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Pena Nieto sworn in as Mexican president amid protests

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Pena Nieto sworn in as Mexican president amid protests

  • Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks on Saturday.
    Angélica Rivera de Peña/FlickrMexican President Enrique Pena Nieto speaks on Saturday.

GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Protesters clashed with police outside the Mexican Congress Saturday as the country's new president, Enrique Pena Nieto, prepared to take the oath of office, Milenio reported.

The Associated Press said hundreds of demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, firecrackers and rocks at security forces, who responded by firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.

At least 25 people, both demonstrators and police, were injured in the resulting clashes, according to Al Jazeera. At least five police were injured, according to Agence France Presse, including two that were hit by Molotov cocktails and another who was hit in the face by a stone. 

"We weren't expecting something so violent," an officer told AFP. 

Mexican authorities erected tall security barriers around the Congress several days ago in anticipation of protests by groups opposed to Pena Nieto and the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to power.

Pena Nieto won the July 1 presidential election by a narrower-than-expected margin and his victory has exposed deep divisions within Mexican society.

Many fear the return of the "Old Guard" of the PRI, which ruled Mexico with a heavy hand for most of the 20th Century, will turn the clock back to the dark days of corruption, repression and economic mismanagement.

"I think with the PRI we will return to the era of blatant corruption, state terrorism and the threatening and buying of media so that no one knows the truth," said Rebeca Ferreiro Gonzalez, a communications teacher at the University of Guadalajara.

"The PAN is dreadful but the PRI is twice as bad Guadalajara," Ferreiro Gonzalez said, referring to the previous administration of the National Action Party.

Marcela De Niz, a graphic design professor at the University of Guadalajara campus in Puerta Vallarta, agreed.

"I'm sad that Mexico has to return to the PRI knowing that it has not changed its authoritarian practices," De Niz told GlobalPost.

"I just hope that the citizens of today will rise to the occasion and be the counterweight to enable us to move towards a more just and equitable society."

Pena Nieto took the oath of office during a special ceremony in the Congress this morning attended by a group of leaders including US Vice President Joe Biden, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Armen Gevorgyan.

Pena Nieto is due to deliver an address to the nation. Shortly before the inauguration ceremony, Pena Nieto tweeted: "Mexico is a big country and today we need to be united together."

"In the following years we must work for Mexico. Let's leave the divisions and move forward together."

Outgoing President Felipe Calderon formally handed over the reins of power to his successor at midnight on Friday, Reuters reported.

After receiving the Mexican national flag, Pena Nieto said: "Today I begin to exercise the honorable office of president."

On Friday, Pena Nieto announced his cabinet will include members of different political stripes — and even a carryover from the previous administration. Jose Antonio Meade, who was finance secretary under Calderon, will be Pena Nieto's foreign secretary, left-wing politician Rosario Robles was named secretary for social development and member of leftist Democratic Revolution Party, Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, was appointed interior undersecretary.

But Pena Nieto reserved key government posts, such as finance secretary, for his closest party allies.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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