Program: Noticiero Univision
Content: Interview with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
Air Date: Sunday, March 2, 2014
LK: León Krauze, Univision News Anchor, Univision 34, KMEX-TV
EPN: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto
LK: Mr. President, thank you for this opportunity.
EPN: Thank you, León. It’s good to see you.
LK: Same here.
EPN: And this opportunity.
LK: Let me start with this. Tell me what the day of the capture of Joaquín Guzmán was like for you. Tell me about your day.
EPN: It was Saturday. And obviously I saw it with great satisfaction, very happy, and very happy to receive the call from the Secretary of the Interior, who was the first one to inform me of what was happening, of the meeting that had already been called of heads of"or leaders of security-related areas of the Mexican government. And beginning yesterday I started to communicate with all the responsible parties, such as the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of Defense, the Attorney General, ah, to gather, obviously, information from each one of them, knowing they were on their way to meet, well, it happened in a period of just a few minutes.
LK: Where were you, physically?
EPN: I was in Ixtapa de la Sal. I had gone there just the previous night. Later I came here to Mexico City to follow here at"at Los Pinos, to follow what was happening. The meeting of the Secretary of the Interior with all the heads of those areas took place. And well, it followed what was being carried out. From the meeting, they later went to the Mexico City airport to wait for Chapo Guzmán to arrive. Well, that’s how he’s known by the public.
LK: Yes, yes.
EPN: And above anything else, something that was very important, an issue that I pressed: verifying the identity of the person who had been apprehended.
LK: When, how did they confirm to you that it was, in fact, Joaquín Guzmán?
EPN: Precisely just a few minutes before I announced and made public the recognition of this accomplishment by all the areas in charge of security of the Mexican government, which also had been preceded by several other operations that had taken place, particularly on previous days. It wasn’t a random issue. It was clear that we were, ah, the security offices were working to capture the world’s most wanted criminal; they were working. And in previous days, several operations had taken place, precisely in which they were getting close. They were very public, some of them in particular. Some people linked to this criminal were apprehended. And finally, it was a very pleasant surprise to find out very early on Saturday about the operation, that he had been detained early that morning, and obviously, to make sure it was, in fact, that person. That is why there was a delay and the news started to leak. I can’t tell you, can’t even say where they came from, apparently some international press agency announced this apprehension. And obviously, I was aware that it had happened, but I couldn’t confirm the news until we were 100 percent sure of the identity of the arrested person.
LK: Before the operation, before that call, and you were in Ixtapa de la Sal, did you know what was happening, that this operation was going to take place?
EPN: I was aware of the whole operation that had been taking place throughout the week. Precisely, well, we had"we had had several events during the week. The summit was on Wednesday. That same day was the celebration that marks the Day of the Army.
LK: Yes, yes.
EPN: Even on Tuesday, on the 18th, well, I spoke there informally to the heads of these areas, and they were updating me on what was happening, on how we were getting close. I said, “Well, I really want us to be successful. Let’s give a good surprise, a great surprise in the next few days”. I mean, you never know when it’s going to happen. You expect it to happen at any time. What was clear to me was that we were getting close, that they were taking, ah, positions that eventually turned out to be hiding places for this criminal. The houses that were secured, the Mexican government’s intelligence systems. And when I talk about the intelligence system, I’m referring to the ability to analyze information, the use of technology to track the phones that this criminal gang was known to have and, well, finally, with this outcome, which I believe is very satisfactory for the Mexican government, a confirmation of the good coordination that there is at two different levels. First, at the federal level. Recognition of this accomplishment, it’s clear, belongs to the Mexican government, not just one of the areas. It belongs to all the Federal government agencies that participated, that coordinate, that share information, that coordinate for"the operations that are carried out, the recent operations of this week, in particular, had been led by the Navy and the Attorney General’s Office, had been acting in a very coordinated manner, and that’s how the"the whole government does it. The information from CISEN is undoubtedly relevant, which in addition is the area that cooperates with the United States. At the summit we reaffirmed this cooperation, to try to be more efficient, studying very orderly mechanisms for sharing information. And all this, well, allows us to accomplish this. But also, as I’ve pointed out, León, in no way have we assumed a triumphant attitude, we fight"
LK: Let me go back a bit. You spoke just now about the actions with the United States. There are two questions, basically. Were there North American agents in the operation? The answer is…
EPN: There were not "
EPN: "agents. There had been information sharing, obviously, cooperation, and the operation itself was carried out by people from the Navy.
