Enrique Peña Nieto was born on 20 July 1966 in Atlacomulco, State of Mexico, a city 55 miles (89 km) North West of Mexico City. He is the oldest of four siblings; his father, Gilberto Enrique Peña del Mazo, was an electrical engineer; his mother, María del Perpetuo Socorro Ofelia Nieto Sánchez, a schoolteacher. He is the nephew of two former governors of the State of México: on his mother's side, Arturo Montiel (whom Business magazine Forbes listed in 2013, as one of the ten most corrupt Mexican politicians); on his father's, Alfredo del Mazo González. He attended Denis Hall School in Alfred, Maine, during one year of junior high school in 1979 to learn English. After living in Atlacomulco for the first 11 years of his life, Peña Nieto's family moved to the city of Toluca.
In 1975, his father would often take him to the campaign rallies of the State of Mexico's governor, Jorge Jiménez Cantú, a close friend of Peña del Mazo The successor of the governor was Alfredo del Mazo González, a cousin of Peña Nieto's father. During Del Mazo González's campaign in 1981, the fifteen-year-old Peña Nieto had his first direct contact with Mexican politics: he began delivering campaign literature in favor of his relative, a memory Peña Nieto recalls as the turning point and start of his deep interest in politics. In 1984 at the age of 18, Peña Nieto traveled to Mexico City and enrolled in the Panamerican University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Law.
Peña Nieto joined the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in 1984, and with a law degree nearly completed, he began earning his own money. During his final years in college, Peña Nieto worked for a public notary in Mexico City, around the same time when his relative, Alfredo del Mazo González, was mentioned as a firm candidate for the 1988 presidential elections. In his twenties, he worked at the San Luis Industrial Corporation, an auto parts manufacturer, and at the law firm Laffan, Muse and Kaye. While still a student at the Universidad Panamericana, he roomed with Eustaquio de Nicolás, the current President of Homex, a leading Mexican construction and real estate company. He also befriended and roomed with Luis Miranda, who occupied several offices during the 1999–2000 administration in the State of Mexico.
Peña Nieto formally started his political career under the mentorship of Montiel Rojas, becoming the Secretary of the Citizen Movement of Zone I of the State Directive Committee of the National Confederation of Popular Organizations (CNOP), one of the three sectors of the PRI. For three consecutive years, Peña Nieto participated as a delegate to the Organization and Citizen Front in different municipalities of the State of Mexico. Then, between 1993 and 1998, during Emilio Chuayfett's term as governor, Peña Nieto was chief of staff and personal secretary to Montiel Rojas, the Secretary of Economic Development of the State of Mexico.
After 1999, Peña Nieto went from having low-level secretary positions to higher and more qualified offices. He served from 1999 to 2000 as the Sub-secretary of Government, and as financial sub-coordinator of the political campaign of Montiel Rojas. In 2001, Montiel Rojas named Peña Nieto Sub-secretary of Interior in the State of Mexico, a position that granted him the opportunity to meet and forge relationships with top PRI politicians and wealthy businessmen. After his term concluded, he served as the administrative secretary, as President of the Directive Council of Social Security, as President of the Internal Council of Health, and as vice President of the National System for Integral Family Development – all in the State of Mexico. Under the wing of Montiel Rojas, Peña Nieto formed a group known as the "Golden Boys of Atlacomulco" with other members of the PRI.
Eric Martin of Bloomberg News stated that if Peña Nieto wants to invite investment, he will have to face the challenges of union Leaders and local officials who have benefited from the oil company's bonanza. Productivity in Pemex has been declining since 2004. Mexico has the 12th-largest oil reserves in the world, the 4th-largest shale gas deposits in the world (after Argentina, China, and the United States), and is the third-biggest supplier of oil to the U.S., just behind Canada and Saudi Arabia. Brazil's 21st-century oil success has shifted popular opinion to support of structural changes in Pemex. Peña Nieto declared while campaigning that overhauling Pemex will be the PRI's and his "signature issue", and that he will encourage private companies to invest in exploration and development activities.
