Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 231 | Octubre 2000



Fox’s First Moves in a Tough Transition

On July 2, Mexicans rejected a political system sustained for so long through corruption and authoritarianism. The task now is to prevent authoritarianism from taking root again. There is danger that the PRI will be dismantled behind people’s back, but expectations are running high.

Jorge Alonso

Since July 2, a feeling has been growing among the Mexican people that democracy is finally here. In June 1999, according to a survey carried out by the newspaper Reforma, only 38% of the population felt that Mexico was a democratic country. By last December that perception had increased somewhat, to 50%. By June of this year, as dirty campaigning fed a pessimistic mood, the percentage of people who felt that they were living in a democracy had fallen back to 42%. But now, two months after Vicente Fox’s victory in the presidential elections, 66% believe that Mexico is a democratic country.

A very tough transition

Most Mexicans fervently hope that this will be a change for the better. But from the very start, it became increasingly clear that the jolting change in the rules of the political game had so upset the leading political forces that the smooth transition that got underway in July was bound to hit some bumps. The outgoing government no longer wields all the power and its members are bickering amidst new scandals, but Fox’s transition team has not managed to gain control of the political situation either.

There are five months between the elections and the new President’s inauguration, a very long time indeed for anyone to expect that the process won’t run up against obstacles put in the way by the various powerful groups struggling to stay their ground.

The victory of Fox and his National Action Party (PAN) has sharpened the internal conflicts within both the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). It could also spark a crisis in the PAN itself as the party and the new President define their relationship, although Fox has indicated that he is looking to break with the PRI’s tradition of subordinating the party to presidential power.

Eyes on Chiapas

Two important local elections were held in August and September, one to elect a new governor and local Congress in Chiapas, and the other to choose mayors and state legislators in Veracruz. In Chiapas the PRI ran against a virtual union of the two broad alliances of parties led by the PAN and the PRD that had been established for the federal elections. This new alliance pledged to demilitarize Chiapas, punish those responsible for the Acteal massacre and push for implementation of the San Andrés accords signed in 1996 between the government and the Zapatistas. As the most reliable surveys showed the opposition in the lead, the PRI became worried and stepped up its efforts to take the elections by fraud. PRI governors, especially Tabasco’s Roberto Madrazo, threw their weight behind their party’s candidates in Chiapas.

In July, the autonomous Zapatista municipalities had denounced army movements and the harassing of indigenous communities in resistance on ten occasions. Ten days before the elections, a thousand members of Acteal’s "Las Abejas" indigenous people’s association marched to celebrate the International Day of Indigenous Peoples and denounce human rights violations against the indigenous people of Chiapas, including the Acteal massacre. They asked why, nearly three years after that massacre, the government persists in lying by claiming that justice has been done, and demanded that former governor Julio César Ferro and eight of his collaborators be punished as the intellectual authors of the massacre. They also demanded that the paramilitary groups be disarmed, since displaced people cannot return to their homes as long as they continue to operate.

The paramilitary activities have been denounced for quite some time. Recently, to take but one example, a PRI-supported paramilitary group known as "Peace and Justice" forced Zapatista supporters to flee from a field. The army and federal police moved in on a supposed mission to disarm the group, but it was all for show: the army left without making any arrests, after confiscating just one weapon and a few cartridge cases.

The PRI first tried to
coerce the vote…

People interpreted this "mission" as yet another action to persuade them to cast a "vote of fear" for the government. The Catholic Church called on people to vote, and called on the parties to refrain from coercing voters. Civic organizations warned that the conditions in Chiapas did not allow for clean elections. On the eve of the elections, the paramilitaries intensified their offensive and even harassed electoral observers.

On Sunday August 20, election day, electoral materials were stolen, votes were bought and opposition supporters were kidnapped for several hours. In many isolated places where there were no observers, the PRI coerced voters. The Zapatista communities did not turn out to vote because of the harassment. Chiapas had the highest abstention rate of any state in the federal elections, and because of this harassment it was even higher in the local elections. Nonetheless, thanks to the presence of national and international observers, the PRI could not carry out many of the fraudulent acts it had planned. Despite its efforts, the first results showed that opposition candidate Pablo Salazar had won.

…then tried to fix the numbers

When the PRI saw that these attempts to steal the elections had come to naught, it moved to the second phase of its strategy and tried to manipulate the numbers. It pressured the Electoral Council to prevent the release of the preliminary results. The PRI’s national office issued its own false figures before the official results were made known, in violation of the parties’ agreement. Although the incumbent governor of Chiapas recognized the PRI’s defeat on the very night of the elections, Madrazo’s people also tried to tamper with the results.

