- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 2, 2001

MEXICO CITY — Accused by critics of moving too slowly to change Mexico, President Vicente Fox insisted yesterday that he was building a new nation while trying to avoid disruptive surprises.
In his first state of the nation speech, Mr. Fox said that he is trying "to reorient the country without shocks" after his election last year ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
He came close to apologizing for the pace of reform.
"Many practices of this government still should change…It is impossible to consolidate a political culture in the space of a few months," Mr. Fox said.
He suffered a blow even before he began to speak, when Sen. Jorge Emilio Gonzalez announced his Green Party was breaking its coalition with Mr. Fox's National Action Party, which put Mr. Fox in the presidency.
"We declare ourselves in opposition, so long as the government of Vicente Fox does not return to the promised path" of change, said Mr. Gonzalez, whose father is the small party's chairman.
"Today, disgracefully, that is all that we have: more of the same," he said.
The declaration was as much symbolic as a practical blow.
The Greens have only 16 of 500 seats in Congress, while National Action has 207, and was openly disappointed when Mr. Fox did not give them a Cabinet post.
Sen. Felipe Calderon of National Action suggested the Greens' action was due to "rancor and frustration of some who saw change as the opportunity to share in the loot."
Mr. Fox's speech may have been the shortest state of the nation speech in history, running just over an hour.
Earlier presidents often spent hours spouting comparative budget figures.
Ironically, protesting lawmakers in the audience held up signs reading "blah blah blah," mocking Mr. Fox's long-windedness and purported tendency to promise more than he delivers.
Mr. Fox avoided the colorful, folksy manner that maddens his foes and seemed to concentrate on placating a Congress dominated by opposition parties.
Congress has frozen his chief budget bill and heavily modified an Indian rights bill he proposed.
Mr. Fox invited congressional leaders to meet with him and praised the multiparty pluralism of Mexican politics.
"That pluralism does not have to be a tower of Babel," he said.
Protesting farmers, labor unions and students caused traffic chaos around Congress before the speech, but most seemed to withdraw before a heavy police presence.
Most of the protesters accuse Mr. Fox's free-market policies of selling out the nation to foreign capitalists or of leaving the poor unprotected.
Mr. Fox insisted that he had doubled spending on some key farm aid programs.

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