LK: The second question is regarding intelligence; the version that’s going around everywhere now is that without the DEA, without that cooperation specifically from the DEA and what is called ICE in the United States, those in charge of immigration in the United States Would it have been possible to locate Joaquín Guzmán without their help? Do you agree that it would not have been possible to locate him without the intelligence, the cooperation of North American intelligence?
EPN: I believe that this apprehension, like others that have taken place of wanted criminals, because they are relevant people within criminal organizations, we have 122 targets, 122 people identified since the beginning of this Administration as highly dangerous criminals. So far, 75 have been arrested. Some have fallen in some of the confrontations; others have been arrested and face prosecution. And I believe that for the arrest of all those criminals, the information that is shared in collaboration and cooperation between the United States and Mexico has been valuable. Which turns out to be decisive? I think all of it. I think that all of the information, all of the cooperation that was precisely used to ensure a secure border, to deal with transnational criminal organizations, well, turns out to be really important, relevant"
LK: But not indispensable?
EPN: I’d say that everything is important. I believe that everything is important.
LK: But it’s not the same as"
EPN: And to simply weigh which is more valuable than the other, I’d say that what are important are the results. What’s important is the result, the operation carried out by the Navy, the coordination you’re seeing, I stress, and here forgive me if I emphasize, because it does represent a change, perhaps, from what we’ve observed in recent years, compared to what we’re seeing today. Today there’s more coordination, a higher level of trust among the areas in charge of security in the Mexican government at the federal level, and I’m referring to the Department of the Interior, particularly through the Federal Police; the CISEN; the departments, the two departments of our armed forces, both the Department of Defense and the Navy; the Attorney General’s Office"they’re areas that have improved very much in their level of coordination, of good relationships and good coordination. And this arrest, along with others that have taken place and others that will, I expect, take place soon involving the most wanted criminals, are true testament of the efficiency in the performance of the Mexican government.
LK: Let me insist one last time, Mr. President. There is no effort to play down the credit and role of American intelligence. That is, I believe that it’s evident that they have a role. There is no intention, let’s say, an effort to play down the important role they have, this very close cooperation that you yourself "
EPN: Oh, well, I think I’m the first one to say that this, undoubtedly, this collaboration is fundamental, it’s important. I believe that both governments are after the same criminals, after the same targets, and the cooperation we have in information sharing, the strategy we’re following, in the information that eventually may come out of the United States through their intelligence offices, which takes place right here if eventually there is a displacement of criminals to the United States, I believe is fundamental. I believe that we are in no way trying to play down this accomplishment, with only the results or the contribution of the…. I believe that here there is a"I believe that ever since the statement itself by the Attorney General, when"when he announced the apprehension to the public after having fully implicated the criminal, simply confirmed that this accomplishment had to do with the exchange of information, with the existing intelligence collaboration with the United States, in face of a criminal that is wanted by both governments.
LK: Let me ask you now about the next stage, which is extradition.
EPN: I, if you’d like me to, I’ll share something else with you but I don’t know what you would do with it. The fact is that early that day, on Saturday, well, we had just finished very late, and very early they tell me, “Listen, the Secretary of the Interior is looking for you.” I said, “What now?” A call from the Secretary of the Interior… I said, well, what happened? It’s unusual that early, particularly when we had just said goodbye a few hours earlier, I say, “Well, what happened?” So I check in through the network and I speak to him and he informs me of this.
LK: What a moment!
EPN: He informs me of this, but I insist, let’s verify the identity. And I later speak with the Secretary of the Navy, who obviously also told me, “let’s see.” He even sent me some photos of the apprehension and told me, “I have"” He told me, “I’m almost certain that it is him, in fact, but obviously, the necessary tests must be done,” which is what happens between the arrival, the tests. And that’s why, perhaps, it took us some time to give a statement. That is, we needed to be certain that we had truly apprehended this criminal.
LK: And when executing the operation, the moment when Obama was told, “We got him. Geronimo down.” The moment in which you’re sitting at your desk, wherever you were, and they tell you, “We’re sure that it’s Joaquín Guzmán,” what did you feel?
