MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico's first democratically elected president started his inauguration day breakfasting with homeless children and ended it with fireworks — a festive day meant to usher in a bright new era.
Six years later power was handed off in chaos, with a narrow, disputed election spawning fistfights in Congress and a seizure of the podium by leftist lawmakers.
On Saturday, the country's former longtime ruling party retakes the highest office on a day planned to be low on pomp and extraordinarily high on security — a drama-free return to power for an Institutional Revolutionary Party trying to replace a history of repression and corruption with a new image of businesslike, technocratic efficiency.
A full week before the inauguration, the federal government began build a blocks-long enclosure of metal barricades around the lower house of Congress, where the PRI's Enrique Pena Nieto will be sworn into office Saturday.
The new president will later deliver an address to the nation from the colonial-era National Palace, then retire to a hilltop castle inside Mexico City's largest park for lunch with a small group of visiting leaders, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
There are no grandstands being built, no parades planned and no talk of which designer the new first lady will choose.
The reticence, experts say, appears designed to allay trepidation about the return of the party that exercised near-total control of the country for 71 years, ending with the 2000 election of President Vicente Fox of the National Action Party.
"This appears to be the tone Pena Nieto is setting," said Federico Estevez, a political science professor at Mexico's Autonomous Technological Institute. "The night of his win, he gave a speech that was low-energy, somber, half-solemn and really without joy. It seems like something similar is planned for his inauguration."
Adding to the lack of the popular excitement is deep cynicism about all of Mexico's political parties, exhaustion with the waves of violence unleashed by departing President Felipe Calderon's six-year militarized offensive against drug cartels, and sour memories of the paralysis set off by the 2006 dispute around Calderon's election.