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Vicente Fox

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Template:Infobox MexicanPresidentAlive Vicente Fox Quesada (born July 2, 1942) is the current president of Mexico. He was elected in the 2000 presidential election, a historically significant election that made him the first president elected from an opposition party since Francisco I. Madero in 1910. His current term runs through 2006, after which he has said he will retire from political life – re-election is not possible under the Constitution of Mexico.

Fox was born in Mexico City to a wealthy Mexican family of mixed Spanish-Irish American descent (his father was of part-Irish descent and his mother from the Spanish province of Asturias) of Guanajuato. His education included the Universidad Iberoamericana and seminars imparted by lecturers from the Business School of Harvard University. After the end of his education he went to work for The Coca-Cola Company, starting off as a route supervisor and driving a delivery truck. He rose in the company to become supervisor of Coca-Cola's operations in Mexico, and then in all of Latin America, despite the fact he did not graduate from university until he became a presidential candidate in 2000.

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Early political career

Fox joined the National Action Party (PAN) in the 1980s by invitation of Manuel J. Clouthier, a distinguished member of that party, also an entepreneur and presidential candidate in 1988. That year, Fox was elected to the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house of Congress) representing Len, Guanajuato. He ran for governor of Guanajuato in 1991, in a disputed election where the candidate of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate was declared the winner; however, the political climate forced behind-the-scenes negotiations with President Carlos Salinas, so the governorship was given to Carlos Medina Plascencia of the PAN on an interim basis. Claiming the governorship should have been given to him, since he was the candidate, Fox retired from political activity for the rest of Salinas's term.

At the end of Salinas' term the 82nd article of the Mexican constitution was modified to allow Mexicans born to a non-Mexican parent (his mother is Spanish) to run for the presidency. While this change was interpreted to favor some of the PRI's politicians, in the end it enabled Fox to become president.

In 1995 Fox again ran for the governorship of his state. This time he won by an undisputedly wide margin and took office. His term as governor in Guanajuato was uneventful; his policy was to promote private investments and government efficiency and transparency.

The presidential candidacy

In 1997, three years before the election, Fox declared that he would be the presidential candidate for his party. He was met with skepticism, because he was mostly an unknown in the national political scene, and even his party colleagues thought he was too inexperienced to even compete for the candidacy. Using his governorship as a way to promote his image, he quickly rose to the national scene, claiming he was an honest, experienced entrepreneur, a citizen more than a politician (the general opinion of politicians in Mexico is very poor).

Although he made several mistakes along the way, like directly confronting prominent figures from his own party like Diego Fernndez de Cevallos, his playing against the rules paid off. When 1999 came he was too popular for his party (PAN) to consider a different candidate, even when it was thought Fox was more foxista than panista. Fox was nominated and chosen mostly unopposed as the PAN party's presidential candidate for 2000.

Presidency

After an aggressive campaign, full of promises and statements regarding the other candidates personal life, Fox won the election on July 2, 2000, (coincidentally his birthday) with 43% of the popular vote, beating the PRI's Francisco Labastida (interior minister under Zedillo). In December he assumed the presidency.

After assuming the presidency, he found he needed the support of a Congress dominated by the parties he had attacked during his campaign, and even in his own party some were discomforted by him. He managed to infuriate the members of Congress from the first minute of his term when, inmediately after being sworn as president and donning the presidential band, he began his speech to Congress by greeting all of his sons and daughters by name, addressing the Congress afterwards, breaking the protocol of the swearing-in ceremony.

Promises like solving the EZLN guerrilla problem in "fifteen minutes" and ensuring annual economic growth of 7% were impossible to hold. In the EZLN's case he simply turned the requested constitutional changes to Congress for them to deal with, and the 7% growth was re-interpreted to be for the full six-year term (as of 2005, it is unlikely this goal will be achieved).