EPN: I was wearing sports clothes because I was going to go jogging. I wasn’t"ah, obviously, it changed all my plans for that day, ah, at least that morning, and very glad. Obviously, very glad about the achievement. I stress, I was abreast that in previous days we’d practically managed to apprehend him, particularly when they searched the houses, and what they found is widely known by now, having found a person who was very close to this criminal, a place that without a doubt was a hiding place for him. Well, it meant that we were very close, that we were really getting close to the places, and I hoped that from one moment to another, we would manage to apprehend him. When was it going to happen? Truly unknown. Truly unknown, and that is why it was a"a very early morning for me and I was very happy and pleased when I found out.
LK: Let’s go back to the extradition issue. That is, this morning we awoke to the news that the Attorney General and Attorney General Holder are speaking, that is, obviously there is"a desire on the part of the United States to have Joaquín Guzmán. And it’s logical that that is the case. What do you prefer? For him to remain or be extradited at this time?
EPN: I think that at this time, first I think that the extradition process can take time. Eventually it’s a process that can"that will have to start and that has not taken place yet in a formal way, beyond there being an oral request. A process must take place. And I believe that it’s a deliberation that the Attorney General’s Office itself will have to do, based on the investigations and the criminal cases that"that have already begun against this criminal, not only because of the re-apprehension, and consequently, serving the punishment he is sentenced to, but also the new charges that must be filed. That doesn’t mean that eventually there might not be an extradition request and a time to do it based on the international agreements that Mexico has in place with the United States and other countries, so, I believe it will have to meet the terms of those international agreements. I believe that here he’s a criminal who must face Mexican justice. He must face the prosecution that the country’s Attorney General’s Office has initiated. And I emphasize, that doesn’t mean that eventually and at some point, it’s hard to say now"eventually he could be extradited to face prosecution under the charges he faces in the United States.
LK: But first and for the time being, he should stay in this country?
EPN: For now, allow the prosecution he’s eventually facing under Mexican justice to continue.
LK: Also, today I was reviewing the polls and one of them caught my attention. Seventy, almost 70 percent of Mexicans say that there is a chance that Joaquín Guzmán will escape again. Do you promise that this won’t happen?
EPN: It’s an obligation that the government of Mexico has, especially, I believe, given what happened in the past. It would be like allowing something that is truly regrettable, I mean, unforgivable"that now the State and the government take the appropriate measures to ensure that what happened a few years ago won’t repeat itself. It’s clear that we’re taking measures. It’s something that I’ve insisted on, well, believe me, every day with the Secretary of the Interior; it’s something that becomes" and they are watching him closely. He is secure because, obviously, it’s a responsibility, I believe, it is a burden on the shoulders of the country’s government, to make sure that the escape that happened a few years ago doesn’t happen again.
LK: The New York Times newspaper has on its front page an article that says, “The Chapo’s Arrest Unlikely to Break Mexican Cartel”, and adds the following. I will quote. “The cartel has transcended the man,” and he mentions this example, “If the C.E.O. of McDonald’s were arrested today, you could still buy a hamburger in Tokyo tomorrow.” What’s your opinion? Does this lead or can it lead to the end of the Sinaloa Cartel?
EPN: My opinion, about this one and the others, the arrest of those very dangerous criminals, who are the heads of criminal organizations who have been apprehended: That the mere arrest of these bosses obviously does not put an end to the problem. Rather, it’s a matter that allows for dismantling these criminal gangs, the fragmentation and obviously a greater capacity of the government, which gains credibility to fight against them. I believe that this is part of a process that must be followed, as we have been doing, not only in dismantling this criminal organization, but also the others that have"have taken root in several parts of the country. And it’s a permanent part of the effort by the Mexican government, as I think happens throughout the world; that is, there is no country that is exempt from having criminals, from having criminal organizations. What’s important is their size and I think that the apprehension of its main leaders, who lead these organizations, the"the apprehension, accomplishing their apprehension, also implies the start of dismantling these organizations and a resulting fragmentation, a greater capacity that the Mexican government will have to fight them in a greatly diminished and reduced manner.
LK: Now, there was a glass that was half empty. There are people who say that this fragmentation will generate more gangs, more criminals that will be more unpredictable, more violent. In case that happens with the Sinaloa organization, is the Mexican government prepared?
