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Cablegate: A Look at Mexico State, Potemkin Village Style

DE RUEHME #2778/01 2672131
R 242131Z SEP 09

2009-09-24 21:31:00
Embassy Mexico
DE RUEHME #2778/01 2672131
R 242131Z SEP 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 MEXICO 002778


E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/24/2019
REF: MEXICO 002579

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Classified By: Political Minister Counselor Gustavo Delgado.
Reason: 1.4 (b),(d).

1. (C) Summary. Poloffs traveled to Toluca, the capital of
Mexico State (Estado de Mexico - Edomex) and headquarters for
popular Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) Governor
Enrique Pena Nieto, on September 10-11 for what turned out to
be two highly-orchestrated days of meetings with state
officials, politicians, and a civil society representative
hand-picked by Edomex officials to try to better understand
the politics, economics, and leadership of the country's most
populous state. While the visit offered a less-than-balanced
perspective on presidential hopeful Pena Nieto's performance,
it clearly revealed the extent to which his current efforts
are geared to preparing for a future presidential bid, shed
light on his recent outreach to the United States, and
provided some insight into his style of governing. Pena
Nieto's commitment to popular infrastructure projects is
clear; his commitment to progressive reforms is not. With
influence over the majority of the local congress,
municipalities, and a large representation in the federal
Chamber of Deputies, Pena Nieto has an enormous opportunity
to shape state and, to a lesser degree, federal politics over
the next three years. End Summary.


2. (C) Poloffs traveled to Mexico State on September 10-11
for a visit that was highly managed by Edomex officials from
the governor's Office of International Affairs. The handlers
accompanied Poloffs to each meeting, which included
presentations by the Social Development, Education,
Government Secretariats, the State Security Agency, the State
Commission on Human Rights, the Autonomous University of
Mexico State, a local PRI congressman, and a representative
from a civil society organization working with indigenous
communities in the state. At each meeting, representatives
reminded Poloffs of the state's unique political, economic,
and geographic features and challenges. Nearly engulfing
Mexico City, the state counts the largest population in the
country, its 15 million accounting for 13.7 percent of the
national total in only 1.1 percent of the country's
territory. The population is highly transient -- which
officials blame for security and economic challenges -- since
Edomex serves as a transit point for migrants en route to the
United States and also as a destination point for those
looking for work in one of the country's economic hubs. The
state is responsible for a fair share of the Mexican economy,
with its GDP representing almost 10 percent of the country's
total last year.

Party and Personal Politics

3. (C) Elected governor in 2005, Pena Nieto is at a new high
point in his 6 year term in office. The party and other
political opinion makers had pitched the July 5 federal and
local elections as a litmus test for his ability to produce
favorable electoral results for the PRI and prove himself as
more than just a pretty political face. He passed the test
in spades. The PRI went from controlling 55 municipalities
to 97 (of 125), from 19 to 40 local congressional slots (of
45), and from 7 to 38 federal deputies (of 40 directly
elected from Mexico State, plus a number of plurinominal
seats). Mexico State Undersecretary of Government Alejandro
Nieto Enriquez openly admitted that Pena Nieto will have a
much freer hand in implementing policies now that he has seen
to the "decimation" of the National Action Party (PAN) and
Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) in the corridors
bordering Mexico City. He reported that the governor can
also count on support from the Green Party (PVEM), Nueva
Alianza (PANAL), the Social Democratic Party (PSD), and, to a
certain extent, even Convergencia, in the local congress. At
the federal level, Pena Nieto controls the single largest
bloc in the Chamber of Deputies, and the Undersecretary also
said the governor personally wields significant influence in
the Green Party (PVEM), the PRI's electoral and sometime
congressional ally. He said that the leader of the PVEM's
Chamber of Deputies bloc, Juan Jose Guerra Abud, was in fact

MEXICO 00002778 002 OF 005

the governor's former boss and that the two remain close.
Indicative of his growing influence within the party at the
national level, 14 PRI governors (19 of Mexico,s 31
governors are from the PRI) and over 200 federal deputies
attended his yearly "State of the State" address in early
September. While it is too early to say that the PRI is
closing ranks around candidate Pena Nieto, it is clear that a
majority of PRI elected officials see some benefit in
associating more closely with him.