On 15 September 2005, Peña Nieto was sworn as governor of the State of Mexico at the Morelos theater in Toluca. Among the hundreds of attendees were the outgoing governor, Arturo Montiel; the President of the Superior Court of Justice, José Castillo Ambriz; former governors, members of Peña Nieto's cabinet and party, mayors, businessmen, and church figures. The centerpiece of Peña Nieto's governorship was his claim that he was to deliver his compromisos – 608 promises he signed in front of a notary to convince voters that he would deliver results and be an effective leader. According to El Universal, during Peña Nieto's first year as governor, his administration only delivered 10 of the structural promises he had advocated in his campaign – marking the lowest figure in his six-year term.
By 2006, his administration carried out 141 of the promised projects, making that year the most active in the governor's term. The 608 projects Peña Nieto proposed consisted of creating highways, building hospitals, and creating adequate water systems to provide fresh water throughout the state. The most important of these was highway infrastructure, which tripled under Peña's government. By mid-2011, the official page of the State of Mexico noted that only two projects were left. The major projects in public transportation were the Suburban Railway of the Valley of Mexico Metropolitan Area and the "Mexibús", both of which served commuters between Mexico City and the State of Mexico, providing Service to more than 300,000 people every day and 100 million a year. Regarding public health services, 196 hospitals and medical centers were built throughout the state and the number of mobile units to attend remote and vulnerable areas doubled. Deaths caused by respiratory diseases were reduced by 55%, while deaths caused by dysentery and cervical cancer were reduced by 68% and 25% respectively. In addition, between 2005 and 2011, the State of Mexico was able to fulfill the requirement of the World Health Organization of having one Doctor for every 1,000 inhabitants. The funds for these and all the other commitments were obtained through restructuring the state's public debt, a strategy designed by his first Secretary of Finance, Luis Videgaray Caso. The restructuring also managed to keep the debt from increasing during Peña Nieto's term because the tax base was broadened to the point that it doubled in six years.
In 1993, Peña married his first wife, Mónica Pretelini (b. 1963) and the couple had three children: Paulina, Alejandro and Nicole. Peña Nieto had two illegitimate children during his first marriage; a son with Maritza Díaz Hernández, and another child, with an undisclosed woman, who died as an infant. Pretelini died on 11 January 2007 as the result of an epileptic episode. Pretelini had a vital role during the campaign of Peña Nieto's governorship.
In 2008, Peña Nieto began a relationship with Televisa soap opera Actress Angélica Rivera, who he had hired to help publicize his political campaign for the State of Mexico. The couple married in November 2011, although media outlets have questioned the validity of the marriage as of 2015, alleging that Mexico's Catholic Church bent rules or that the marriage could have been a publicity stunt to help his presidential campaign.
Odebrecht is a Brazilian conglomerate that like Pemex also operates in the field of petroleum. Back in 2010-2012, Emilio Lozoya Austin was part of the PRI's team supporting EPN during his presidential campaign. After EPN won the elections, Lozoya was promoted to Director of Pemex, a role he served for most of EPN's presidency. In 2017, Brazilian news paper O Globo claimed that Odebrecht helped Finance EPN's presidential campaign, by giving $10 million to Emilio Lozoya as a bribe during times close to the 2012 elections. Soon after EPN won the elections in 2012, Lozoya was placed as Director of Pemex, and Odebrecht "won" huge contracts from Pemex and the Mexican government. The surfacing of the news involving the controversy surfaced in 2017, further revealing Lozoya bought a $38 million house with a single payment before even being declared Director of Pemex, affording such house did not fit with his salary at the time. In October 2017, it was confirmed by the presidency that in fact EPN himself, also met with Odebrecht 4 times during his presidential campaign. Thus directly tying EPN into the scandal, albeit EPN claimed not to receive bribes, EPN lacks credibility among Mexican people. A document from Brazil reported Lozoya received $5 million in November, 2014. Santiago Nieto, the man in charge of the FEPADE (an office in charge of investigations against electoral crimes), was controversially fired, soon after the Odebretch scandal started. Santiago was said to be receiving too much pressure from EPN and Lozoya to stop the investigation. The firing was criticized by ex-president Felipe Calderon's wife and independent 2018 presidential candidate Margarita Zavala. President EPN said Santiago's restitution fate was on the Mexican Senate. The organization Borde Politico, had published weeks before that 116 out of the 128 Mexican senators were incompetent.
