Mexico’s Treasury and Public Finance Secretary (SHCP) Luis Videgaray tendered his resignation to President Enrique Peña Nieto Wednesday, a move that can be interpreted under a large number of different circumstances. Here are some of them.
First and foremost, it was preceded by Donald Trump’s visit to Mexico one week ago, now admittedly Videgaray’s own idea, and the enormous political damage it finally did to the president’s image. Both Peña Nieto and Videgaray learned the hard way not to trust Trump, as well a historical lesson for future presidents not to meddle into the electoral affairs of the United States of America.
Second, Videgaray’s “resignation” was ordered by the president because today, Thursday, Peña Nieto is sending his proposal for the 2017 government budget to Congress and there is no way Videgaray could defend some of the controversial huge cuts the budget allegedly proposes.
A prelude of the hostile mood by opposition parties in Congress came as a great variety of insults directed at the President and surely Videgaray could not answer for any of them as the President has defended his decision to hold the Trump visit and is not using Videgaray as the fall guy, regardless of the fact that in the bitter end Videgaray was the fall guy.
Apparently Videgaray argued that it would wise to invite The Donald to explain to him that the 24-year old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had been good for the region and that come election-day on Nov. 8, in case Trump came out the victor, this move would calm down the markets and avoid a escape of the direct and indirect foreign investment markets.
No sooner was the day over on Aug. 31 that the President and Videgaray realized the invitation had been a gross mistake and a very bad idea, as Trump flew to Phoenix to deliver a message asking his audience, “Who’s going to pay for the wall?” He then asked the audience to respond in chorus, “Mexico.”
Since that moment the Mexican political scene has not been the same. Even the President’s sternest backers disapproved of Trump’s visit.
Also the house of cards that Videgaray had been building within the President’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to prop up his own nomination as PRI presidential candidate for the 2018 election came down crashing.
In fact, Videgaray had managed to place his own man and former Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) CEO Enrique Ochoa who was in charge of smoothing down and paving the road for him. Ochoa is still there at the PRI but the big black hole in politics is: Who is he working for now? Surely for the President, but as Videgaray’s house of cards came tumbling down, the entire political scene is a whole different game for others, like Videgaray’s successor José Antonio Meade and Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, who are lined up for what for PRI militants will be traditional “presidential succession.”
Like the Mexican adage says, “nobody knows who he’s working for.” (“Nadie sabe para quién trabaja”).
In traditional Mexican politics, what the nation witnessed Wednesday is called a “chess castling” used in emergencies when the President is taking heavy flak. The king must be castled for protection but at a high cost as the queen must be sacrificed. This was a case in which Videgaray was the queen.
As of now, Videgaray has no apparent political future (unless he manages to get the nomination for next year’s PRI’s State of Mexico governor candidacy: it’s a possibility but not a certainty).
But for now, the “queen” in Peña Nieto’s chess board is José Antonio Meade, a lucky fellow who is truly the product of the Trump effect.
But that will be a subject for tomorrow.