In response to such maneuvers, the PRD and PAN national offices communicated with the Government Secretary on the seriousness of the situation. At 10:50 that night, the Electoral Council announced the results of rapid counts made by two reliable firms. Both found that the opposition had won by a wide margin. The following day, the official figures confirmed Salazar’s victory.

Chiapas: a plebiscite
against the PRI

Pablo Salazar celebrated his victory as a blow to the mafia of PRI governors in the southeast. He announced that he would put a halt to the re-municipalization measures implemented by his predecessor without the participation of the indigenous communities and in violation of the San Andrés accords. He also announced that his government would not tolerate impunity and recognized that as long the causes that gave rise to the Zapatista uprising persisted, it would have reason to continue.

Chiapas has been marked by a longstanding complicity between governors and big landowners, ranchers and other exploiters of the indigenous people. The elections were like a local plebiscite ratifying the PRI’s national defeat, a defeat born of the conviction that there would be no solution to the problems indigenous people in Chiapas faced as long as the PRI governed.

Veracruz: A divided opposition

The situation in Veracruz was totally different. The opposition did not unite and, even worse, many small parties became electoral franchises for regional power groups, while some parties that had allied with the PRD in the federal elections switched over to the PRI. In some cases, parties running as allies in one municipality opposed each other in the neighboring one. In this context, the PRI managed to agree on candidates with the Social Alliance Party, the Authentic Party of the Mexican Revolution and the Nationalist Society Party in 122 of the 210 municipalities. The PRD formed alliances in 34 municipalities, including 3 with the PAN, and the PAN formed alliances in 26 municipalities. The local PRI government again used public resources in its campaign in violation of the law. As in Chiapas, the abstention rate was high.

With the fragmentation of the other parties and the PRI governor’s success in uniting the main groups in his party, the PRI came out the winner of 166 municipal governments and 20 out of 24 state legislative assemblies. The PAN won the other 4 assemblies and 43 municipal governments, and the PRD won 29 municipal governments.

After these local elections it became apparent that, at a national level, the PRI’s power has shifted from the presidency to the state governments it still controls. This shift permitted the PRI to boast that Fox’s victory did not produce the feared "domino effect."

Tensions in the army

The Mexican army has never had to account for the taxpayers’ money it receives. It manages its public funds in a highly autonomous, discretional way, without having to follow the Treasury’s norms. Discretional management of its payroll represents an important source of power and internal corruption. To make matters worse, drug traffickers have infiltrated the armed forces.

Fox’s victory stirred things up within army ranks and the old networks of impunity began to unravel, leading to a tense power struggle. Several groups mobilized to hold on to the National Defense Department, while one retired officer wrote Fox to ask if the discrediting and deterioration of the army would continue under his government.

In this agitated context, two high-ranking officers were arrested on charges of collaborating with drug traffickers. Eureka, a group that searches for people who have been disappeared for political reasons, charged that these two officers had also committed innumerable crimes against grassroots opposition leaders. Many officers agreed that Generals Acosta and Quiroz should be tried for their ties to drug trafficking, but not with the idea of trying them for torture, assassination and human rights violations in the counterinsurgency efforts of the 1970s. They argued that such a move would lower the morale of the whole army. They also claimed that the two officers had followed orders every step of the way, and that the entire system had been involved in the dirty work.

Big scandals uncovered

Mexico ranks 59 among the 90 countries listed in the most recent world corruption index report. While Finland, the country with the lowest corruption level in the world, was accorded a score of 10, Mexico’s score was 3.3. A World Bank report released on September 25 identified Mexico as the fourth most corrupt country among the 21 in its survey.

In the months following the federal elections, several cases emerged, like the tip of an iceberg, to reveal the scandalous corruption in the country. Tourism Secretary Oscar Espinosa was forced to resign over accusations of embezzlement. Fox demanded that he be tried, but with the PRI’s support he chose to flee and is now being sought within the country and abroad.

Another of the big scandals marking the end of this presidential term broke out in the National Vehicle Registry, the private agency now responsible for what was formerly a state task. The manager of this company, Ricardo Miguel Cavallo, ended up accused not only of falsification and auto theft but also of the far more serious crimes of torturing and killing political prisoners and genocide under Argentina’s military government. Spain’s Judge Baltasar Garzón, who brought the case against Pinochet, has been requesting Cavallo’s detention for these same crimes all over the world; he was finally arrested in Mexico. The very next day, the under-secretary of commerce responsible for vehicle registration was found, apparently having committed suicide. Questions mounted and everything pointed to mafia involvement. It appears that criminals have infiltrated the government and its top officials are clearly responsible.

