- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 8, 2001

Mexican President Vicente Fox yesterday called a Cold War-era Western Hemisphere defense alliance "obsolete and useless" and urged that it be replaced by a pact to deal with poverty, drugs and other problems.
Mr. Fox said Mexico may withdraw from the 1947 Inter-American Reciprocal Defense Treaty, which was designed primarily to protect hemispheric nations against communism. He will decide about withdrawal within 60 days.
Speaking at the Organization of American States, Mr. Fox said, "We do not confront an extracontinental enemy that obligates us to defend ourselves through a military alliance.
"We have, on the other hand, common adversaries that we must confront without letup and with all the determination of our countries: economic backwardness, extreme poverty, transnational organized crime, subversion of democratic processes, environmental destruction and defenselessness in the face of calamities and natural disasters."
Mr. Fox, speaking in Spanish, issued his call just hours before ending a 21/2-day state visit.
Mr. Fox's remarks reflect the slow economic and social progress made in many countries. Although the hemisphere is virtually fully democratic, it is estimated that more than 130 million Latin Americans live in extreme poverty.
His proposal was consistent with his effort to project Mexican influence beyond the country's borders.
Mexico, he said, proposes "to be a principal actor in the discussion of a new security system that strengthens the unity of our region and at the same time permits us to identify and confront the true threats that pursue us."
Asked about Mr. Fox's proposal, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the idea of revitalizing the hemisphere's security architecture was broached at the last two inter-American summit meetings, in Chile in 1998 and in Canada last April.
He offered no opinion when asked whether he agrees with Mr. Fox that the security pact, known informally as the Rio treaty, is obsolete.


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