Despite these problems, his popularity carried him for the first year or two, but disillusionment began. In a country ruled for 70 years by the same party, always subordinated to the president, change needed more than politic skill and diplomacy, and Fox had little of both. Dismantling the existing bureaucratic structure, displayed as corrupt and inefficient by Fox, would have meant unemployment, government paralyzation and costly relearning. After a year of calling the previous ruling party, PRI, a group of "tepocatas, alimaas, vboras prietas" (different terms for snakes and poisonous insects found on farms) and stating that they caused Mexico 72 "lost years of development" (referring to the time they held the presidency), he found most state and municipality governors where priistas and the biggest, most organized and experienced party was also the PRI. In fact, after seven decades of ruling, the political, social and even economical system was imbued with the PRI in one form or another.

Partly to make amends, and partly because they were the most experienced ones, Fox included in his cabinet many officials from previous governments (not necessarily pristas) and also from the other opposition party, Partido de la Revolucin Democrtica. This elicited a comment from a PAN official, half-jokingly wondering whether Fox considered having a PAN member in his government (he had none at the beginning).

Early 2005 was difficult for Fox. On December 31, 2004, the brother of escaped drug lord Joaqun El Chapo Guzmn was murdered in the maximum-security prison La Palma that houses many drug dealers but also notable kidnappers and murderers. In January 2005 an unprecendent operation by the Mexican army lay siege to La Palma (and later the other maximum-security prisons of the country). It turns out the drug dealers had taken control of the prison by money or fear and ran their affairs (even ordering the murder of their enemies) from inside the prison. The government described the whole operation as "regaining control" of the prisons. The apparently exaggerated presence of the army (they even dug trenches) was decided when the government knew a full scale assault to free the drug lords in La Palma was about to take place, including ground-to-ground missiles and aircraft to make good their escape. There is little doubt that the drug lords have the capacity to conduct such an attack if they want to; incidents of drug dealers repelling the police using bazookas aren't unheard of, and there have been incidents of drug lords evasion with outside help in lower security prisons.

In May 2005, Fox attracted controversy for his remarks to a Texas business forum on May 13 that Mexican immigrants are doing jobs that not even blacks want to do there in the United States. The remarks attracted widespread criticism in the U.S. especially from civil rights leaders such as Reverend Jesse Jackson. Fox later called Jackson and Reverend Al Sharpton on May 16 to apologise for the remarks. The remarks were made in the context of Mexican concerns about restrictions on Mexican immigration which also led to the Mexican Government sending the U.S. Government a diplomatic note as a form of protest.

President, Mrs. Fox, and Laura Bush
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President, Mrs. Fox, and Laura Bush

The presidential couple

Since being married one year after the presidential election, Fox has on several occasions referred to himself and Marta Sahagn, his wife and former spokeswoman, as "the presidential couple" (la pareja presidencial). Critics have pointed out that this nomenclature is inconsistent with the terms of the Mexican Constitution (Art. 80: Supreme executive power is deposited in a single individual, who shall be called 'The President of the United Mexican States') and take it as an indication of Sahagn's own political — perhaps even presidential — ambitions. Even the title "First Lady" does not officially exist, and the wives of previous presidents usually had a low profile, with little or no involvement in government affairs, except being honorary heads of the DIF, a government institute for family and childhood welfare.

These supposed political ambitions, which Sahagn never addressed directly, were the cause of much controversy. After many spending and funding scandals, it was discovered in the middle of 2004 that her philanthropic foundation, Vamos Mexico, received indirect funding from the government's National Lottery (in general, gambling and lottery are governmental monopoly). This caused a congressional probe, and then Fox's private secretary publicly quit, stating in an open letter he did not agree with the way Fox supported the political ambitions of his wife. A few days later Fox announced a new general director for the National Lottery. By the middle of July 2004 the pressure was so great President Fox assured the press both he and Marta would go home after ending his term, and announced his wife would give a press conference about that. That press conference was delayed once, but finally, after one week, Marta Sahagn announced she would not run for the presidential office in 2006. This should have helped President Fox improve his relationship with congress and political parties, but the damage was done and some opposition politicians, mostly from the PRD, kept referring to Marta as a potential candidate for some months.