Espionage and the
diversion of funds

The Supreme Court ordered President Zedillo to give Congress all information he has on Banco Unión trusts, from which funds were illegally diverted to the PRI when the now fugitive Espinosa was the PRI’s finance secretary. When Zedillo did as ordered, party leaders were indignant, revealing that they are not concerned about criminal acts but only about being the possibility of being found out and punished. On September 21, the Banking Commission submitted to Congress its information on the irregular trusts that served to finance PRI campaigns. The total came to US$11 million. This money ended up in FOBAPROA, the fund established—at taxpayer expense—to bail out banks that had lost huge sums through speculative investments and other shady deals. Money from these trusts was used in Zedillo’s presidential campaign as well as Madrazo’s gubernatorial campaign.

The Bank Savings Protection Institute (the institution that replaced FOBAPROA) clarified that the diversion of funds from the Banco Unión to the PRI—which contributed to the bank’s failure—has already been proven and the party is obliged to return the money. Four parliamentary groups demanded that Madrazo be tried in the case, and the PRD called for an investigation of the gubernatorial campaign now underway in Tabasco to determine if the diversion of funds is still taking place. It also demanded investigation of other banks to determine whether funds have been illegally diverted to the PRI.

Still another scandal broke out when it was revealed that the government had illegally tapped Fox’s telephone. And yet another came to light at the end of September, when ties between the federal highway police and drug traffickers were revealed. The very poor performance of the Attorney General’s Office has been patently clear in all of this.

Zedillo’s final report:
A review of his six-year term

During Zedillo’s final report to Congress, PRI representatives, who usually applaud the President, remained silent, resentful. In his speech, the President tried to justify his six-year term, but the tally—including the official figures in the annexes to the report itself—lead to the conclusion that Zedillo’s main accomplishment has been to help destroy the country. Zedillo promised well-being to all Mexican families but in fact, it reached only a few accomplices. He did not speak of Chiapas, or of the important university strike at the National Autonomous University, or of the FOBAPROA banking scandal, or of the recent scandal in the Vehicle Registry. During his government, the public debt grew by 100%. The banking system, even after a multi-million dollar bailout, is a shambles. Poverty has increased. Zedillo’s record also includes the blood spilt by state and paramilitary security forces: the massacres at Acteal, El Bosque and El Charco in Chiapas and Aguas Blancas in Guerrero.

Vicente Fox pointed out Zedillo’s grave omission, particularly Aguas Blancas, Acteal, and Chiapas in general. He emphasized that it is a mistake to leave people’s development in the market’s hands, and that timely, selective state intervention is required to ensure the distribution of income. The PRD declared that Zedillo would go down in history as the President of FOBAPROA.

One important step that the new government should take in the future is to transform the President’s report from a ritual act to a true means of communication between the executive and legislative branches.

Infighting within the PRI

With the electoral defeat, the PRI lost its head, which has always resided in the presidential branch, from whence orders were given, posts distributed and resources divvied up. The result has been deep disappointment and anger. Some PRI members proposed expelling Zedillo from the party for recognizing Fox’s victory. They have not forgiven him for not letting them carry out the second phase of that fraud. Internal power struggles within the PRI to determine who will lead the party through its restructuring have been sharp, and although the challenge is to maintain unity, no leader has emerged who can lead the party.

The PRI’s 21 governors met several times to consider how to proceed. Those from the southeast, led by Tabasco’s Madrazo, proclaimed that the party’s rebirth will come from their part of the country. But their first big loss in Chiapas was not encouraging, and there were signs that the PRI was falling apart in four states.

Some 40 groups can be defined within the PRI, and all have been fighting for a place in the restructuring process. Some of these groups are very powerful, like the one led by former governor of the state of Mexico Carlos Hank; one led by Madrazo; one led by the former Puebla governor, Manuel Bartlett; and one led by Enrique Jackson, who remains at the helm of the PRI’s legislative bench. The PRI’s critics recognize that an elite group has been established within the party that is very strong politically and economically, albeit very weak morally and ethically.

