Demonstrators in the streets of Xalapa demand information on the 43 students kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero, November 5, 2014. (Raul Mendez Velazquez/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Demonstrators in the streets of Xalapa demand information on the 43 students kidnapped in Iguala, Guerrero, November 5, 2014. (Raul Mendez Velazquez/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto is in the most difficult period of his presidency, with vociferous protests over the disappearance of 43 teachers-in-training in the state of Guerrero fueling angry calls for his resignation. At the same time, his government is facing accusations of corruption. Taken together, the two problems seriously undermine the image of Mexico that the president and his team have worked to promote around the globe.

He is also facing the criticism that the modern Mexico he promoted to investors is far from reality. On November 6, Peña Nieto spooked investors by abruptly canceling a contract for a bullet train to connect Mexico’s capital to the neighboring industrial town of Quetararo. Three days later, Mexico’s media crackled with a story accusing Peña Nieto of hiding a potential conflict of interest. Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui claimed that Peña Nieto’s private residence, a multimillion dollar mansion, was actually built by Grupo Higa, a corporation that has won contracts from his government and also supported his campaign for the presidency.

For nearly two years, Peña Nieto has trumpeted a series of ambitious reforms and also studiously worked to avoid discussing security issues. His entrance into office was heralded both by the signing of the Pacto for Mexico, a historic three-party agreement on his reform agenda, and also by the emergence of armed, masked “autodefensa” citizen militia members in Guerrero. The disparity between the celebration of Mexico’s new era of reform in Mexico City and the actions taken by locals frustrated with government inaction in Guerrero has finally come to a head. Read more