil on social media and in the press, and an anti-Peña Nieto demonstration has been called for Sept. 15. On Tuesday, an opposition senator — seeking to provide the defense of Mexico that he said Mr. Peña Nieto had failed to provide — submitted a bill that would empower the government to fight back against several of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy proposals, including his promise to force Mexico to pay for the construction of a border wall and his vow to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement.
But if Mr. Videgaray’s resignation was meant to stanch the political bleeding and salvage the president’s standing, it has also shifted the odds in the contest for leadership of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or P.R.I.
Mr. Videgaray, who holds a doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had been a rising star in the P.R.I., and he was often mentioned as a possible contender to represent the party in the 2018 presidential election.
He had worked for Mr. Peña Nieto since 2005, when Mr. Peña Nieto was the governor of the State of Mexico, and he coordinated the campaign team for his presidential bid in 2012.
Mr. Videgaray’s reputation has since been tarnished by reports that he bought a house at a golf club from a government contractor, though they were not enough to force him out of the cabinet or out of contention for 2018. The president, who is known for his loyalty to his inner circle, stuck by him.
As the finance minister, Mr. Videgaray was at the center of the administration’s efforts to overhaul education, telecommunications and energy in Mexico. He successfully pushed to open the nation’s oil industry, which had been a state monopoly since the 1930s, and he championed a tax reform program that earned him some enemies in the business community.
Mexico’s standing with credit-rating agencies has suffered. Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings have each lowered their outlook from stable to negative in recent months.
The government is scheduled to present its 2017 budget on Thursday.
The new finance minister, Mr. Meade, has a doctorate in economics from Yale and has been a significant player in the last two administrations. He was finance minister under Mr. Peña Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderón, and Mr. Peña Nieto made him foreign minister in 2012. In that post, he broke from his reputation as an apolitical technocrat when he led an angry defense of the government against a United Nations report condemning Mexico for its use of torture on suspects in detention.
Thirteen months ago, Mr. Peña Nieto appointed Mr. Meade to head the social development ministry, a post that elevated him into a possible presidential candidate as he traveled around the country promoting the government’s programs for the poor.
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