4. (C) A number of factors contributed to the PRI's electoral
success in Mexico State, including the PRD's constant
infighting and the PAN's unlucky affliction with a struggling
economy. Nevertheless, Pena Nieto's popularity in Edomex --
his approval ratings topped 70 percent in a recent, reliable
poll -- certainly provided the party with a much needed boost
in a state that has long had a PRI governor but has had a far
less reliable hold of the local congress and mayorships. The
question, of course, is how much of the esteem for Pena Nieto
is a result of his personal charm and careful crafting of his
image and how much is due to serious work to improve and
reform his state.


5. (SBU) Mexico State's densely packed urban areas and
impoverished districts make it fertile ground for crime of
all sorts. The State Security Agency (ASE) -- Edomex's
preventative police force -- said that 261,849 crimes were
reported in 2008, ranking it 11th nationally but still below
Mexico City in terms of per capita crime rates. Crime rates
have risen about 17.5 percent since 2002, compared to a
national average of 16.4 percent over the same period. In
terms of organized crime violence, Embassy statistics
indicate that Mexico State in 2009 had seen 231 narco-related
homicides as of September 11, 360 in 2008, 11 in 2007, and 31
in 2006. Edomex so far this year has the sixth highest
number of narco-related homicides nationally.

6. (SBU) Improvements in the state's security situation and
reform of its justice apparatus appear high on the
government's agenda. ASE, which includes 14,198 operational
police officers, reported that it is in a period of
transition. The agency is increasingly focused on collection
and use of intelligence in its preventative policing role, as
well as organizing units to focus on specific crimes, which
officials claimed has helped to reduce in particular crime
linked to gangs and increase the capture of criminals by some
30 percent. Poloffs toured the state command center, which
acts as a centralized C-4 (communication, coordination, and
control). Analysts were actively exploiting databases
containing a myriad of information, including fingerprint and
biometric data, license plate numbers, and telephone numbers.
ASE officials said that SEDENA, SSP, and paramedic/fire
teams always have representatives at the command center,
although Poloffs only saw paramedics present during their
tour. While the federal Attorney General's Office (PGR) is
not permanently represented, the command center does have a
"red line" telephone for quick communication when necessary.
As is generally true in the rest of Mexico, ASE indicated
that coordination with the State Attorney General's Office is
not always easy, but indicated that improving communication
between the entities has been a "priority" for the governor.
The command center also serves as an emergency call center,
and Poloffs saw in action a new school alert program that
sends special emergency signals when a disturbance in a
school is detected.

7. (SBU) The ASE is focused on building its technological
capabilities, and indicated it receives technological
assistance for its criminal databases from Germany and Israel
and other aid from Colombia, Spain, Chile, and France. ASE
officials highlighted a new program spearheaded by Governor
Pena Nieto to create a six-state, mid-Mexico regional
database including vehicle and other personal information.
Officials complained that Plataforma Mexico is often slow and
difficult to use, so they try to first exploit state and
regional databases before turning to the national system.
Information fed into state-level systems, however, does
automatically populate Plataforma Mexico, according to the

MEXICO 00002778 003 OF 005

8. (SBU) ASE also maintains internal control mechanisms to
help prevent and excise corruption. Officials noted that
access to the command center's databases is highly
restricted, and municipal-level elements can only receive
information if they have passed through the internal control
measures. The state reported it is actively engaged in
setting up the internal control centers mandated by the
National Public Security System law passed in the federal
congress last year, but said that only 2 percent of its
officers have actually passed through the exam. ASE
officials pointed to a unit in the command center dedicated
to monitoring employees' e-mail usage as another mechanism to
try to control what leaves the building. The ASE claimed
that a citizen participatory council on public security does
exist at the state level, but it was not clear how autonomous
and genuinely "citizen" it is since the governor appoints

9. (SBU) Officials from the State Attorney General's Office
(PJE) also noted that they are in the process of transition
which involves modernizing their operations and adapting to
the federal-level reforms. They are building a new biometric
database in place of Plataforma Mexico, which they say they
have given up on using, and most PJE officials have been
through the internal control vetting tests, such as polygraph
and drug use exams, at least once. Officials complained that
they do not have sufficient resources to deal with the new
investigative and prosecutorial changes passed down to them
as a result of the recently signed narcomenudeo law on
small-time drug trafficking.

