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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkEditorials | March 2006 

The Second Campaign of Vicente Fox
email this pageprint this pageemail usMario Canseco - Angus Reid

As his political career is set to end, the Mexican president still brands himself as a political outsider.
As he enters his sixth and final year as Mexico’s head of state, Vicente Fox has campaigned hard in an attempt to solidify his legacy. It is no secret that his messages work better on television, but the guidelines established by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) have changed the way sitting presidents behave. The rules—meant to protect all candidates and parties from having to withstand the influence of the current administration—have forced all government advertisements to carry a disclaimer which reads, "This is a public program, and is not tied to any political party."

This has not stopped the president from bending the rules. Last month, Fox seemed to criticize certain presidential candidates—although he never mentioned names—during a visit to Yucatan, saying, "You don’t create jobs with demagoguery and populism, by being irresponsible. Fiscal and budgetary discipline is indispensable." IFE president Luis Carlos Ugalde said the body would review whether Fox remains neutral during the campaign, set to end with the presidential election on Jul. 2.

Fox maintains a high approval rating—more that 63 per cent of respondents supported his presidency in polls conducted last month by Reforma and Consulta Mitofsky—and his tenure has been greatly affected by a warring and divided legislative branch. After toppling the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with the support of 42.5 per cent of all voters in 2000, Fox was expected to develop into a statesman, but this persona never entered the stage.

Fox’s main setback has been his tendency to dwell in unscripted, off-the-cuff remarks that have caused problems. The Mexican president chooses a way to call attention to problems that inevitably alienates people and creates an unwelcome controversy.

In May 2005, Fox was criticized for his comments during a speech in Puerto Vallarta, where he declared, "There’s no doubt that Mexican men and women—full of dignity, resolve and ability—are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States."

The statement drew stern criticism from African American leaders in the U.S.—including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton—as well as State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. While the Mexican president did not issue an apology and claimed he had been misinterpreted, a communiqué from the Foreign Affairs Secretariat stated that Fox "regretted any hurt feelings his statements may have caused." In the end, Fox’s idea to discuss the plight of Mexicans working illegally in the United States—at a time when several immigration proposals are being reviewed in Congress—ended up hurting him.

The latest slip of the tongue happened on Mar. 9 in Jalisco, when Fox—in an attempt to distance his administration from previous ones—declared, "Past governments fooled us as if we were vile Chinese when they were selling their grandiose ideas, populism and demagoguery."

Once again, Fox—who was, for all intensive purposes, trying to boost support for National Action Party (PAN) presidential nominee Felipe Calderón by thrashing the PRI—managed to utter a racial slur. Fox’s government has been extremely attentive to whatever is said above the Rio Grande, whether it entails his immigration policies, his wife Marta Sahagún’s now abandoned political aspirations, or reactions to his politically incorrect statements. So, unless his phrase somehow makes it to American media outlets, there will be no controversy.

Still, trying to figure out how Fox came to the conclusion that people of Chinese descent can be easily misled into believing promises is worth looking into. In June 2001, Fox visited China. The trip was remembered more for the shameful incident in which Mexican culture secretary Sari Bermúdez played hide-and-seek with some staffers at the Tomb of Qin Shi Huang, gleefully concealing herself behind the terracotta warriors. When Fox returned to Mexico, he said to Excelsior columnist Eduardo Ruiz Healy that he was "impressed by the Great Wall" and after "overlooking the city of Shanghai from the 32nd Floor, where almost every day a new building emerges."

Mexican society is not particularly welcoming to immigrants, and has not made peace with its indigenous communities. 40 per cent of respondents to a Parametría poll conducted in June 2005 think skin colour influences the way people are treated in Mexico. Certain ethnic backgrounds are often used as insults by the middle and upper classes, especially by those Mexicans who—like Fox—can trace their family roots to Spain.

In an interview with Reuters conducted earlier this month, Fox looked back at his tenure and still branded himself as an outsider, despite more than five years in Los Pinos, declaring, "For those of us who have values, who believe in truth, who reject hypocrisy, who don’t like to be stabbed in the back every day, who don’t like to live with slander and lies, I think the whole political system in Mexico needs a very strong dose of ethical behaviour." The comments arrive as the sons from Sahagún’s previous marriage face allegations of corruption and "inexplicable" wealth.

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the included information for research and educational purposes • m3 © 2008 BanderasNews ® all rights reserved • carpe aestus