Inter-American Dialogue's Latin America Advisor

What Legacy Does Felipe Calderón Leave in Mexico?

Felipe Calderón's achievements, such as they are, will be quickly overshadowed by his legacy of a failed strategy in the fight against organized crime and the drug cartels, an unfulfilled pledge to create sufficient jobs to absorb new entrants into the market and a lackluster economic growth record.

Although the country's economy has performed reasonably well when compared to other middle-income nations and most industrialized ones, much of this has been due to a tenuous recovery in the United States, a competitive currency and a resumption of consumer spending on durable goods that Mexico produces for the U.S. market. There is little evidence that the underlying structure of Mexico's economy has improved sufficiently to weather another downturn in the United States or indeed a continuing global recession. Almost nothing was accomplished in getting needed structural reforms passed, nor was there any attempt to define an industrial policy for Mexico beyond promoting the automotive and aerospace sectors.

On the security front, there is little to praise vis-à-vis the current administration's accomplishments. Not only is the high level of deaths attributed to the war on cartels and other criminals ample proof that violence is still very much the order of the day, but the flow of drugs into the United States as well as the wave of assault rifles and other arms coming into Mexico continue relatively unabated.

Incoming President Peña Nieto will hopefully concentrate his government's efforts on achieving the reforms needed to accelerate economic growth, provide many more jobs, reform outdated state institutions and give Mexico the rule of law that is required to build confidence among Mexicans and foreigners alike. Success on these fronts will give longterm sustenance to Mexico's current economic performance.