Some party members who disagree with the PRI leaders and feel excluded damaged the PRI headquarters recently. A more serious sign of the PRI breakdown was a bloody fight over a municipal government that broke out between two groups within the party in the state of Mexico, resulting in deaths. The national party had to publicly recognize its responsibility in the events for sheltering such groups. With the loss of the presidency, the caciques of all sizes who previously followed party lines and enjoyed impunity in exchange for the votes they brought to the party, have begun to rebel.

Dismantling the PRI’s
levers of power

Luis Javier Garrido, one of the most astute scholars of the PRI, has noted that party leaders sustained its regime through agreements and shady deals made behind people’s backs. This system came crashing down on July 2, when the PRI met its end as a state party. Garrido called attention to two facts. First, the remains of the power system that sustained the PRI are still alive and the mechanisms of PRI power must be dismantled if the party’s authoritarian legacy is to be overcome. Among these mechanisms, he mentioned the PRI unions and associations that continue to control workers, the government subsidy to newspapers, the political police, the espionage systems and all kinds of subsidies granted to organizations that have supported the PRI system.

It is also essential to review the privatization of state companies, recover the sums stolen by the PRI’s political bureaucracy, break the state’s relationships with drug traffickers, and try those responsible for state crimes and those who defrauded the nation through the FOBAPROA bank scandal. Without dismantling all these levers of control and domination that have been developed over several decades in both public and private institutions, social organizations and the media, the PRI will remain alive.

Garrido’s second point is that people must beware of the danger that all these changes will be negotiated behind their back. The importance of July 2 lies in its rejection of a political system and all that it has historically implied. The task now is to ensure that authoritarianism does not send out new roots.

A drifting PRD

The PRD managed to stick together despite sharp internal struggles that flared up around its efforts to get the PRI out of the presidential office and put Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in its place. The elections led not only to the PRI’s defeat—no thanks to the PRD—but also to Cárdenas’ erosion as a leader. Cárdenas declared July 2 a most fateful day for the Mexican people, but it was also a day on which his party suffered a big loss, as its legislative bench fell from 125 to 50 seats.

Calls for refounding the party can also be heard within the PRD, but amid the post-electoral confusion there are also signs that a PRI-PRD alliance could be in the works. The leaders of the two parties met on the basis of their ideological affinities, but they also share some of the same vices. Critical tendencies within the PRD have called attention to the caciques who can also be found there, who do the party harm. If nothing is done about this, the party runs the risk of breaking up. What is most troubling about all this is that there is no solid Left with a viable program to serve as a counterweight to Fox in the wake of his victory.

Guanajuato: A national
debate over abortion

Fox’s victory aroused the PAN’s extreme right wing. In Guanajuato, a majority of PAN legislators approved a law prohibiting women from having abortions even in the case of rape and punishing those who do with jail sentences. The law was widely repudiated around the country, which obliged the PAN’s national directorate to clarify that it did not represent a national party strategy or respond to lines from PAN leadership or the President-elect. The directorate promised to meet with Guanajuato’s legislators to find an appropriate solution.

Fox emphatically stated that he disagreed with Guanajuato’s anti-abortion law, and reminded people that he had promised not to promote any initiative that would change legislation on the circumstances in which legal abortions are allowed. National legislation allows for abortion in the case of rape, but women’s movements are calling for complete decriminalization, noting that women’s lives are put at risk in the 850,000 clandestine abortions performed in Mexico each year.

PAN’s eight governors also expressed their differences with the law. A survey done at the request of Guanajuato’s own governor on the feelings of the people in his state on this issue found that 63% do not approve of the changes in the new law. In the end, he exercised his veto power on the controversial law.

Journalist Jaime Avilés pointed out that hardline sectors in the PAN were not the only ones taking an anti-abortion position. While the wife of the PRI’s defeated presidential candidate Francisco Labastida made a great scandal over the law in Guanajuato, there was a case in Sinoloa—Labastida’s home turf—of a young woman who had been raped and wanted to have an abortion. The PRI authorities did not allow her to have one, and Labastida’s wife neither said nor did a thing.

At the end of September, the National Human Rights Commission supported the recommendation made in March by the Human Rights Ombudsperson to the PAN government of Baja California, demanding that it compensate a teenage girl who had been raped and not allowed to have a legal abortion. It proposed that a trust be established to ensure that the girl and her child would be guaranteed health care, education, clothing and housing. The Human Rights Commission also recommended that the responsibility of the state attorney general and the medical personnel involved be determined.

