recording of the talk
file - 10 mb)
LoMonaco, Graduate School of Journalism
President Vicente Fox came into office almost eighteen
months ago with a sweeping mandate for change. But the
most visible change thus far, according to Sergio Aguayo,
has been in his approval ratings, which have plummeted
from 70 to 46 percent.
was a growing disenchantment for what he did not do," said
Aguayo, Professor of International Relations at El Colegio
de México and founding member of the Mexican
Academy of Human Rights. During the first year of his
presidency, Fox failed in his promises to combat corruption,
dismantle Mexico's oppressive security apparatus, and
aggressively defend human rights, Aguayo explained in
his talk, "Mexico at a Crossroads: An Evaluation of the
Fox Administration," on April 18.
Aguayo, offering an evaluation of the Fox Administration's
performance during its first months in power in
the last two decades, the soft-spoken Aguayo has been
one of the key intellectuals driving Mexico's transition
to democracy. In 1991, he helped found Alianza Civica,
the civil rights organization that has mobilized thousands
of volunteers and international observers to help insure
free and fair elections in Mexico. He also served as
a mediator between Fox and the center-left candidate
Cuahtemoc Cardenas in an unsuccessful attempt to form
an alliance to unseat the PRI during the 2000 campaign.
His talk was part of the U.S.
and Mexico: Redefining the Relationship series sponsored
by the Center for Latin American Studies.
attributes Fox's failure largely to a policy of appeasement.
Once he realized the residual strength of the PRI, which
maintained a significant presence in congress and several
governorships, party advisors cautioned Fox against antagonizing
the PRI. "Fox shifted from criticizing the old regime
to praising the old regime" nearly over night, Aguayo
said, hoping to gain its support.
plan backfired. "They were working under the assumption," he
explained, "that the PRI was going to give the votes
the president needed for fiscal reform. They were never
going to do that because they didn't want Vicente Fox
to succeed. That's politics."
events of 9/11 and the subsequent economic slowdown,
as well as administrative mismanagement, also played
a role in Fox's inability to deliver, Aguayo said.
so did Fox's character.
of the opinion that he is a decent, honest human being," said
Aguayo, a center-leftist who turned down an offer to
serve in the Fox cabinet, in part because of disagreements
with the president's economic policies. "But he was not
psychologically prepared to implement the change of regime
that the county needed. It was as if for the psychoanalyst,
he was incapable of taking the symbolic step of assassination
of the father."
such casualty of the appeasement policy was a proposed
truth commission. The commission, designed in part by
Aguayo at Fox's request, was to look into both corruption
and human rights abuses, including the disappeared of
Mexico's "Dirty War," as well as the massacres at Acteal
and Aguas Blancas. While Fox promised to form the commission
within a week of its proposal in June, he took no action
until after the death of human rights lawyer Digna Ochoa
in October, when he formed a special attorney general's
office for human rights. The truth commission idea, however,
PRI resisted any search in the past because they knew
that they would end, perhaps not in jail, but indicted
in the eyes of public and international opinion," Aguayo
result has been a reconsolidation of the PRI, exemplified
in the election of Roberto Madrazo as the party's new
president. Madrazo represents "the worst of Mexican politics," including
large-scale, rampant corruption, Aguayo said. Instead
of going after Madrazo, Fox allowed him and the party
to regroup, opening up the possibility that the PRI could
regain the presidency in 2006.
with failure to pass his reforms at home, Fox found refuge
in traveling abroad. Under the aegis of his brilliant
and controversial foreign minister Jorge Casteņeda, Fox
spent one-third of his first 10 months in office out
of the country, forging a more active international role
for Mexico, as well as a new relationship with the United
States. "His trips abroad became a success," Aguayo said, "and
his stay in Mexico became a nightmare- a pesadilla."
the end of Fox's first year, the President has changed
course somewhat. On the human rights front, he freed
General Jose Francisco Gallardo, an Amnesty International "prisoner
of conscience," as well as Guerrero peasant environmental
activists Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera. He also
had his first real success against Mexico's drug trade
with the breaking up the Arellano Felix drug cartel.
And in a marked break with his appeasement policy, he
has opened up high-level corruption investigations. The
most potentially damaging involves the illegal channeling
of $100 million from the oil workers' union to PRI presidential
candidate Francisco Labastida, a case that could implicate
both Labastida and former president Ernesto Zedillo.
PRI has already begun to fight back, winning a recent
vote to deny the president permission to travel to United
States, partially as payback for the corruption investigations,
as well as for Fox's stance on Cuba.
is too soon to say," Aguayo said, "if he will ever recover
the momentum that he had in December 2000."
Aguayo is certain of is that Fox "already has his place
in history as the man who kicked the PRI out of Los Pinos."
is no doubt that he is different," Aguayo continued. "He's
a democratic president. Even with all his mistakes, he
tolerates criticism, he accepts the rules of the game." And
that is far better than any president Mexicans have had
in the past.