A Dramatic Change in 2000
For 72 years, Mexico was ruled by the PRI. That stands for “Institutional Revolutionary Party.” Think about that phrase for a minute. Institutional. Revolutionary. A classic oxymoron!
Peruvian Nobel Laureate writer Mario Vargas Llosa once described Mexico as “the perfect dictatorship” (for which he was promptly ushered out of the Literature Conference he was addressing). But he was right. Mexican presidents ruled like dictators, even though they were elected in a popular election.
PRI presidents were each chosen for a six-year term by the outgoing president with the famous “dedazo” – the finger pointed at the lucky successor. No primaries, simply the powerful “dedazo.” There was an election, of course, but each president won by huge margins of 80% to 90% of the popular vote.
All that changed with Vicente Fox in 2000. A former Coca Cola executive, he took the country by storm with his cowboy boots, his irreverence for hallowed institutions and his refreshing and colorful (often off-color) way of speaking.
Vicente Fox has a much more forward-looking view towards the United States than did his predecessors. He developed a warm relationship with United States President George W. Bush. The two agreed on opening up borders, making immigration fair and simple, easing work permits and eliminating the stigma of illegal migrants.
President Fox made a masterful presentation to the joint houses of the United States Congress on September 6, 2001. Momentum was developing. Relationships between the two huge countries were never better. Five days later came the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001.
Momentum screeched to a dead halt. President Bush’s attention became focused on eliminating terrorism. Mexico was left gasping.
The good will is still there, and things will gradually improve. But sadly, among the many tragedies of September 11, is the tragic slowdown of a harmony that was becoming a grand symphony orchestra. The orchestra is still developing, but right now they are merely tuning the violins.
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