Mexico’s finance minister, Jose Antonio Meade, stepped down on Monday amid speculation the veteran technocrat will run for president in next year’s election under the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) banner.
President Enrique Pena Nieto said another close ally, Harvard-educated former World Bank official Jose Antonio Gonzalez Anaya, would leave state oil company Pemex to replace Meade in the finance ministry.
“I thank (Meade) for his dedication and commitment and I wish him success in the project he has decided to undertake,” Pena Nieto said in brief address at his Los Pinos residence.
“Many congratulations, Pepe, and best of luck,” he said, referring to Meade. Pena Nieto did not mention the campaign. The president also did not reveal his plans for replacing central bank governor Agustin Carstens, who leaves that post this week.
Pena Nieto called on Gonzalez Anaya to defend Mexico’s macroeconomic stability, consolidate finances, and execute the budget in a transparent manner.
Meade, 48, is widely seen as a strong contender to head the PRI campaign to keep power and fend off left-wing rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the July election, but will probably not be formally anointed as candidate until next year.
Corruption scandals, sluggish growth, failure to curb violence and allegations of electoral fraud have seriously eroded the centrist party’s already rocky reputation.
Meade, a fixture in the Cabinet across two rival administrations, has no formal party affiliation and has distinguished himself as a discreet and diplomatic public servant with a grasp of finance and economics matched by few in Mexico.
He has avoided the damaging scandals that have engulfed the PRI under Pena Nieto, who cannot seek a second six-year term.
On Monday, TV images showed him driving toward the Los Pinos presidential residence behind the wheel of a modest compact car, a common prop among Mexican politicians seeking to project their common touch.
Gonzalez Anaya, who is related by marriage to influential former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, will be replaced at Pemex by Carlos Trevino, a senior executive at the company.
The PRI said on Thursday the party’s candidate would be elected by a national convention on Feb. 18. By then, the candidate may be obvious.
Opinion polls show Meade would have work to do. He is not widely recognized by the public, and one survey last week by polling firm Buendia & Laredo put him 14 percentage points behind Lopez Obrador in a matchup with a third leading contender.