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Fox: 'Let's Be Real Friends, Real Neighbors and Real Partners'

November 28, 2000|Nathan Gardels

VICENTE FOX, president-elect of Mexico, will be inaugurated Friday. Fox, who heads the National Action Party, or PAN, spoke last week with Nathan Gardels, editor of Global Viewpoint, in Mexico City.

Question: The Mexican writer Carlos Monsivais once said that, because the system doesn't work in Mexico for the average person, "everyone becomes an opportunist," skirting the law to make it. For the poorest, the best opportunity is to head north. "Los Angeles is the heart of the Mexican dream," says Monsivais. Indeed, one-fourth of the population of your home state of Guanajuato works in the United States as migrants.

What will you do to bring the Mexican dream back home?

Answer: To tell you what has built up Mexico's problems is also to tell you the solution, by fixing those problems.

Mexico's timing has been way off. We were late to democracy. We had 71 years of one government, one dictatorship. We have been late in making change in rural areas; we kept the ejido [communal landholder group] system for 90 years. We have been late in education; we have the same system created after the revolution in the 1930s. We were late to globalization.

Because of this, we have had no growth in 25 years. We have the same per capita income we had then. For the last 18 years, wages have lost purchasing power.

The end result has been expulsion--people going to look for opportunity somewhere else.

We therefore need an economy that grows at least 7% a year, but is sustainable, because we have been eating up our forests, our oil, our water and polluting the air. Environmental sustainability is key.

Also, growth is not enough. Wealth must be distributed. The way it works now, any growth goes to the few. Today, Mexico has some of the richest people in the world and companies listed on the Fortune 500. But we also have the poorest of the poor, one of the worst income distributions anywhere.

To grow we need to build our human capital, which means a revolution in education, and we will require financial resources, which must come from foreign direct investment, since our own capacity is limited. Our future will depend heavily on this.

Above all, we need to establish security in Mexico, by which I mean establishing the rule of law to eradicate corruption and violence.

So, jobs, education and security. That is the program.

Q: That will bring the dream back to Mexico?

A: Twenty years from now. In the next six years, the length of my term, it will be difficult if not impossible to get that dream back. At least we can set Mexico on the right path.

Q: Though stagnant in recent decades, Mexico has also been politically stable because the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolution Party) incorporated all sectors of society--peasants, labor, business--under its wing after the bloody civil war in the '30s, then sealed their loyalty with patronage and corruption.

How will a non-PRI government maintain stability?

A: In the 1930s, the dictatorship was very violent. Later, as you said, it kept control not by violence but by other means.

Now, stability has to come from democracy, sharing power and broadened participation in building up the new system. So you are going to see a president who keeps campaigning, who is very close to people. I need to be close to people in order to maintain that positive energy and sense of hope that came about after my victory on July 2.

As long as we have a people with hope and a government willing to be accountable and responsible, then I can count on a 100-million-member team behind me. Such a team is unbeatable.

Q: The core of the system of corruption in Mexico has been the impunity of the president. Everything followed from that. The key to democratic change is thus ending that impunity.

How will you do that? What will be the ripple effect?

A: How? I would say by my own will and desire. I just want to be a president who is not corrupt. Those who might doubt I would do it on my own can take comfort in the fact that, fortunately, we have a Congress in which nobody has the majority. I don't have a majority of my party within Congress. So, it has the capacity, through the rule of law, to put this presidency under the Constitution.

Beyond that, we are going to be a very transparent, accountable government. The days of the "imperial presidency" are over.

Q: Very early in his administration, former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari also claimed an end to corruption and put the head of the oil union in jail. Yet corruption got even worse. Why will it be different this time?

A: Since so many considered his election fraudulent, Salinas needed to gain legitimacy. So, he made high-profile moves, like this arrest. But it was more show than anything else. Underneath there was no commitment to accountability. So, he disguised the real nature of his presidency with such theater.

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