MEXICO CITY — The newly elected president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, is a mostly unknown figure in Washington, but he is moving to assure his neighbor that he will fight against Mexico's drug lords and continue to pursue warm relations with its top trading partner.
The outreach is necessary because Peña Nieto, 45, is an enigma to many in the United States. As a comfortable front-runner during the presidential campaign, he kept his policy pronouncements vague, and as a former governor, he has no track record in foreign policy.
Peña Nieto, who won the election Sunday against three rivals with 38 percent of the vote, will face scrutiny as he begins to select his Cabinet, especially his law enforcement and military ministers, who will inherit a war against drug cartels.
A top Peña Nieto campaign official, Emilio Lozoya, said in a statement Monday, "Some may wonder what a Peña Nieto presidency will mean. The answer is simple. It will mean a stabilization of the situation in Mexico and advancement on many of the issues Americans care about."
Peña Nieto orchestrated a remarkable comeback of his Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, which ran Mexico for more than 70 years until its defeat in 2000. But he knows that many people remain skeptical that the PRI has transformed itself from its older, autocratic, corrupt version.
His party has a reputation for cutting deals with drug cartels and allowing narcotics to move north, as long as crime mafias avoided public violence and attacks against civilians.
"There is no going back to the past," Peña Nieto assured his audience here and aboard in a victory speech Sunday night.
Speaking on TV Monday, he said he had received congratulatory phone calls from President Barack Obama and other leaders.