EPN: I believe that we have ensured that the Mexican government, as this apprehension has proven, has been strengthening its capacity to fight organized crime. Undoubtedly, today there’s greater capacity. The operation carried out by the Department of the Navy specifically for the apprehension of this kingpin, well, I think it clearly shows that the Mexican government has the capacity, that there are new strengths, that there’s new capacity to use technology in the hunting down of very dangerous criminals and all kinds of criminals. Consequently, I believe that this strengthening will continue to earn recognition for us as we continue to have greater success, bigger apprehensions and also manage to recover control of the territory in some spots of our country’s geography, as it’s happening, for example, today in Michoacán; the strengthening of institutional capacity, not only of the federal government, but also state governments and local governments. This strengthening, I believe, must"will lead us to have a more secure environment throughout the country.
LK: Do you believe that you can use Joaquín Guzmán as a source of information to attack other organizations"
EPN: I think that "
LK: "Particularly violent organizations, such as"?
EPN: I believe that that’s going to happen in this case and in others. I believe that the investigations carried out by the Attorney General’s Office, the information provided by the people who are apprehended, strengthen and allow us to expand the investigations that are done about other cases.
LK: But this is not just any character.
EPN: Well, without a doubt, he’s a character, well, obviously, the most wanted criminal in the world, and I believe that eventually the Attorney General’s Office has here a window of opportunity to get more information that will allow it to go after other very dangerous criminals and other criminal organizations.
LK: To wrap up the Joaquín Guzmán subject and speak about Michoacán and a couple of other very important issues for us, what’s with the networks"we said he’s not just any character. What’s with this man’s protection network? This man could not have built this empire alone or only with a criminal network. What’s with the protection network: politicians, judges, public ministries, that are clearly there? Will the Mexican government go up against them with all"
EPN: It goes up against everything. It goes up against everything and I hope that the pieces of information that this criminal provides now that he is, that he has been apprehended and that the Attorney General’s Office has open investigations and that will obviously be investigating regarding several elements, we will go against anything it provides that ultimately points to complicity of, eventually, different private sector agents, public sector agents here and in the United States and anywhere in the world. I believe that surely it will provide plenty to talk about in the upcoming months, based on the investigations that the Attorney General’s Office is carrying out.
LK: Michoacán"you were in Michoacán yesterday. You said two things that stayed with me. You said, “There are no magic solutions,” and you said, “It will take time.” There are three million plus people from Michoacán living in the United States right now and listening to you right now. What’s your message for them? How much time are we talking about before their land is peaceful once again?
EPN: Look, León, I think there isn’t a precise time because, obviously, the social decay in Michoacán goes back a long time, decades, I believe, that there’s been decay. And when it comes down to it, what we’re doing is not just recovering control over the territory, which local law enforcement agencies had lost. That’s why the federal government made the decision, at the request of local authorities, to take over security, especially in the well-known municipalities of Tierra Caliente, to temporarily replace the presence there of local law enforcement agencies that had lost capacity and institutional strength.
LK: Was there a lack of government?
EPN: There was a lack of security forces in those municipalities. But second, it’s not the only thing lacking in Michoacán, just as it’s not the only thing lacking in several entities, especially in the southern part of our country. We need to accomplish greater development, to create opportunities for its population. And that’s what we’re doing, along with taking part in this operation to recover control of the territory, in order to achieve strengthening, construction, new construction of the institutions in charge of public safety, from the state level to municipal levels. At the same time, the federal government is going in with all of its capacity and on all fronts, from different areas of the government, to help the population, to respond to social demands. For example, in the region where I was yesterday on the Purépecha Plateau"
EPN: "there was a population that wasn’t benefiting from any of the programs the government has. Let’s not even talk about the"the opportunities program; they didn’t have the benefit, for example, of the Liconsa dairy, of the Liconsa stores, where they could buy staples at better prices, and that’s what we’re doing. Yesterday we found out that there are at least 40 communities in that region that don’t have electric power because they’re spread out, they’re remote. Well, yesterday we committed to take electric power service there. I emphasize, while we are dealing with the security issue, we’re supporting social development in the State of Michoacán. And something truly encouraging and motivating for me yesterday was to listen to the testimonies of the population, which truly want a change, that doesn’t want its state to be known as an unsafe State, that lacks the conditions for security and for development. They’re truly hard-working people, industrious people, and so is the population we have throughout Mexico. Hearing those testimonies yesterday turned out to be very emotional for me, especially from women who spoke to me openly, very clearly of what they want for their State, and recognizing that the Federal government is there to support them. I told them, “Let’s see, the Federal government is your ally. We’ll be here. We’ll remain here, supporting you on different fronts.” I’m referring to the education front, the health front, the front of the social programs that we are implementing on behalf of the population that most needs it in the State of Michoacán, and something I did yesterday, a clear recognition. The participation that society itself is having: it is the citizens of Michoacán, it is the residents of these communities who actively and very enthusiastically are participating to improve conditions in their own communities. They are the architects of that change, of that transformation that Michoacán is having, and how long will it take? Well, you can’t specify a time or a date. What’s important is that there is willingness, a determination to be there and support that State and other States that unfortunately are facing the conditions of greater social underdevelopment.
