Mexico: President Elect Brings Business Approach to Governing

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Inter Press Service

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's president-elect Vicente Fox said Tuesday that the change of government would be smooth and crisis-free, and that his absolute top priority would be the fight against poverty.

The former Coca Cola executive's description of his plans was peppered with business terminology like ''selling'' an idea, using the best ''techniques'', ''teamwork'' and building ''human capital''.

''We have our sights set on the future...the government will not get bogged down in the past,'' in an attempt to assign blame and point out errors committed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Fox said in a long press conference with foreign correspondents.

Relaxed and cracking the occasional joke, Fox alternately explained in Spanish and English that like in a company, his government would work as a ''team'', setting monthly or yearly goals, and that although it would seek consensus positions with the opposition, there would always be a previously agreed contingency plan if no consensus could be reached.

''With a good team there will be no challenge that we cannot take on,'' said Fox, a former senator and former governor of the central state of Guanajuato. He added that his government would work in a decentralised manner, rotating duties and tasks.

Fox triumphed Sunday in the most hotly contested elections ever held in Mexico. According to the latest results, he took 43 percent of the votes, seven percent more than his chief rival, PRI candidate Francisco Labastida.

Fox, the first opposition candidate to win the presidency in 71 years, met Monday with President Ernesto Zedillo to plan the transition process, and announced that he would soon meet with each member of the cabinet and the governor of every state.

The president-elect remarked that the country was setting out on a new stage, now that the PRI era had come to a close.

In the transition process, Zedillo has a ''starring role, and is acting as a statesman,'' working to guarantee a peaceful change of government free of economic crisis, said Fox, who since his triumph has replaced his aggressive and at times overly colourful language with a conciliatory tone.

Meanwhile, spokespersons for the PRI, the party which set a new record in terms of number of years in power, said the party was planning to revamp.

Hit hard by the party's historic defeat, PRI leaders set out Monday on a process of self-examination and reorganisation, which they said could lead to a change in name, logo and a revision of the party line.

The financial markets responded enthusiastically to the opposition's triumph in Mexico, with a rise in the stock market and appreciation of the peso. The business community applauded the change, and a number of foreign heads of state and government announced that they were ready to begin working with the president-elect.

Riding a ''wave of optimism'' -- as Fox himself put it -- the president-elect will travel to the United States, Canada, France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Britain before taking office in December, with a view to drumming up investment, clinching alliances and seeking political support.

Fox also plans to visit Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. Latin America will be a priority, because ''it is time to turn the Bolivarian dream into reality; the potential is there, and we must exploit it,'' he underlined, in a reference to the ideals of South American liberator Simn Bolvar.

The president-elect announced that he would ask the United States to study mechanisms allowing the border to open up to the free movement of people, because -- he argued -- integration cannot be consolidated with walls, police and border controls.

But while free circulation of people is the idea, ''the next step is selling it,'' he stressed.

The new president will face heavy opposition in both houses of Congress, where his conservative National Action Party (PAN) will have strong representation but no majority. But Fox said he would push for a national agreement built on a few basic consensus positions that would allow him to govern.

''I always prefer reaching a consensus, rather than imposing anything,'' he said. ''But if no agreements are reached, there will always be a contingency plan.''

Fox said that before he swore in, all state agencies would be audited to uproot corruption. But the most important thing, he added, would be to continue the plans that were going well.

''We don't want to wipe the slate clean. And although corruption will be punished, the most important thing is that the government does not get bogged down in the past,'' said the president-elect.

According to Fox, the ''true limiting factor'' standing in the way of economic growth in Mexico is its ''human capital,'' and for that reason the government will put top priority on education and training aimed at helping people set up small and medium businesses.

In his six years in office, corruption will have been cut to ''normal minimal levels,'' he pledged.

Fox reiterated that when it came to assembling his cabinet, he planned to pull together the country's ''best,'' with a geographic and gender balance.

When the cabinet starts to work, the only condition imposed on its members will be that every single plan or proposal must be accompanied by a study on how it will benefit the poor. Measures that are not based on that idea will not be accepted, he said.

In the area of macroeconomic management there will be no politics; everything will be done by technical experts who know what they're doing, Fox stressed.

But the very top priority is the fight against poverty, which affects at least 40 million of Mexico's population of 100 million, and all state policies will be focused on that goal, he concluded.

AMP Section Name:CorpWatch