Americas

Mexico

Fox Era Begins

Vicente Fox’s inauguration as Mexican president on Dec. 1 will usher in a new era of open government promising a housecleaning of the corruption and abuses that have become entrenched in the federal bureaucracy over more than seven decades of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), reported Alberto Navarrete and Jaime Hernández in the centrist Excélsior of Mexico City (Oct. 4). During his recent pre-inaugural tour of European capitals, Fox declared that the new Commission of Transparency would be charged with the mission of investigating “what is genuinely worth looking into in the past,” ranging from unanswered questions surrounding the Tlaltelolco massacre of demonstrators in 1968 to official corruption and drug-trafficking links to government security forces. Navarrete and Hernández noted that Fox views the commission’s task not as “a matter of attacking the PRI, but rather of attacking the corrupt and those who have committed crimes with impunity.”

In striking contrast to the devaluation crisis that greeted his predecessor at the end of 1994, Fox inherits a robust economic expansion bolstered by a strong peso, soaring oil exports, and a consumer boom fueled by historically low unemployment and gradually rising real earnings. Still, Excélsior observed in an editorial (Oct. 4), “the new government will be prepared for whatever eventuality the Mexican economy may present.” With annual inflation already back to single digits, manageable foreign debt obligations, and record international reserves, “the circumstances of 1994 doubtless will not be repeated this time,” but Fox’s economic team recognizes the urgent need to overhaul a chronically inefficient and inequitable tax system that leaves the government dangerously dependent on volatile oil revenues, Excélsior added.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge awaiting Fox, however, is to meet the high expectations of millions of Mexicans who voted for change “in the hope of seeing improvement in their lives through better wages and jobs,” René Avila Cruz wrote in the conservative Mexico City business daily El Economista (Oct. 1). “The task will not be easy for the incoming government..., and the majority of workers will still have to tighten their belts be-cause...recovery in the purchasing power of wages will proceed only gradually.” Indeed, Cruz added, Fox can scarcely hope to win the war on poverty during his six-year term: “According to estimates by the Inter-American Development Bank, Mexico will require at least 30 years...to raise income per capita from $5,700 anually in 2000 to more than $12,500, and thus eradicate extreme poverty.”

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