LK: Do you think that at this time the self-defense groups can be partners of the Mexican government to recover everything you just described?
EPN: Look, the Federal government doesn’t encourage self-defense groups, nor does it stimulate or motivate the creation of groups with such traits. It’s clear that the responsibility to offer safe conditions to the population is uniquely and exclusively the Mexican government’s, without failing to recognize a phenomenon from those groups in society who genuinely organized to defend themselves, given the presence of criminal groups, given the weakening of the law enforcement agencies in their jurisdictions or the Mexican government organizations in charge of safety. Obviously it’s a phenomenon that we must recognize and we have noticed it. If you’re interested in supporting, in recovering safe conditions in Michoacán, you must do it through legal ways, through institutional means. That’s why we started a whole identification process of who belongs to these self-defense groups, the registration of the fire arms that they might eventually have, and that they also need to train and to pass tests of trustworthiness. That is, that residents there should have the certainty that those groups don’t belong to other criminal organizations that, under the shield of eventual self-defense groups, intend to fight other groups that have a presence in certain places.
LK: And today….
EPN: I want to gather, want to think that it is with these groups that the government has been building bridges for dialogue, for rapprochement. They are those that we identify who are genuinely citizens interested in participating in the efforts to recover security in their populations. But by no means are they something that we encourage or promote. And at the end of the day, we must consider at this time our efforts with the presence of this social phenomenon that they went through or they are going through in Michoacán.
LK: Let’s talk about an important subject for Mexicans and Central Americans, which is migration. The government of Mexico has for a long time been complying with a series of requests, requisites, some known, others unknown to the public, that have reduced the influx of Central Americans to the United States; has done its part and more in exchange for nothing in return, Mr. President. Nothing. Is it time to demand more in the migration reform process?
EPN: The Mexican government has been, and I say it here, in favor of this position that is held by the President of the United States, by the political parties, particularly the two main political parties in the United States, which have been working on this migration reform. For the government of Mexico, without a doubt, it seems to me, it’s something that, justly, that should have been achieved a long time ago. It’s recognizing the value of a country that truly has been made of immigrants and that today amount to a considerable number " they say 11 million migrants who don’t have a regular status, whose legal presence in that country isn’t recognized, and who nonetheless contribute with their daily efforts to the wealth of that country, to the economic dynamics of that country. It seems it would be just for a migration reform to take place, at least, that recognizes this effort and allows them to eventually legalize their presence in the United States. Mexico has been respectful of this process. It’s clear that it’s an internal process that is taking place in the United States, that it’s a matter of domestic politics for the United States, but undoubtedly, we view it with great sympathy. We haven’t even wanted to interfere in an issue that belongs to the United States, but it seems to be that it’s not"I’ll mention it and state it again, I think it’s in the interest of justice for this migration reform to move forward, and I believe that it must have the backing and support of the different political forces that exist in that country.
LK: Migration reform is a domestic policy issue, and we all understand that. But deportations aren’t, because there are thousands and thousands and thousands of Mexicans that I see every day in Los Angeles with broken families, with lost childhoods. Doesn’t it offend you, to know that there is a humanitarian crisis of that caliber due to deportations?
