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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Fox says he did not succeed as he would have liked in his presidency because the political system gives no party a legislative majority

In speech at CETYS University in Tijuana, he still said he would make the same decisions all over again

He nevertheless sees Mexico becoming a much wealthier and much better educated country

By David Gaddis Smith

Vicente Fox, in an appearance at Tijuana's CETYS Vicente FoxUniversity, said that if he had to do it all over again, he would make the same decisions he made during his 2000-2006 presidency. "I don't regret any decision that I made," he said, while adding that "many things did not turn out the way I wanted."

Many have claimed that Fox and his successor, fellow National Action Party President Felipe Calderón, let a tremendous opportunity slip through their fingers following 71 years of Institutional Revolutionary Party rule. PRI presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto over the weekend voiced what many others have been saying when he called 2000-2012 "lost years" for the country.

Fox indicated that any lack of success in the last 12 years came largely from the structure of the political system set up by the PRI, whereby since 1997 no president has had a majority in both houses of the Mexican Congress. "We've been obstructed the last 18 years," he said, lamenting that Mexico's three main political parties have not had the maturity to cast partisan politics aside and come up with a shared project for the nation.

"We have not made a single important decision in 18 years," Fox said, perhaps falling back into the hyperbole he is sometimes known for. He said important financial and other reforms he and Calderón sought were choked off. "We can't keep following the same political model," he said, suggesting that it might behoove Mexico to switch to a parliamentary form of government to force the creation of coalitions to get things done. Peña Nieto, if elected, hopes to enact measures that would make it easier for a party to gain a majority in Congress.

Fox said the Mexican political system's paralysis has seen Brazil surpass Mexico in the economic arena. He said Brazil's move to allow significant private investment in its state oil company, Petrobras, has allowed Petrobras to become far more efficient than Pemex. He said Pemex is so far behind Petrobras now that "Pemex can't even see Petrobras's dust." He said that because of a lack of investment in Pemex and treating Pemex as a cash cow to pay government expenditures, "We are nine years from the point where we won't have a barrel of oil to export."

This election year, Peña Nieto and PAN presidential candidate Josefina Vázquez Mota are both pushing for allowing private investment with Pemex. Democratic Revolutionary Party candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador opposes their positions.

Fox spoke at an event entitled, "Challenges and opportunities for Mexico's Youth in the 21st Century." It was broadcast on Frontera newspaper's website, and the Livestream feed said Internet connections for the speech surpassed 1,300.

Despite his negativity about the political system, Fox saw a bright future for Mexico. He predicted that Mexico's salaries, living standards and education levels will rise dramatically, much as former finance minister Pedro Aspe predicted in a speech in Tijuana in July. Fox told students to get their degrees and work, to do their best, and to always be thinking of ways they might serve their country. He urged them to rebel against established thinking and encouraged students to read the biography of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs for inspiration. Fox, 69, also likened life to the four quarters of a U.S. football game. He said he grew up and got educated in his first quarter, worked for Coca-Cola in his second, returned the family business in his third and became devoted to politics and the nation's welfare in his fourth. Perhaps his work now at the Centro Fox he founded counts as an overtime period?

Fox said that now he is running the Centro Fox, which performs studies, holds conferences and does charitable work, he no longer feels he is a partisan wearing the colors of his party. Indeed, last week he garnered a lot of publicity by saying he proceso cover foxthought that Peña Nieto would likely win the presidency. Last month, during the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Mexico, Fox shook hands with López Obrador, whom he worked so hard to block from winning the presidency in 2006. Fox indicated that some in his party have called him a traitor for his comments about Peña Nieto, and Proceso put him on its cover with the headline "Fox's Betrayal."

Fox also said Mexico has to get out of the trap of violence and the war on drugs it has fallen into. He reiterated his position that drugs should be legalized, saying it is time for big shifts in thinking. In leading up to that point, he noted that abortion is now legal and same-sex couples can now marry, something previously unthinkable. (Same-sex marriage and abortion are legal in Mexico City, although not in Baja California and other states). Over the weekend, however, President Barack Obama, at a Latin America summit in Cartagena, Colombia also attended by Calderón, rejected the idea of legalizing drugs.

Fox also cited as a role model Christopher Yanov, who founded Reality Changers, which awards scholarships to inner-city students in San Diego.

* * * * *

Frontera's story on Fox's speech (PDF).
Frontera interview with Fox (PDF). Jump. Asked whether the escape of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was a stain on his administration, he said many others prisoners also escaped and said the larger picture is escaping from the trap of Mexico's drug war.
Frontera interview with Fox's wife, Marta Sahagún, in which she says she is out of politics. (PDF).
Story, El Mexicano (PDF). Jump.
Update, April 20: Frontera columnist Oscar Genel says Fox, when asked by students whether he was responsible for Guzmán's escape, replied, "I am not St. Peter. I don't have the key." Genel called this an infantile response. However, it should be pointed out that the escape took place in only the second month of Fox's administration, and at a time when it appeared new restrictions were to be imposed on prisoners and after the Supreme Court made it easier to extradite Mexican traffickers to the United States. Guzmán, who appears to have had the run of the prison to that point, then decided to escape. Genel's column (PDF).
Update, April 26: Fox meets with Vázquez Mota. El Mexicano (PDF). Jump.

Vicente Fox at University of San Diego last year.
Fox Center/AARP/Rand report on aging in Mexico.
Fox at Coronado Middle School in March.