Previous to toppling Mexico’s Treasury and Public Finance (SHCP) Secretary Luis Videgaray (the satirical joke now is “Luis, you’re fired”) on Wednesday, President Enrique Peña Nieto had to scrounge around for his replacement. He didn’t have to look for long as in his own cabinet was Social Development (Sedesol) Secretary José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.
Meade Kuribreña, for one, is a government institutional man who watches his tongue during interviews and never talks ill of anybody. Not only that, the new SCHP head has been playing soft ball in politics defending the president in foul weather even saying that the Donald Trump visit was positive as before Trump’s visit the GOP presidential candidate was threatening with deporting all undocumented workers in the United States, and then he went back, toning down his deportation threats to only affect criminals.
In a moment of political thunder and hail for the president, at least someone saw a positive thing to Mr. T’s visit.
But Meade Kuribreña has become, as of Thursday, the only politician in history to be the head of four different secretariats in two different and opposing administrations.
Under former president Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) he was first Energy and then treasury secretary. That would have been the end of his political career had it not been because he is a very close friend of Luis Videgaray, who made a place for him in Peña Nieto’s cabinet as Foreign Relations secretary (SRE). His stint as the nation’s international representative lasted until 2015, when the President reassigned him to the Sedesol.
Now he’s back at SHCP perhaps because as a jack of all trades he’s been master at least of one, the managing of the SCHP, and immediately cut down tensions in Congress as he presented the federal governments Income and Expenditures Budget to Congress Thursday evening.
Meade Kuribreña’s replacement of Videgaray was welcomed in Congress because, as put by the president of the board of directors of the Chamber of Deputies, they expected a very hot session next Sept. 20 when Videgaray was expected to negotiate the new budget and his presence would be distracted from the money as deputies wanted to beat Videgaray around on the Trump issue. This threat is no longer there as for the moment the deputies have no political friction with Meade.
“José Antonio has an amiable face. He’s does not confront people, he’s soft,” wrote deputy and former Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) president Agustín Basave in newspaper “El Universal.”
The president’s press office explained that Meade was returned to SHCP because “he’s a familiar face to international markets and he’s not there to learn how to manage the treasury.”
But times have changed since Meade left SHCP nearly four years ago and, though familiar with procedures and tax collecting, Meade is a lawyer and boasts a Yale University masters in economics.
But there is an extra aspect to Meade’s political career that sets him, as of now, apart from the pack.
He first became Energy secretary as a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), but because he was efficient and a good buddy to Luis Videgaray he was inducted into Peña Nieto’s cabinet much to the chagrin of many Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) members who saw him at first as an intruder when he was appointed SRE head.
His PAN membership has nearly been forgotten after four years of serving President Peña Nieto well and loyally.
As Sedesol head, however, he’s not stayed aloof from doing “futurism” as promoting himself in the media as the savior of the poor, the victims of hurricanes and tremors, a publicity that comes free for the post but paid with public funds. He became a well-known public figure.
Perhaps some pundits are right that looking like the nice fellow carrying out Seeds handouts to the poor is not like looking like the nasty SCHP tax collector. We’ll see how he does back at SHCP but there is one more thing why his new appointment makes him important and places him as a future presidential candidate for PAN-PRI joint candidacy.
At a political moment when of all potential candidates Andrés Manuel Lopez Abrader (AMLO) of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party leads all polls for winning the 2018 election, and hates both PRI and Pan calling them “the Prian mobsters in power.” Meade Kuribreña has the possibility of bringing unlikely bedfellows (and votes) together as a viable candidate for both parties.
But don’t run before you can walk, this is merely “futurism” but whether intended or not, placing Meade Kuribreña back at the helm of SHCP President Peña Nieto has opened a new political avenue towards the 2018 presidential election.