EPN: Yes, it offends me and it offends Mexicans. And we lament that this happens and it was a subject we addressed during the bi-national summit before the summit of the three countries, which took place last week in the city of Toluca. It was a subject in which we asked the American government to have greater cooperation. Just as we’ve proven to have good collaboration in security issues, regarding this issue we also demand greater collaboration that will allow us to take care and pay attention, eventually, to those who for some reason are deported, learn more about those who eventually are deported, their conditions, their background and pay due attention to them. Otherwise, a problem that is apparently decided in the United States not only for migration reasons but also, eventually, for other reasons"well, this issue cannot arrive in our country without more information. And I believe we’re building a pathway for institutional connections to have that type of collaboration.
LK: Aside from when they arrive here in Mexico, which is a great humanitarian crisis, and something else is the deportation process itself, of the mother in Utah that I met, who left behind two daughters, one with kidney disease, and so on. I could literally give you ten examples. In this particular issue, should the government of the United States change this policy, which The Economist magazine described as cruel? Cruel, it said, regarding deportation. Is it in the Mexican government’s interest for this policy to change?
EPN: Let’s see, of course it’s in the Mexican government’s interest. But it has to do more with what must be the American government’s own conscience, a country of migrants, a country that was born and been made, and has generated conditions with the presence of people from different parts of the world, of different races, who today have found a place in that country that is the United States. I think that it must alert and awaken the conscience of those who have public responsibility for its political forces in order to really open a space for opportunity like the one they themselves had in the past or like the one the original founding families of that country, who, I emphasize, came from different parts of the world, had. Mexico has demonstrated its great"its great concern regarding this issue. I insist, it was a relevant, important subject that we put on the table at the meeting and in the bi-national agreement we had with the United States. And I would expect the openness there was so that we could really build, I insist, this"this relationship and this coordination to better attend people who are eventually deported, who may be from Mexico or from other parts of"they may be from Central America, they may be from South America, and that they simply take you to the border, and the Mexican government will simply have to take a course of action on the issue. It has to get involved, but it can’t be the case that you don’t know on what part of the border, a 3,000-kilometer border, and at what point it is that eventually some deportation will take place. But I think that this, this"this"this fact, this condition that you point out which causes indignation, of course it causes indignation, because today it is separating families that already live in the United States. Maybe because one member who isn’t or who doesn’t have legal status in that country, but whose children were born in the United States, what’s seen there is an injustice, close-mindedness, a lack of conscience, something that, it seems to me, shouldn’t just alarm and concern Mexicans. It should also concern the U.S. government, and it should address this issue. And it’s clear that the best way to attract attention for this group of people who eventually find themselves subject to deportation"um, it can’t be through disputes or confrontations. We are a government that simply wants to have the appropriate coordination, an open dialogue. I think that the summit held last week in Toluca allowed, among other things, in addition to the points that were discussed about which we reported at the appropriate time, a strengthening of the relationship. Behind institutions, León, are people. Behind governments are people, and a summit, a meeting like the one we had last week, has allowed us to strengthen the relationship; it has allowed those of us who have the responsibility to lead the governments of these three countries and who must be conscious of the social problems that we have and that we share and that we must really, um, face with greater coordination and more willingness to support this social phenomenon and other issues that are part of the combined attention that we must focus on it, to look each other in the eye.
LK: I like that part about you looking at Barack Obama in the eyes, just as I am looking at you now. What did you see in the eyes of Barack Obama regarding those hundreds of thousands of Mexicans that he has deported, broken families? What did you see in the eyes of the President of the United States?
EPN: I saw willingness for us to pay attention to the issue. Orders went out from the working group to work, through the authorities, both of the U.S. governments and, in this case, the Department of the Interior, on the mechanisms to attend better to this issue. And, um, I emphasize, I believe that the migration reform that has been proposed and that has been postponed, we hope that it is something that can hopefully be addressed very soon and that can have the necessary political backing for it to move forward.
LK: Let’s see if you can also look at the Republicans in the eyes as well.
EPN: Well, I think it’s more that they are also the ones who need to pay attention. I’m not just referring to this political reform. I think they need to pay attention to what is a phenomenon of evolution that every country experiences, and the United States is not exempt from this social evolution, and it seems to me that migration reform is just a minimum of attention and recognition to migratory flows that have arrived in that country over many years and that today are part, practically, of a, um, of the culture of that country and that contribute to the wealth of that country.
