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Mexico’s next president names transition team

By Tracy Wilkinson and Daniel Hernandez, Los Angeles Times –

MEXICO CITY — Outlines of the next government of Mexico began to emerge Tuesday when President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto named a transition team packed with advisers from his inner circle and members of his controversial governorship of Mexico’s most populous state.

In a brief appearance before reporters amid tight security at a Mexico City hotel, Pena Nieto named 39 men and seven women to usher in his presidency, which takes office on Dec. 1. The inauguration will mark the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled Mexico for seven decades until being ousted in 2000.

An electoral tribunal on Friday unanimously voted to confirm Pena Nieto’s victory in the July 1 election, rejecting a string of challenges primarily from the leftist candidate who came in second, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

The top job on the transition team went to Luis Videgaray, who managed Pena Nieto’s campaign and is considered one of his closest confidantes. The MIT-educated economist served in finance-related jobs in Pena Nieto’s administration as governor of the state of Mexico from 2005 to 2011.

The part of the team handling security and related issues  will be headed by Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, former PRI governor of the state of Hidalgo.

Some of the more eyebrow-raising appointments included Roberto Campa, who was the 2006 presidential candidate put forward by Elba Esther Gordillo, head of the ultra-powerful teachers union and one of the most feared women in Mexico. Her tight control of the union has often been blamed in part for the dismal condition of education in Mexico.

And Alfredo Castillo, until recently attorney general for the state of Mexico who was criticized by some women’s groups for what they described as a failure to investigate a string of rapes and killings of women, was named to coordinate justice issues.

Questions have been swirling around what kind of president Pena Nieto will be. The PRI was known for deep corruption and sometimes heavy-handed authoritarian practices. Pena Nieto has vowed that today’s PRI is a changed and modernized party and will govern that way.

Some critics have suggested that if the presidency looks like the governorship of the state of Mexico, the country is in for trouble. The state, which abuts Mexico City on three sides, became a hotbed of killings, extortion and kidnapping in the last decade,  crimes that Pena Nieto has specifically promised to fight.

The president-elect said Tuesday that the people in the transition team would not necessarily be part of his Cabinet when his term starts.

Many of those on the team are with the PRI, but there were also a few who are not. One of the most prominent of those was Rosario Robles, who served briefly as leftist mayor of Mexico City from 1992 to 2000, the first woman to hold the post.

“Today, together and onward,” Robles said in an interview. “We’re already looking forward. We have a decision from the tribunal, we have a president-elect, and now we need to work for Mexico. This country deserves the work of everyone.”

Outside the Hyatt Hotel on Campos Eliseos Boulevard in the tony Polanco neighborhood, where Pena Nieto appeared, a small group of about 10 protesters kept watch.

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