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From the February 2002 issue of World Press Review (VOL. 49, No. 2)

Mexico

Fox's Slow Start

Robert Taylor, World Press Review Contributing Editor, February 2, 2002

President Vicente Fox’s failure to make significant headway on diverse fronts, ranging from human rights and security to fiscal reform and job creation, has frustrated his political allies and emboldened his partisan foes in Congress. It has escalated the pressure for more effective governance and concrete achievements entering his second year in office.

“One year after assuming power, faced with the evident distance between the many promises (of Fox’s 2000 campaign) and the few successes, Vicente Fox has been the object of systematic broadsides of a harsh and even brutal tone from critics in the media...and the political establishment,” observed commentator and historian Lorenzo Meyer in the newsmagazine Proceso (Dec. 2). “Today the ‘happy warrior’ has been transformed into an exasperated and exhausted president who seems unable to find a way out of...the labyrinth in which the real Mexico finds itself..., marked by profound social, geographic, and cultural divisions, with few defenses against the tempests of the sea of globalization through which he must navigate the economy and politics of the country.”

Sergio Aguayo Quezada, writing in Reforma (Nov. 28), asserted that while unforeseen developments such as the U.S. recession and war on terrorism contributed to Fox’s difficulties in his first year, “a good part of the inaction is a consequence of a strategic bet to appease the old regime. Thus, Fox deferred measures supposing, in that way, that he would ensure his ability to govern and obtain the support needed for his program of change.” Instead, he wrote, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, evicted from the presidency for the first time in more than seven decades, dug in to block congressional action on the centerpiece of Fox’s first-year legislative agenda, a sweeping fiscal reform that included income tax cuts and a controversial elimination of value-added tax exemptions for foods and medicines.

At the same time, Fox’s indecision and delay in pursuing human-rights and corruption cases squandered a rare opportunity “to make decisions that would have strengthened his support from the domestic and international community....Appeasing the repressors and the corrupt is not the way. The wager must be on measures that combat impunity and build...a state of law,” Aguayo Quezada said.

Soledad Loaeza, writing in La Jornada (Dec. 1), argued that “the political reverses suffered by President Fox, his advisers, cabinet, and party are attributable solely to themselves.” While strained relations with a combative legislative opposition have contributed to policy paralysis, Loaeza wrote, the administration has also incurred “self-inflicted wounds” due to confusion over official policy and feuds among cabinet members. Such infighting “sends an image of disorder and self-interest that damages the president...because it reveals an unexpected lack of administrative and leadership capacity in the great multinational business executive marketed by the ‘Friends of Fox.’ ”

Meyer’s analysis in Proceso was more optimistic that Fox would be able to overcome a disappointing first year to “fulfill at least part of what he promised and initiate a virtuous circle of democracy.”

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