LK: Let’s talk about the reforms.
EPN: In this pleasant conversation.
LK: Thank you. Well, let’s see what you think. In a few days, Alfonso Cuarón will win the Oscar for best director, the first Mexican to do so. A couple of weeks ago in an interview with Reforma, a long interview, he said, “You, you are selling out the country with the reforms.” Is Cuarón right? Are you selling out the country?
EPN: Not at all, León. It is obvious, first, that I acknowledge him as a great Mexican filmmaker, and I, personally, really hope that he achieves this recognition that he is hoping to receive. And I think that we Mexicans will be sharing in the great joy of achieving this, um this award that he may ultimately receive. And second, I think that as far as the reforms that have been started in Mexico, there has been no lack of disinformation generated by groups opposed to these reforms. And that’s why, well, some people wind up buying or, with, um, insufficient information, they simply don’t know the scope and the meaning of the reforms, the reforms that today are recognized in the world, that are recognized because people know that orchestrating these reforms will allow Mexico to grow economically, to have better social conditions as a consequence, to empower the capacity of Mexico to have, I emphasize, greater economic dynamism. The world has been acknowledging this fact. That has given us a better rating, precisely because of the prospective, not just because of what has been achieved, or, rather, based on what has been achieved and the prospect of economic growth that people hope Mexico will have in the future. But here, invariably, and if this was an allusion or reference to the energy issue"
EPN: "it is more than clear that here, on the contrary, Mexico, and this is inscribed in its own Constitution, claims and makes it very clear that subsoil resources belong to the nation, to Mexicans. And moreover, it opens spaces of opportunity for the exploitation of those resources, which belong to the nation, to be done through the, through entities of the State itself or with the participation of the private sector for the benefit of the State itself and for the development of all Mexicans.
LK: Another common reading that I’ve found lately in Mexico is: the reforms, people don’t understand them and people don’t feel them. I don’t know when they are going to understand them. But when, can you tell me, when are people going to begin to feel the practical, specific benefit of the reforms?
EPN: I have pointed out on more than one occasion, León, that the reforms achieved last year and that this year we are still in the concluding stage of things related to the secondary legislation, obviously, are means, they are instruments to empower and really free our strength as a country, our capacity to grow economically at higher rates and in a sustained way, which will be the only thing that will really allow us to significantly reduce levels of, of social underdevelopment, the levels of poverty that our country has.
LK: But that sounds very macro, doesn’t it?
EPN: It is macro and it is the means. Now, I have also pointed out that the benefits that will derive from these reforms will be felt gradually. I think that what the population of our country expects, the benefits that it expects from these reforms, will be felt over time. Over time, and I’m talking about this year, when we have higher economic growth, like from the prospect of when we can really open up competition in different sectors that will allow the population to have services that will eventually be much more inexpensive, to compete on quality and price, in the telecommunications area, in access to the Internet, with financial reform, which will allow Mexicans to have greater access to credit and cheaper credit under better conditions. All of that is the objective of the reforms. Obviously, the materialization of the benefits among Mexicans will be achieved over time.
LK: There are a lot of very angry business groups. The last time I interviewed you, you said, “The responsibility of the Mexican government is very clear to me.” At this juncture, in this place that is different to that of last time, what is the responsibility of the Mexican government with regard to those people who resist, many very powerful business groups?
EPN: The Mexican government has only one responsibility, León, which is to achieve conditions of greater well-being for the population. It is to ensure growth across the territory of the nation; it is to ensure that opportunities are achieved for the development of every individual, of every Mexican, across all parts of the nation’s geography.
LK: In other words, the informal powers that be"
EPN: And obviously and everyone, and everyone, including the famous or the mentioned informal powers that be, all of them, I heard from several of them about the need to make structural changes, structural reforms, changes in the"changes in the game.
LK: All will be reformed?
EPN: Well, I think that if you gather testimonies from several years ago, a few years ago and, above all, from recent times"
LK: But the implementation hasn’t arrived yet.
