It's Inauguration Day in Mexico, and President Enrique Pena Nieto inherits a country with a mixed record.
Most of Mexico is embroiled in a deadly drug war that has claimed the lives of as many as 50,000 people, but Pena Nieto is also taking over an economy that is doing surprisingly well — thanks, many say, to the outgoing head of state.
For more on the developing relationship between Mexico and United States, we're joined now by Jorge Castaneda. Mr. Castaneda served as Mexico's secretary of foreign affairs from 2000-2003. In 2004, he launched an independent bid to run for president as the people's candidate, but Mexico's Supreme Court declared he couldn't run without the endorsement of an official party. These days, Mr. Castaneda is an academic and commentator. He joins us from his home in Manhattan. Thanks very much for being with us.
Most of the news we hear about Mexico these days is about drug-related violence. But it turns out there's another, brighter story there: The country's economy has been growing at a solid pace for the past couple years, driven in large part by solid exports.
Among other things, Mexico is the world's largest exporter of flat-screen TVs. There are a lot of factories just south of the U.S. border, filled with workers putting together televisions. The individual parts come from Asia, but the final assembly is done in Mexico.
Since the drug war in Mexico began in 2006, more than 50,000 people have been killed and organized crime has infiltrated, in one way or another, virtually every part of society. Many children have lost family members or become victims themselves. Cartels have also begun recruiting kids to work, often as mules. Even those young people who don't feel the drug war directly have to confront its effects on TV and at school, where bullies imitate narco-traffickers.
In the most prominent park in Mexico City, you can find statues to international heroes like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and now Heydar Aliyev. He was a Soviet-era autocrat in Central Asia. The late leader's government paid for the statue and restoration of a nearby plaza. And as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, that's created quite a stir in the Mexican capital.