Human Rights

10. (SBU) The State Commission on Human Rights is housed in a
new, spacious facility and is clearly receiving significant
funding from the state government. Officials noted
improvements in public access to the commission's services,
such as handicapped facilities and vans that travel to
isolated rural areas or to regions suffering from some sort
of emergency. Commission representatives also pointed to
human rights ombudsmen in every municipality -- at least one
in less populated areas to large operations in urban zones --
as unique amongst government human rights systems in Mexico,
the region, and, they claimed, the world. Officials said
that a citizen participation council actively participates in
human rights matters, and indeed, Poloffs saw a council
meeting convoked to evaluate the ASE's implementation of
vetting mechanisms. The Commission has also developed a
career service for employees to offer them training,
benefits, and prospects for advancement; other state
representatives said such a service is still lacking in much
of the government apparatus. The current Commissioner's term
is coming to an end in October, and his replacement will be
selected by the (now heavily PRI) local congress. (Note:
Poloffs did not speak to outside observers or civil society
representatives on Mexico State's human rights situation.
End note.)

Economy and Development

11. (SBU) Despite swathes of rural areas, Mexico State's
primary economic drivers are manufacturing and logistics, and
state officials maintain that it has suffered less than
Mexico has nationally from the global downturn. Claiming an
almost unbelievable 6 percent growth rate last year,
officials said Edomex is looking to become the country's
logistics hub. Once completed, a new highway linking
Michoacan (Pacific ports) to Veracruz (Gulf of Mexico ports)
will cross the main thoroughfare leading to the United States
in Mexico State, making it geographically strategic for
transportation and manufacturing purposes. The state's
International Relations office is keen to attract
international business and noted that the state must do
better in correcting rule of law deficiencies to assure
companies that their rights will be respected. Foreign firms
more often cite lack of confidence in legal security than
Mexico's struggle with violence as their key concern about
doing business in Mexico State, according to the
International Affairs Office.

MEXICO 00002778 004 OF 005

12. (SBU) Edomex is highly focused on social development
issues, and in fact Pena Nieto counts it as one of his three
"pillars of government" (the other two being public security
and economic security). The Social Development Secretariat
noted that Mexico State has two major urban areas with a
great deal of poverty (Toluca Valley and the metropolitan
Mexico City area), as well as poorly developed, more
indigenous rural areas. It classifies 1.9 million people as
being unable to meet their nutritional requirements, 3.1
million as unable to access adequate education services, and
6.9 million as meeting those most basic needs, but still
lacking in other fundamentals. Officials from the
Secretariat claim that its budget will not be impacted by any
contractions in the FY10 budgeting process due to the
downturn, but rather that its funding is isolated and
specially allocated to ensure that, by law, the development
budget is not lower than the year prior, regardless of the
broader economic situation. The emphasis in the coming year
will be how to treat problems caused by the economic
downturn, including a 5-6 percent rate of unemployment
(which, like the national statistics, is probably
underestimated). Officials highlighted the transparency of
their programs, reporting that they had invited a notable
academic from Berkeley who helped to author the
"Oportunidades" program to study Mexico State programs,
review them, and decide which had been effective and which
had produced only marginal results.

Pena Nieto: The Same Old PRI or Making Real Changes?
--------------------------------------------- -------

