José Antonio Meade has resigned as federal finance secretary and announced that he will seek the presidential nomination for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
“I leave this secretariat with the pride of [having] belonged to this team,” he said during a press conference at the National Palace.
The resignation was first announced by President Enrique Peña Nieto, putting an end to months of speculation about whether Meade would put his name forward for the top job.
“I wish him the best of luck in the project he has decided to undertake,” Peña Nieto said.
The president also announced that Pemex CEO José Antonio González Anaya would step down from his current position to take over as finance secretary.
Speaking at the national palace before a large crowd of colleagues and the press, Meade added that he had made the decision after 20 years of public service during which he had always acted “with integrity and honesty.”
“With this experience, I have the conviction that this country has the talent and the conditions so that, with effort and for the benefit of all, Mexico will become a power,” he said.
He added that his goals as president would be for “Mexico to be a country where families always have food on the table, security in the streets, housing and quality health care and education.”
He also said that he wanted Mexico to be “a just country where the law is enforced . . . and where all Mexicans find the opportunities to make their dreams and desires a reality.”
Meade previously served as secretary of foreign affairs and secretary of social development in the government led by Peña Nieto. He also held both the energy and finance portfolios at different times during the presidency of Felipe Calderón, who won the 2006 election for the opposition National Action Party (PAN).
The 48-year-old, Yale-educated economist has not been tainted by corruption scandals that have undermined confidence in both the Peña Nieto-led government and the PRI, which ruled Mexico uninterruptedly for more than seven decades until the year 2000.
Hence many believe that Meade has the best chance of retaining the presidency for the incumbent party in the face of a resurgent Andrés Manuel López Obrador— who last week presented the platform he hopes will deliver him the presidency — and low public confidence.
The Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM) — the country’s largest trade union group — was quick to throw its support behind the pre-candidate, with CTM boss Carlos Aceves del Olmo anointing Meade as “the candidate of hope.”
The CTM is one of the staunchest allies of the PRI and Aceves added that Meade had long been its favored candidate.
“It’s a day of celebration,” he proclaimed.
Shortly after he confirmed his resignation and intention to seek the candidacy for the PRI, Meade met with senior CTM leaders at the organization’s Mexico City headquarters, where he expressly sought their backing.
“This new adventure, that I want to walk with you, couldn’t start anywhere but the CTM,” he said.
“I hope to register myself [as a pre-candidate] today and I wanted to start this path by asking you humbly to make me yours.”
The CTM happily obliged, with Aceves handing over a signed document to Meade assuring him of the organization’s support.
Health Secretary José Narro and Education Secretary Aurelio Nuño have also been touted as possible candidates for the PRI but with the backing of the CTM, Meade now looks most likely to end up on next year’s ballots.
A right-wing, left-wing coalition called the Citizens’ Front for Mexico — made up of three parties including the PAN and the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) — has not yet chosen its presidential candidate, although either PAN president Ricardo Anaya or Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera are considered to be the most likely choices.
The presidential election will be held on July 1, 2018.