A New Mexican Revolution
Finally, in 2000, like a Mexican Gorbachev, Ernesto Zedillo, the man most responsible for Mexico’s recent democratic reforms, watched as PAN opposition reformer Vicente Fox swept Zedillo’s PRI from the presidency after a 71-year rule. Moreover, despite severe criticism from his own party, Zedillo quickly called for the country to close ranks behind Fox. Millions of Mexicans, still dazed but buoyed by Zedillo’s statesmanship and Fox’s epoch-making victory, eagerly awaited Fox’s inauguration address on December 1, 2000.
He promised nothing less than a new revolution for Mexico and backed it up with concrete proposals: Reduce poverty by 30 percent with a million new jobs a year from revitalized new electricity and oil production, a Mexican Silicon Valley, and free trade between Mexico, all of Latin America, and the United States and Canada. He promised justice for all, through a reformed police, army, the judiciary, and a “transparency commission” that would address past national grievances by bringing wrongdoers to justice. He promised conciliation and an agreement with the Zapatista rebel movement in the south, including a bill of rights for Mexico’s native peoples. With all of Mexico listening, Fox brought his speech to a hopeful conclusion: “If I had to summarize my message today in one sentence, I would say: Today Mexico has a future, but we have lost much time and wasted many resources. Mexico has a future, and we must build that future starting today.”
It was truly a bold vision, and six years later, nearing the end of his term, Fox could only claim partial success. He did make peace with the Zapatistas, his unprecedented transparency commission accomplished important work, and a burgeoning Mexican economy did produce the promised million new jobs.
But, Vicente Fox also had to admit that the path to democracy, which he believed could not be reversed, would continue to be messy and difficult. His prediction proved especially true during the thorny 2006 election aftermath. By late in the year, however, the great majority of Mexicans, even though many of them voted for the losing PRD candidate, López Obrador, were accepting the result: that Felipe Calderón, who won by the slimmest of margins, would become the new president of Mexico on December 1, 2006. His charge is manifold: to reach out to the defeated PRD with a broad social agenda to improve the lives of Mexico’s poor, to continue creating the million jobs a year that Mexico needs, to reduce drug-related violence, while continuing the doggedly earnest march of his predecessors, Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox, toward a truly just, democratic, and prosperous Mexico for all its people.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition