Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 21, 2000
Mexico puts Fox in the henhouse
It has been hailed as a major upset. That it is. After 71 years of autocratic rule in Mexico, the PRI has been defeated by PAN. A jubilant commentator compared it to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc and the end of South African apartheid or Franco's reign in Spain.
We hope so. While the defeat of the PRI is good news, it is doubtful that Vincente Fox is good news to the poor.
In the last few decades the PRI stayed in power through fraudulent means, such as vote buying, ballot box stuffing and intimidation. Party officials operated with impunity and didn't shy away from assassinating political opponents to stay in control.
Some of the highest-ranking politicians, including former president Salinas and his relatives, have been accused of profiting from the drug trade.
Because power became an end in itself, the party attracted all manner of criminal elements. Once you start dealing with crooks, narcotic traffickers and the Mafia, you eventually get entangled in a web of cover-ups that is bound to strangle you.
The paradox is that the PRI is the Party of Institutional Revolution, but once institutionalized, it outlawed any further revolution.
In this country of overt Marian devotion, even the Catholic Church was silenced until recently. The Church, to its credit, started to speak out.
But we're dealing with a conservative Church here that had difficulty with bishops like Samuel Ruiz and Sergio Mendez, who openly defended the rights of the poor and indigenous people.
About 50 per cent of Mexico's population is considered poor, many millions of them garbage-picking poor. In the last few years their number has increased by 17 million. At the same time, the number of Mexican millionaires has grown at an astonishing rate.
Vincente Fox, former governor of Guanajuato and former Coca Cola executive, is leader of the centre-right Party of National Action, known for its roots in clerical Catholicism. Fox is regarded as a pragmatist with leanings towards Reaganomics and Thatcherism.
His enormous height compared to that of the average Mexican slum dweller, and his flamboyant cowboy image, gave him the messianic aura of the dragon slayer.
In his victory speech he claimed: "Mexico es ye differente" (is already different). That remains to be seen.
It is likely that his neo-conservatism will bring an end to whatever welfare and social programs there were for the poor. He also vowed to strengthen NAFTA. Not a hopeful sign for the poor.
He promised to strengthen the economy and make Mexico a more equal partner with Canada and the U.S. This might happen more quickly as Canada and the U.S. are beginning to resemble Mexico in terms of excessive police action against demonstrators, signs of union busting and the growing number of homeless and food bank dependent families.
Eighty per cent of political contributions in Canada come from big corporations. Thirty-three sectors of our economy are foreign controlled.
We are listed as 16th in the industrialized world in terms of adult poverty and 19th with regard to child poverty. We rank 25th in fair distribution of wealth, and the gap is widening.
Fox promised greater wage equity among Mexicans, Canadians and Americans. I wish the Mexicans well, but Coca Cola has not been known for fair labour relations in that part of the world. The saviour might turn out to be a fox in the henhouse.
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