Enrique Peña Nieto has been known for his occasional lapses in memory or gaffes during public events or interviews. The most-noted incident occurred during the International Book Fair of Guadalajara on 3 December 2011. On that day, during a question and answer session, he was asked by an audience member to name three books that had influenced him, being only able to correctly reference the Bible. He then "rambled, tossing out confused title names, asking for help in recalling authors and sometimes mismatching" the two others. Other incidents have involved him not being able to recall Benito Juárez's year of birth, being unable to remember the acronym of the Federal Institute of Access to Information (IFAI), changing the date of foundation of the state of Hidalgo, mistaking the capital of the State of Veracruz, mentioning the U.S. presidential candidate "La señora Hillary Trump" (Mrs. Hillary Trump), among others, of varying degree of substantiation or credibility. However, they have become viral on social media, especially Twitter and a website that counts the number of days since his last gaffe.
Peña Nieto has said that he provides for the son he fathered with Hernández, but has little contact with him. His support for the child became a political issue during the 2012 presidential election, when both Hernández and rival candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota accused him of not supporting the child.
The Mexican government of Peña Nieto has been accused of using various means to keep unfavorable news from reaching the Mexican people. Many Mexicans have protested this practice as it clearly goes against the freedom of speech. The PRI has been reported to use fake news since before Peña Nieto. The main tactic has been to spread such propaganda through radio and television. This tactic is perceived as effective in Mexico because newspaper readership is low and research on the Internet and cable TV is largely limited to the middle classes; consequently, the country's two major television networks – Televisa and TV Azteca – exert a significant influence in national politics. Televisa itself, owns around two-thirds of the programming on Mexico's TV channels, making it not only Mexico's largest television network, but also is the largest media network in the Spanish-speaking world.
The "Mexican white house scandals" refers to multiple journalistic reports concerning conflicts of interest found in houses owned by Peña Nieto. The first report concerning a Mexican white house was uncovered by news Journalist Carmen Aristegui from Aristegui Noticias, the 2014 news report revealed that first lady Angélica Rivera's $7 million house in Lomas de Chapultepec in Mexico City was registered under Grupo Higa, the name of a construction company property of Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú, the construction company received contracts in the state of Mexico when Enrique Peña Nieto was governor. With Peña Nieto as President, a subsidiary of the same company was also awarded part of a huge contract to build a high-speed train from Mexico City to Querétaro. Adding fuel to the fire, Juan Armando Hinojosa Cantú is a close friend of Peña Nieto, and the "Panama Papers" scandal further revealed he enlisted Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to create trusts for accounts worth US$100 million after he was investigated for allegedly giving special favours to the Mexican President Peña Nieto and his wife, according to an analysis by ICIJ, who said that the documents showed "a complex offshore network" of nine companies in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Described as Peña Nieto's "favorite contractor", Hinojosa's companies have won more than eighty government contracts and received at least US$2.8 billion in state money.
In August 2016, Peña Nieto's approval ratings dropped to 23 percent (74 percent said they disapproved of his performance), which newspaper Reforma revealed to be the lowest approval rating for a President since they began polling in 1995.
EPN is the cousin of Alfredo del Mazo Maza, the current governor of the state of Mexico (on whom his grandfather, father, distant uncle Arturo Montiel, as well as EPN himself, have previously been governors, in fact his family has had uninterrupted control of the state for 29 years). Despite the official vote results given by the INE (Electoral National Institute), the election of EPN's cousin was marred by irregularities including reports of vote-buying, spending beyond legal campaign Finance limits, and electoral counts that gave del Mazo extra votes that awarded the election to him. In November 2017, magazine Proceso published an article accusing the PRI of breaking at least 16 state laws during the elections, which were denounced 619 times. They said that all of them were broken in order to favor del Mazo during the election.
The special economic zones will offer tax incentives (exemption from the 16% VAT), trade and customs benefits and the streamlining of regulatory processes. There will also be an increase in infrastructure spending in these regions. Private administrators will run the zones on 40-year contracts (managing infrastructure and attracting tenants). According to Peña Nieto, at the latest, each of these zones will have an anchor tenant that will attract suppliers and other industries in the supply chain by 2018. The World Bank advised Mexico during the formulation of the special economic zones plan.