A few hours after taking the official oath as Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, delivered an inaugural address in which he promised to fight organized crime, to provide more employment for Mexicans and reform his nation's electoral laws. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Mexico City, President Calderon also reached out to the opposition with an offer of dialogue.
Felipe Calderon began his six-year term as president of Mexico amid political tension that threatened to disrupt his official swearing-in. Lawmakers from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, tried to block entrances to the House of Deputies Friday, but Calderon and outgoing President Vicente Fox came in through a back door and quickly carried out the formal ceremony.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets around the same time, condemning what they claim was a fraudulent election. Mr. Calderon won the presidential election in July with an edge of around 240,000 votes over his closest opponent, PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has refused to concede defeat and has proclaimed himself the legitimate president.
A review of the vote by the Federal Electoral Tribunal found no evidence of fraud and most Mexicans have rejected Lopez Obrador's claim. Still, President Calderon, in his inaugural address, delivered at the National Auditorium, several kilometers from the Congress, repeated his call for dialogue with opponents.
He said he will talk with anyone who is disposed to dialogue and will work with anyone willing to work with him for the good of all.
President Calderon said that when politicians spend all their time fighting with one another, they are neglecting their responsibility to the citizens.
Calderon called crime Mexico's greatest problem and he ordered Attorney General Eduardo Medina and other members of his security team to develop a crime-fighting plan within the next 90 days.
He said this is a fight the nation needs to undertake and that, together, Mexicans can win.
Among the measures President Calderon mentioned were better financing and training for police agents, judicial reform and an end to corruption and impunity.
Mexico's new president also addressed one of the most vexing issues between his country and the United States, illegal immigration.
He said that immigration divides family and deprives Mexico of valuable labor. He said he wants to improve economic conditions and create jobs in Mexico so that people will not have to leave the country.
True to the reputation he has as a determined, energetic pragmatist, Mr.Calderon laid out an ambitious plan in his first formal speech to the nation as president. Having been elected with little more than a third of the vote, however, and hounded still by angry demonstrators, his ability to achieve broad reforms may be limited.
His proposals also target some of the most powerful and well-entrenched interests in the country. Among them are the narcotics-trafficking gangs who have murdered around three thousand people in Mexico over the past year, the large public service unions and the quasi-monopolies controlled by a handful of rich families, whose profits account for a large part of the country's Gross National Product.
The first indication of how well he may do will come next week when the conflictive House of Deputies begins considering budget proposals and the new president begins his first full week at the helm of the nation's huge bureaucratic apparatus.