Fox Shocks the World
By Rick Rockwell
When Vicente Fox Quesada, Mexico's president-elect, travels to Washington in August, the old Mexican joke comparing the two countries and their politics will finally be laid to rest. The joke was: Mexico may have one party that always wins, but doesn't America have two identical parties that simply take turns? What's the difference?
Fox rendered the question moot, but it remains to be seen whether he will make a difference.
Fox is the man who brought the 71-year dominance of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to an end. The media hailed his
unexpected opposition victory as a triumph of modern democracy. He was portrayed as Mexico's John Wayne. In his custom boots, the 6-foot-6-inch former Coca-Cola executive and governor of the Mexican state of Guanajuato led the conservative National Action Party (PAN) to sweeping victories. Not only did Fox snare the presidency, but the PAN won gubernatorial races in Guanajuato and Morelos. Although no single party will have a clear majority, the PAN now has the most seats of any party in the lower house of Mexico's Congress. And while the PRI retains the most seats in Mexico's Senate, the PAN advanced there too.
Fox's victory means the PAN can now be something other than the loyal but weak opposition, a role it has played in Mexico's political system since 1939. The party was formed then as a response to the socialist programs of President Lázaro Cárdenas, a PRI leader who believed the "revolution" in the party's name meant land reform and nationalizing companies held by firms in the United States. The PAN became the counterbalance with support from conservative business groups that discouraged state intervention in commerce. The PAN is also pro-Catholic (Fox caused a stir during the campaign by proudly displaying the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe) in the face of the PRI's modern secularism.
Aside from his staunch anti-abortion stance (although Fox is divorced, he is the proud father of four adopted children) and pro-business leanings, the president-elect could shape up as a maverick. On the conservative side, he promises to wage an unrelenting war against drug trafficking and corruption. However, he admires some of Fidel Castro's policies, such as the need for a balance between private corporations and state-owned enterprises. He also came out on election night promising to resolve the thorny question of indigenous rights, which has flared into guerrilla insurgencies. And Fox has promised to disassemble much of Mexico's state security apparatus in the country's Interior Ministry. The Interior Ministry not only directed operations against guerrilla groups, but also conducted domestic spying on controversial journalists and citizens, and designed campaigns to destabilize opposition groups and parties throughout Mexico. When he comes to Washington to meet with President Clinton, Fox promises to push for vast numbers of new visas for Mexicans who wish to work north of the border.