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President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

On July 2, 2006, Mexico held general elections for president, all seats in Congress, and several state governorships. The presidential race was closely contested between the PAN candidate, former Fox administration energy minister Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and the PRD candidate, populist former mayor of Mexico City Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The PRI candidate, former Tabasco governor Roberto Madrazo Pintado, trailed in the race, as voters appeared wary of returning the PRI to the presidency. Opinion polls indicated that the election was largely a referendum on Mexico's two decades of market-oriented economic reforms.

Calderón promised to continue the reform agenda by promoting greater foreign investment and increasing the competitiveness of Mexico's economy through structural reforms of the pension and labor laws. He also pledged to continue the government's fight against the drug cartels and to improve public safety. By contrast, López Obrador vowed to focus on Mexico's domestic problems, such as poverty and social inequality, and to halt so-called "neo-liberal" reforms. He promised to create thousands of jobs by funding massive public works projects and affirmed that he would seek to renegotiate NAFTA in order to protect Mexican farmers from an influx of imported U.S. corn. Further, López Obrador vowed to break up the unpopular commercial oligopolies that emerged from the privatization of state assets during the 1990s.

Official tallies showed the results of the presidential election to be extremely close. Initial uncertainty about the accuracy of the preliminary vote count led both of the leading candidates to claim victory. However, subsequent official tabulations by the independent Federal Electoral Institute (Instituto Federal Electoral-IFE) confirmed that Calderón had indeed won the election by a slim plurality of 35.89 percent versus López Obrador's 35.31 percent of the vote (a margin of victory of 244,000 votes out of 41.8 million cast).

The results of the 2006 congressional races saw both the PAN and the PRD gain seats at the expense of the formerly dominant PRI. For the first time in its history, the PRI lost its plurality of seats in both houses of Congress, an event observers interpreted as a further sign of the party's decline. Nonetheless, the PRI retained a sufficiently large bloc of seats to remain an influential congressional force and was well positioned to become a coalition partner of any future Mexican government. The PRD retained control of the powerful mayoralty of Mexico City. All three major parties held state governorships.

During 2007, the Calderón administration made public safety and the fight against drug cartels its highest domestic priorities. In response to escalating drug violence, the federal government deployed 24,000 troops to various states and removed hundreds of corrupt police officials. Mexican public opinion strongly backed Calderón's aggressive tactics against the drug gangs. Under Calderón's leadership, the center-right PAN government courted the center-left PRI in an effort to advance the president's legislative agenda. During the 2007 legislative session, Congress passed far-reaching fiscal and pension system reforms that had stalled during the Fox administration.

One of President Fox's (2000-2006) most important reforms was the passage and implementation of freedom of information (FOIA) laws. President Fox also highlighted the need for modernization of Mexico's criminal justice system, including the introduction of oral trials. Judicial reforms stalled at the federal level during the Fox years, but President Calderon succeeded in passing legislation to reform the federal judicial system in 2008. The reform legislation set a timetable of eight years for full implementation. In addition to judicial reform, President Calderon has also succeeded in negotiating with Congress to pass fiscal, electoral, energy, and pension reforms. The administration is grappling with many economic challenges, including a severe GDP contraction in 2009 and the need to upgrade infrastructure, modernize labor laws, and make the energy sector more competitive. Calderon has stated that his top economic priorities remain reducing poverty and creating jobs. In the face of the serious threat posed by organized crime, the Mexican Congress passed legislation in 2009 expanding the investigative and intelligence capabilities of the country's Federal Police. It also set a 4-year deadline for vetting all of the country's 2,500 federal, state, and municipal police forces. By mid-2008 successive Mexican governments had made progress in reforming the economy and reducing extreme poverty. However, significant disparities in wealth, high levels of crime, and corruption persisted. The less-developed states in the south continued to lag economically behind the more prosperous north and center, fueling illegal migration to the United States. Mexico's economy was also lagging behind those of other middle-income countries, such as China, in terms of overall competitiveness. In addition to further consolidating Mexico's transition to democracy, the 2006 general elections presented an opportunity to overcome executive-legislative stalemate and move toward consensus on economic and public-sector reforms.

President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa was born on August 18, 1962, in Morelia, Michoacán. He is the youngest of five brothers, and the son of Carmen Hinojosa de Calderón and the late Luis Calderon Vega, founder, leader and historian of the National Action Party (PAN). He is married to Margarita Zavala Gómez del Campo, with whom he has three children. He holds a bachelor's degree in Law from the Escuela Libre de Derecho, a master's in Economics from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM) and a master's in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard University.

Within the PAN, President Felipe Calderón was Secretary of Studies (1987), National Youth Secretary (1991) and Secretary General (1993). From 1994 to 1995, he was the PAN representative to the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), and in 1995 was candidate for governor of the state of Michoacán. He was elected president of the PAN's National Executive Committee during the three year period from 1996-1999. During his tenure, the PAN achieved significant electoral triumphs and was witness to several important agreements, such as the Electoral Reform, which paved the way for the IFE's autonomy. During his legislative career, President Calderón was Representative of the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District (1988-1991) and Federal Deputy in the 55th Legislature (1991-1994).

In 2000, he was Federal Deputy in the 58th Legislature and was appointed Coordinator of the PAN's Parliamentary Group (2000-2003), where he submitted various law proposals for the consecutive election of deputies, the Law of Responsibilities of the Civil Servant and the rules and regulations to apply the Law of Access to Information in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2002, he was president of the Board of Political Coordination, where he promoted transparency in the use of funds in the Chamber of Deputies.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 13:01:22 ZULU