Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mexican Protesters Demand Ouster of President

By Elizabeth Malkin

MEXICO CITY — As President Enrique Peña Nieto prepared for the beginning of Mexico’s Independence Day celebrations, protesters took to the streets of capital on Thursday to demand his resignation.
Chanting “Peña out,” several thousand mostly young demonstrators marched peacefully past the glass towers of the city’s main boulevard, Paseo de la Reforma, in the waning afternoon light, hours before the president, whose government has been buffeted by a series of scandals and a weakening economy, was to formally start the long Independence Day weekend by ringing a bell on the balcony of the National Palace.
“I am here because I want my country to have a political system that holds an official accountable for bad performance,” said Alberto Serdán, 37, a public policy researcher and blogger. With each crisis, Mr. Serdán added, the government “simply loses any notion of dignity and capacity to rule.”
Mr. Peña Nieto has become Mexico’s most unpopular president in a quarter-century, opinion polls show, as frustrations mount over entrenched corruption and anxiety rises over economic stagnation and an increase in murders to the highest level since he took office.
Even so, Thursday’s protest was not nearly as large as past demonstrations. City officials said they had expected only 1,000 people. Many more showed up but were blocked from entering the Zócalo, the central square that is the site of the National Palace.
Anger has crystallized over the past two weeks after Mr. Peña Nieto invited Donald J. Trump to Mexico and treated him like a fellow head of state. Mr. Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, is reviled here for, among other things, accusing Mexico of sending drugs and rapists over the border.
Mr. Peña Nieto’s finance minister, Luis Videgaray, resigned a week later after news media reports described him as the person who had proposed the visit. But the departure of Mr. Videgaray, a close associate of Mr. Peña Nieto’s and the architect of many of his policies, did little to quell the discontent.
As Mr. Peña Nieto enters the final two years of his six-year term, there is a sense among his many critics that the country is adrift and that he cannot change course.
“The country does not deserve two more years of political distrust and limitless uncertainty,” Ricardo Raphael, a journalist and commentator with the newspaper El Universal, wrote on Thursday.
Last week, Mr. Peña Nieto tried to brush off his critics.
“Political decisions are sometimes subject to enormous polemic,” he said at the inauguration of a park. “And maybe today they are not understood, but I am sure that the time will come when the reason for each decision will be comprehended.”

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