Presidential succession

In 2004 opposing-party Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador, Mayor of Mexico City, was accused by a judge of deliberately disobeying a judicial order, and subjected to a special political process to remove his constitutional protection against being subjected to judicial process. This caused great discomfort in Lpez Obrador's party, the PRD, not because of the accusation which is minor, but of its implications: while he is subject to judicial process, Mexican law disqualifies him from running for the presidency. Elections will be held in 2006, so the timing is critical. Since AMLO is the PRD's most promising option for wining the presidency, and currently leads opinion polls among all the parties' possible candidates, this has raised the whole party against Fox, whom they hold responsible for what they think is wielding the law for political ends. The Chamber of Deputies removed Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador's constitutional protection on April 7, 2005. Yet the federal government has decided not to prosecute him.

For all this, Fox's appearance in Congress to give his annual report in 2004, as mandated by Constitution, was met with heavy expressions of discomfort: interruptions, signs, photographs of AMLO and so on. This lasted for as long as he was reading his speech, making it possibly the hardest of all presidential speeches to Congress. The president of Congress had to call congressmen to order many times during his speech. Even former president Salinas, the biggest political enemy of the PRD, never had such a bad time. The situation was so uncomfortable that when he touched one of his most controversial reforms and was interrupted again, Fox stopped reading his speech for a moment and said, "I invite all involved sides to make a truce to dialogue and obtain political agreements." Another noteworthy declaration was an optimistic "the best is yet to come" when referring to his government's achievements so far and the remaining two years of his term. This was one of Fox's hardest moments. Having made similar protests when he was in Congress against the current president he was unable to defend himself, and his party did what it could. The general impression among the public was that Fox would like to improve the country but he simply cannot. The political class acted as if Fox's term was about to end, two years before it does.

Legacy

Vicente Fox with Marta Sahagn, Laura Bush, and George W. Bush
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Vicente Fox with Marta Sahagn, Laura Bush, and George W. Bush

Most analysts consider Fox's term will be remembered for being the first of an opposition party in modern times and for following the steps of previous governments (most notably previous president Zedillo) but doing little of its own. Most of the important reforms passed in Fox's term were proposed by the PRI in previous terms and rejected (among others) by Fox and his party at the time. His economic policy is the natural continuation of Zedillo's, as is his most important and praised social program, Contigo ("With You"), with only a name change. Fox's original initiatives were usually met with scepticism or scandal, and over time they were forgotten, even by Fox.

There are, however, important improvements that can be attributed to Fox: the reform of the national housing system, INFONAVIT, originally meant to facilitate the buying of houses by workers using long-term lending against their salary. In practice it was paralyzed by corruption at every level; during Fox's term the INFONAVIT became more efficient, increasing the number of homes bought by workers to an all-time record. Another of his achievements is the national system of medical insurance (Seguro Popular, People's Insurance) covering families, consisting mostly of self-employed and part-time workers, left out of existing systems. For a small fee calculated against their socio-economical level a whole family can be insured against common maladies and events like pregnancies. Initially criticized for giving only a limited coverage and requiring a fee (though all government insurance schemes require one), it is the first that addressed a long-forgotten part of the population. Some time later its coverage was expanded to include cancer and cataracts for vulnerable groups (children and senior citizens).

Template:Commonscat

See also


Preceded by:
Ernesto Zedillo
President of Mexico
2000–present
Succeeded by:
current incumbent

Template:End boxca:Vicente Fox da:Vicente Fox de:Vicente Fox et:Vicente Fox es:Vicente Fox eo:Vicente FOX QUESADA fr:Vicente Fox Quesada gl:Vicente Fox nl:Vicente Fox ja:ビセンテ・フォックス・ケサーダ no:Vicente Fox sr:Винсент Фокс Кесада

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