The plummeting popularity of President Enrique Peña Nieto continues to spiral downwards. How low can it go is anyone’s guess but last Sunday moderate right-wing newspaper Reforma published a poll that puts his rating at an all-time low of 23 percent.
The president’s public relations office dismissed the poll — as they do with most — as being just “a snapshot of the moment,” but considering the political effervescence in the nation and the damage that the lack of punitive action against the acts of vandalism and outright banditry carried out by the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) teachers’ union, as well as the two-month increase to the price of fuels, have hit Peña Nieto’s administration very hard.
A long list of other mishaps and outright government mismanagement can be added to this but one that will surely hurt the president again will be the gross lack of results at the Rio Olympic Games.
Can President Peña Nieto be blamed for the total lack of medals thus far and the outright failure of the nation’s Olympians?
The answer is “no,” although in Mexico’s sports community all fingers are pointing not at Peña Nieto himself, but at his buddy Alfredo Castillo, head of the National Sports Committee (Conade).
A reason why also Alfredo Castillo cannot be blamed for the washout, at least not entirely, is because of the very nature of the structure of the Olympic sports organization. In Mexico, international competition sports are integrated into three separate groups, each one with a different function.
First and foremost is the Mexican Olympic Committee (COM), which is responsible for making all the arrangements for Mexico to participate not just in the Olympic games but also in different tourneys that many sports hold every year.
Second, there is the Mexican Sports Committee (Codeme), that is made up of all of the different sports federations and which is responsible for the training of athletes and the quality of their performances. The different federations are the real responsible parties for the one-medal results in each of the sports. It is about sports, not politics, hence it was their sports product that failed, not its management. Or so it would seem.
Lastly, there’s the National Sports Committee or Conade. In Mexico, it is a part of the Public Education Secretariat (SEP) but, because scholarly education is not its final goal, it is seen as a separate organism. Yet is humongous budget comes from SEP.
Out of the three spots organizing institutions, it is the Conade that is in charge of budget management and here’s where President Enrique Peña Nieto may take the brunt of the failure as, under great controversy and protests, he appointed his buddy Alfredo Castillo, a criminal science lawyer, as head of it.
That makes Peña Nieto guilty by association as Alfredo Castillo’s (no relation to this writer) management of Conade is seen as lacking and often as a waste. But Alfredo has nothing to do with the performance of the 126-member delegation attending the Rio Olympics.
Adding insult to injury, Castillo is being criticized for taking his girlfriend to Brazil wearing a Mexican sports uniform and worst, he was photographed smooching with her. Is this Mexico’s sports commissioner?
Yes, he is. Not only that: what Castillo did not suspect at the time was that kissing his girlfriend in public may be the kiss of death for his for-the-most-part-Peña-Nieto-sponsored political career. Expectations are now that as soon as Castillo presents a report of “results” to his direct boss, Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño, he will be booted out to a nicely undeserved vacation.
Yet, and back to future polls, Peña Nieto’s appointment of Alfredo Castillo will bear heavily on his prestige as president in the near future and surely the one-medal performance by the Mexican entourage in Rio will be seen as of his own making, even if the government does not have anything to do with training contenders, because it does supply the monies for the Codeme federations.
Surely pollsters are just waiting for the Rio Games to come to an end in order to carry out their next querying and see if the lack of medals is a result that will further affect Peña Nieto’s already low public acceptance.