EPN: "there are all kinds. The issue is that at the end of the day, any structural change always faces resistance from some sectors. Some sectors that would have wanted to have structural reforms, but don’t touch what is mine or where my interest lies. And the structural reforms are not directed at anyone in particular or at any sector in particular. The structural reforms aim for us to have a much more harmonized development in all sectors of our country’s economy, for greater opportunities to be opened up for Mexicans. And it’s evident that this has faced resistance from some sectors. But it seems to me that this is resistance that must be overcome, and at the end of the day, I believe that with the implementation and orchestration of the reforms, all Mexicans are winners, including those who today may wind up being resistant to what has been achieved; they are also going to wind up winning"
LK: Everybody is going to be there.
EPN: "everybody is going to win. And I think he is going to win and I hope that he really does win this Oscar next Sunday and that he can appreciate how Mexico is growing and beginning to achieve greater social development.
LK: Two more questions. You recently traveled to Cuba. We know how important over the centuries Cuba has been for Mexico and Mexico has been for Cuba. Fifty six percent of Americans, in a historic recent poll, say, “The embargo against Cuba should be lifted. It’s in the interest of Cuba, of the United States and of Latin America.” What is the stand of the Mexican government with respect to the embargo against Cuba, which has been not working for half a century? Would you be in favor of the embargo’s being lifted?
EPN: Yes, I would be in favor of it. Mexico has been, and, personally, I am in favor of that position. I think that Cuba today is undoubtedly in a process of transition toward greater openness. I was able to confirm that during my first visit to Cuba, the first and only that I have made. And here it is necessary to recognize the importance that Cuba has for Mexico. Mexico is our third border. We have a border on the north; a border on the south, with Central America, with Guatemala and Belize"
LK: And the Caribbean.
EPN: "and a border on the Caribbean. And Cuba is our neighbor on our Caribbean border. Mexico has invariably demonstrated its fraternity and brotherhood with the Cuban people, and it doesn’t want to be outside that condition now. And even more so when we see that it is in a process of transition and of greater openness. I think that the United States, for whom Cuba is also their Caribbean border"we share that same border, both Mexico and the United States"we can’t be indifferent or simply look sideways or turn away and not observe what is occurring in Cuba. I am among those who believe that it is necessary to help, it is necessary to support, it is necessary to have a presence. And I think that Cuba will have in the future, I hope, in the coming years, is a, a transition, a change and greater development and benefits for its inhabitants. And Mexico wants to accompany this process. The Cuban people are our brothers; they are our neighbors in the Caribbean zone, and we want to reaffirm and reinforce our solidarity and the brotherhood that the two peoples have traditionally had.
LK: When I announced today on social networks that I was going to interview you, obviously you can imagine what happened: lots of replies. The one that I saw with the greatest frequency, curiously, it surprised me, is why hasn’t the Mexican government been more clear in denouncing the acts of violence in Venezuela?
EPN: Because there is a position here that is mandated by the Constitution, and which historically Mexico has held, of being respectful of the internal decisions of each country, and there is a principle that orients that exact position of Mexico. It has always been respectful of their processes because it has also demanded respect for our own processes, for our internal policies, for our own self-determination, and in order to demand that for Mexico, we have to demonstrate an attitude congruent with that position.
LK: Even if there is a violation of Human Rights?
EPN: And we have"we have"indeed we have indicated with all clarity, we have lamented the acts of violence that have taken place recently in Venezuela. We call for and desire the internal conflicts in that sister nation to have a peaceful solution, that institutional forms and pathways be present to arrive at a peaceful solution, a position that Mexico will invariably back, seeking peaceful solutions to any internal problem; but Mexico maintains, as it demands for itself, respect for the free self-determination of any people.
LK: Could the Mexican government mediate at some point in Venezuela?
EPN: It is an issue that we haven’t"
LK: Few can"
EPN: "that we haven’t considered. We have maintained an institutional diplomatic relationship with Venezuela, and eventually we desire, I emphasize, that what is happening, that we regret the acts of violence, the deaths that have occurred, Mexico has expressed solidarity with the families who, regrettably, in these acts have lost lives, but we desire them to find a peaceful way to solve the problem that Venezuela is currently experiencing. And Mexico will be paying very close attention, because it seems to me that what is happening in Venezuela will have an impact in the Latin American region. Mexico is a country that also, and I say it with all conviction, we are culturally, and our origin is in and our position is in Latin America. We are a country that is strongly rooted in Latin America and that is at the same time part of North America. We are"we are in this"
LK: For the TPP, North America"