- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

MEXICO CITY Facing a country impatient for change, a humbled President Vicente Fox acknowledged yesterday that he still had work to do in achieving the sweeping reforms he had promised two years ago when he toppled Mexico's entrenched political elite.
In his state-of-the-nation address, Mr. Fox admitted that he hadn't achieved as much as he had hoped less than two years into his six-year term.
"In spite of the fact that we have moved forward, we aren't satisfied," he said in a speech that received occasional boos and hisses from lawmakers. "We would betray Mexicans' hopes for change if we felt satisfied with what we've accomplished so far. I'm the first person to admit that not all our goals have been achieved."
The speech followed sometimes harsh attacks from lawmakers who criticized his failure to fulfill promises to reform everything from migration to the tax system.
"Two years a third of the government's mandate and the change for which he was elected has not come," said Sen. Jesus Ortega of the opposition Democratic Revolution Party. "On the contrary, the situation of the country and of its people has worsened."
The Mexican president has been hurt by the U.S. economic downturn, the September 11 terrorist attacks and his inability to muster support in Congress something he admits he must work on.
Mr. Fox has said building a new relationship with Congress is his biggest priority. On Saturday, he met leaders from the country's three main parties and urged them to help him change Mexico for the better.
Before his speech yesterday, lawmakers reminded the president of the tremendous expectations he generated on July 2, 2000, when he won elections over the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which had governed Mexico since 1929.
He won on his promise to create 1 million jobs a year, increase gross domestic product 7 percent annually and end a simmering rebel conflict in 15 minutes.
"We haven't seen a solution in 15 minutes, nor in his two years in office," Alberto Anaya of the Workers Party said last night, pointing out the lack of an accord with Zapatista rebels in southern Chiapas state.
Mexico has lost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Its GDP also has been generally flat. And Mr. Fox has been forced to scale back his growth pledge first calling 7 percent a goal to be reached by the end of his term, then making even that contingent on the approval of all his reforms by Congress.
Yet he has maintained that his administration is on track, comparing his presidency's smooth transition to the devaluations and economic crises that accompanied previous handovers.
Mr. Fox says he has helped strengthen democratic institutions, citing the increasingly independent legislature, courts and elections board, and laws giving the public greater access to government information and secret files.
But that very independence of the legislature has been the downfall of most of Mr. Fox's major proposals. Until the past few weeks, he has ignored Congress which, in turn, has largely rejected his program for reform.


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