The Guanajuato law sparked a controversy with national repercussions. Although the PRD had not touched the topic in its two and a half years in office in the capital, it responded to the debate by extending the cases in which abortion is allowed to include congenital defects and danger to the mother’s life. Legislation was reformed in Morelos as well to allow abortion in the case of fetal malformation or artificial insemination without consent.

A pluralist society blocks
PAN’s extreme right wing

Rightwing extremists who have come together in the organization Pro Vida (Pro Life) and have significant influence among some PAN sectors have tried to promote their positions and will continue to do so. In Aguascalientes, another state governed by the PAN, officials allowed a private resort to prohibit the entrance "of homosexuals and dogs." The local protest garnered national support and pressure from social movements held these homophobic efforts at bay.

Although the right wing has become bolder, it is consistently coming up against important social groups that have prevented it from imposing its rigid norms on an increasingly complex, pluralistic society.

Diverse tendencies in the PAN

Fox’s government will have to negotiate with all forces—including those in his own party, where one finds many rightwing sectors moderated by some centrist groups. Some PAN legislators have expressed their disagreement with the San Andrés Accords while others reject the notion that they should continue to follow international guidelines on economic issues. The leader of the PAN bench in the House of Representatives has informed the members of Fox’s team in charge of economic issues that he will not accept their preliminary budget proposal because of its mechanical application of World Bank recipes.

Mainly as a reply to critical remarks in the annual IMF-World Bank meeting by MIT professor Rudiger Dornbusch, guru of former President Salinas de Gortari, Fox declared that Mexico can act freely without following the guidelines set by these international institutions since it no longer has a debt with the IMF. While this statement distanced Fox from Zedillo’s globaphilic declarations, his team, spurred by globalization’s imperatives, quickly reassured the IMF that there would be continuity in Mexico’s economic policies. They made several clarifications, however, insisting for example that the issue of labor flexibility could only be taken up after efforts were made to recover the value of people’s salaries.

Fox, the PRD and the PRI

On August 2, one month to the day after the elections, the Electoral Tribunal declared Vicente Fox President-elect of Mexico. From that moment, Fox turned to the task of working towards reconciliation after the extremely bitter electoral campaign.
He asked the electoral tribunal magistrates to forgive him for having accused them of partiality and dirty tricks when they refused to let his picture be printed on the ballots. He met with PRI candidate Labastida to praise his honesty and serenity in accepting the election results. He also visited Cárdenas at his home and acknowledged his important role in the struggle to establish democracy in Mexico. Fox asked them all to work together in the transition.

Cárdenas responded that his party’s relationship with the government would take place through institutional channels. It then took several weeks of unsuccessful efforts before Fox finally managed to contact Andrés Manuel López Obrador—head of the PRD government-elect in the Federal District—to arrange a meeting.
Cárdenas demanded clear signs from Fox on the conflict in Chiapas. He insisted that people would believe in the new government only if it withdrew the troops, implemented the San Andrés accords and dismantled the paramilitary groups. In addition to these three points relating to Chiapas, the PRD demanded a democratic reform that involves dismantling the state party, promoting federalism and encouraging free unions; a budget that responds to social demands in education, health care and housing; a national transparency commission to investigate FOBAPROA, the privatizations and the "secret party"; and a national development program to be drawn up in conjunction with the Congress.

Fox’s team also held meetings with the PRI, although the party barred its members from collaborating with the new President as individuals. Fox had already met with the PRI governor of Sinaloa at the end of July and with five southern PRI governors who agreed to collaborate with Fox on a regional plan in September.

Fox promised to hold ongoing talks with the PRD and the PRI to reform the state, draw up the 2001 budget and a fiscal reform plan, define its economic and social policy and the relationship between state powers, and secure peace and justice in Chiapas.

Chiapas is the big test

On the issue of Chiapas, declarations by Fox as well as his team have varied. In some statements, it appeared that they were taking up Zedillo’s stance of refusing to take even one step until the Zapatistas returned to the talks. But the most persistent statements are in accord with PRD demands. Fox must keep in mind the conditions the Zapatistas established in 1996 for resuming the talks: respect for the San Andrés accords, freeing of Zapatista prisoners, naming of a government mediator with decision-making power, establishment of a follow-up and verification commission, formulation of serious proposals on democracy and justice, an end to military harassment and police persecution of the communities, and dismantling of the paramilitary groups.

As of early October, the Zapatistas and Subcomandante Marcos had still not said a word about the new situation in Mexico or about Fox and his team. The other armed group, the EPR, announced that it would continue fighting Fox, who it described as a privatizer working against the people.