13. (C) The PRI bills Pena Nieto as representing a younger,
fresher, and more modern party adapted to the new political
realities of a democratic Mexico; he is often referred to as
the "next President of Mexico." Nevertheless, the governor
hardly appears to be cut from a new cloth. When pressed to
explain Pena Nieto's popularity in the state, government
officials most often pointed to his "Compromisos," or
"Pledges" program. During his campaign, Pena Nieto drew up a
list of over 600 items -- which he primarily drew from
citizen requests and mostly include small infrastructure
projects like paving roads in rural communities -- he
promised to accomplish while in office. He then signed the
list in front of a notary. The state government claims he
has already completed some 400 items and is on track to
complete the rest by the end of his term. While indicating
that the governor can efficiently accomplish projects -- or
at least convince his constituents he can -- Poloffs found
the Compromisos program to smack more of populism than of
achieving lasting reforms in his state. Moreover, every
government building, as well as almost every mile of highway,
every hospital, and every street corner, feature signs
promoting the governor's work in "complying with the
compromiso." More difficult work on serious reforms has been
slower in coming. Mexico State lags in competitiveness,
ranking in the 2009 "Doing Business in Mexico" survey as only
the 28th easiest place (of Mexico,s 31 states and Mexico
City) to conduct business. Edomex has yet to approve
legislation to enable the transformation of the judicial
system -- putting Pena Nieto far behind some other PRI
governors -- and only two percent of state security officials
have been passed through the vetting tests. Pena Nieto's
commitment to popular infrastructure projects is clear; his
commitment to progressive reforms is not.

14. (C) The governor's hand-picked officials even have a
difficult time explaining how he represents a more
progressive PRI. The International Affairs officers railed
against entrenched unions and monopolies, but in the next
breath suggested that this "system" of political and economic
interests would coalesce around Pena Nieto and bring him to
the presidency. When asked how, then, the governor would be
able to break the very forces that backed him, the officials
offered vague murmurs that only from within the system can
you change it -- the PRI created the system, and thus only
the PRI can manage or break it. It is widely accepted, for
example, that television monopoly Televisa backs the governor
and provides him with an extraordinary amount of airtime and
other kinds of coverage. Moreover, as the godson of
ex-President Salinas and made from the entrenched Mexico
State PRI political mold, Pena Nieto is not known for

MEXICO 00002778 005 OF 005

transparency when it comes to his friends and allies -- he
helped shield former PRI Mexico State Governor Arturo Montiel
Rojas from prosecution for corruption charges early on in his
tenure. The Mexico State PRI has a reputation for taking
advantage of gaps in transparency to build campaign war
chests, and given the amount of money flowing through the
state and Pena Nieto's status as a presidential front-runner,
it seems unlikely that his administration would not look to
exploit such opportunities.

15. (C) This is not to underestimate Pena Nieto's -- or his
team's -- political acumen and ability to get things done in
Mexico State. He clearly has expert advice on image
management and public relations -- the constant "Compromisos"
advertisements are testament to that. His government also
has demonstrated itself to be responsive when it counts. The
governor, as well as Secretary-level officials from virtually
every ministry, traveled during Poloffs visit to an area of
the state afflicted by heavy flooding, demonstrating a
responsiveness that citizens crave of their elected leaders.
Moreover, the state has made some progress in implementing
key security measures, such as the introduction of an
effective and efficient C-4 system. Ernesto Cardenas from
the respected NGO Insyde told Poloff that the state's C-4
system is quite well-developed, though indicated that the
security apparatus in general lacks citizen participation.

Outreach to U.S.: 2012 in Sight

16. (C) The governor is clearly making policy with the 2012
presidential election in mind, and his recent outreach to the
United States is no exception. It comes as little surprise
that following his unexpectedly large success in the July
midterm elections, a hurdle to his executive ambitions, he
almost immediately sought increased cooperation with the USG
on security and justice that would include exchanges of
information, technologies, and investigative training and
assistance (reftel). The governor is burnishing his
international credentials. His International Affairs Office
has grown from 8 to 35 individuals, who are on message and
clearly understand what the USG likes to hear on investment,
immigration, and security matters. Pena Nieto's
international affairs coordinator told Poloffs that the
governor has said, "China and India are opportunities. The
United States is our reality." The coordinator also assured
Poloffs that Pena Nieto would look to maintain close security
cooperation with the USG should he become president, but made
no mention of how the governor would look to solve the
country's budgetary problems. State government officials
pushed Poloffs hard for increased ties and assistance. With
the governor keen to demonstrate he is ready for a job, we
can only expect Edomex to court us with increasing intensity
over the course of the next three, pre-campaign and campaign
Visit Mexico City's Classified Web Site at and the North American
Partnership Blog at /


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