The Pena Nieto years: the reforms, the scandals, the Chapo

Mexico City (AFP) –


Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto swept to office in 2012 as a youthful reformer with movie-star looks, but is preparing to leave it with a legacy marred by crime and corruption.

As Mexico heads to elections on July 1, here is a recap of the highs and lows of the Pena Nieto years.

The reforms

Pena Nieto, 51, spent the first 20 months of his presidency passing a series of historic reforms.

- Energy reform: reopened Mexico's oil and gas sector to foreign investors after 76 years of state monopoly, seeking to kick-start production.

- Telecommunications reform: bit into the near-monopoly of billionaire Carlos Slim's company, America Movil, opening the market to more competition and slashing the prices Mexicans pay for cell phone service.

- Education reform: introduced evaluations for public school teachers and sought to crack down on corruption, including widespread payments to "ghost teachers" and "ghost schools."

The scandals

It did not take long, however, for a chain of scandals to erupt.

- "Casa Blanca": investigative journalists revealed in 2014 that Pena Nieto's soap opera star wife had bought a multi-million-dollar mansion in a posh Mexico City neighborhood from a government contractor in a suspected sweetheart deal.

- Governors: a string of governors from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) were implicated in massive corruption. Eleven of them are currently on trial, in jail, under investigation or on the run.

- Massacre: in June 2014, soldiers allegedly executed at least 15 people in a warehouse, then altered the crime scene to make it look like a shootout, according to rights groups.

- Missing students: in September 2014, 43 teacher trainees studying in Ayotzinapa, in the southern state of Guerrero, disappeared after a clash with police. The official investigation was marred by lies and the torture of key witnesses, and the case remains unsolved.

'El Chapo'

Pena Nieto struggled with the messy war on drug cartels he inherited from his predecessor, Felipe Calderon.

- "El Chapo": in July 2015, the drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escaped from maximum-security prison through an elaborate tunnel equipped with special rails for a motorcycle. He was recaptured the following January, but the episode remains an embarrassment.

- Murders: the drug war has fueled rampant violence, with a record number of homicides in Mexico last year -- 25,339.