Magdalena Gómez, a specialist in indigenous rights, said it is time for Fox to act on the promises he has made. She recalled that the only thing missing from the proposal by the legislature’s Commission on Harmony and Pacification (COCOPA) before it can be introduced as legislation is a statement of motives, and maintained that the initiatives by Zedillo, the PAN and the Green Party related to indigenous rights should be withdrawn.

It will take concrete decisions and actions by the state, including both the executive and legislative branches, to win the confidence of the Zapatistas and the indigenous people. Some have noted that the San Andrés accords only represented the indigenous people’s minimum demands, all that could be achieved in a country governed by an authoritarian state party regime. In the new situation, they say, it is necessary to go beyond those accords, which did not take into account the situation of the millions of indigenous people who no longer live in their places of origin but have migrated to the cities.

Visits to Central America,
Canada and the United States

To establish contacts and learn from other people’s experiences, Fox has already made several visits abroad. In his tour of Central America, he asked forgiveness for the humiliation and abuse suffered by Central American migrants at the hands of Mexican authorities and promised to prevent these abuses.

In Canada, meeting with Canadian and Mexican nongovernmental organizations, he announced that he would take NGOs into account and promised that his government would respect human rights. He asked the NGOs to monitor that respect, especially regarding the rights of emigrants. The meeting’s hosts declared that they hoped the new Mexican President would continue along this path, since it is the way to consolidate democracy. Fox also won sympathy among NGOs in the United States when he invited them to participate in the political transition and the building of a new bilateral relationship.

In the past, Mexican presidents have treated nongovernmental organizations with hostility. Fox has promised them a good relationship. His transition team received the Mexican NGOs in the grouping known as El Poder es la Gente (Power is the People) and promised to promote a law encouraging the social development and welfare activities carried out by civil society organizations, which Zedillo’s government had blocked. The Mexican NGOs put forward the need for instruments of direct democracy at a national level, including plebiscites, referendums and popular initiatives; for a policy allowing independent candidates to run; and for stronger requirements for registering political parties. Since as electoral observers they had witnessed the persistent buying and coercion of votes, they also brought up the urgent need to ensure that the Electoral Institute has adequate legal instruments to prevent these practices. Other calls for change have come from the leaders of independent unions, who have asked the President-elect to participate in labor reforms.

Zedillo’s legacy:
Increased poverty and inequality

The National Geography and Statistics Institute revealed that, although wealth increased in Mexico between 1994 and 2000, its distribution remains very unjust: while the wealthiest 10% of households took in 38.1% of the national income, the poorest 10% got barely 1.5%. Zedillo’s last report revealed that consumer subsidies have fallen and fewer resources have been dedicated to the fight against poverty. Some 200,000 families no longer receive social assistance, and nearly 28,000 indigenous people have been excluded from social assistance programs.

In its most recent meeting in Prague, the World Bank agreed that the abysmal differences between rich and poor endanger global stability. In Mexico, 30% of the people survive on less than a dollar a day. The World Bank pointed out an obvious truth: given that poverty has increased, financial reform in Mexico is a failure.

Julio Boltvinik, one of the most astute researchers on poverty in Mexico, has demonstrated more specifically how the economic model Zedillo’s government imposed led to growth accompanied by an alarming concentration of wealth and an increase in poverty among the poorest sectors. The percentage of Mexican households living below the poverty line increased from 69% to 76% in the past six years. In this context, an official policy to ensure that salaries recover their value is urgently required since nearly two-thirds of the poor are salaried workers and the policies designed to fight poverty barely reach the self-employed third of the poor without even touching the other two-thirds.

The "shout" of hope

On September 16, the anniversary of independence from Spain was celebrated with the traditional grito (shout), an event that has become an official ritual. This year an alternative shout went up in 120 municipalities in 18 states of the country: the "cry of the excluded." This was part of a campaign organized by 150 organizations from around the continent that culminated on October 12 with a continental cry of indignation over the impoverishment that has been created by those who maintain the current impoverishing economic model.

Fox has declared that he will take everyone into account, that he wants to share power without excluding anyone, and will govern through consensus. Resolving the problem of poverty by putting the needs of impoverished areas before the dictates of the international financial centers—which never cease to talk about eradicating poverty—will be vital to democracy in Mexico.

When asked about Mexico’s presidential elections, Spanish philosopher Fernando Savater declared that "they have been a definitive parting of the waters; signaling a change that has filled us all with emotion." In Mexico, people continue to hope, with more expectation than emotion, that this is the case.

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