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Mexican Opposition Defends Move to Block Fox Trip

Senators from Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, are defending their move this week to deny Mexican President Vicente Fox permission to leave the country. But, President Fox is using the incident to attack what he regards as intransigence on the part of the opposition party.

Several PRI senators met with foreign reporters on Thursday to defend their vote on Tuesday to block President Fox from going on a planned trip to the United States and Canada next week.

Although this was the first time the Mexican senate had ever used its constitutional power to stop a presidential journey, the PRI senators say the clash does not represent a crisis. They say such disagreements between the executive branch and legislative branch are normal in a democracy and they provided a list of reasons for taking the action. Chief among their complaints is what they regard as a tepid response from the Fox government to a U.S. Supreme Court decision denying restitution to an undocumented Mexican worker in a dispute with his employer.

The PRI document refers to this decision as posing in the words of the document "imminent risk of massive labor rights violations for undocumented Mexican workers." The document also complains about an accord reached with both the United States and Canada on border security that PRI senators say could violate Mexican sovereignty.

But PRI Senator Silvia Hernandez says her party is not opposed to further cooperation with the United States. She says cooperation with the United States on such issues as security is important and that her party supports this. But, she says the Fox government failed to properly inform the senate of the treaty's contents.

The PRI senators also complain about what they see as the Fox administration's favoritism towards the United States to the detriment of relations with Cuba. This has become an issue because of Cuban efforts to forestall a possible vote by Mexico condemning rights violations in Cuba at the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva next week.

But Senator Hernandez rejects President Fox's suggestion that she and other opposition senators would rather align Mexico with Cuba than with the United States. She says the PRI favors strengthening ties with Washington. The PRI senator also denies that her party, which ruled Mexico for 71 years until unseated by Mr. Fox in the July, 2000 election, is trying to block Fox programs. The PRI has a slight majority in the senate.

Political analysts here in Mexico say the PRI may have damaged its own cause by stopping President Fox from travelling next week. They say the former ruling party runs the danger of appearing to be obstructionist. The President and other administration officials have been using the incident to drum up support in the populace for the changes Mr. Fox says he wants to make on behalf of the voters who elected him. Public opinion polls so far show support for the president on this issue. Several callers to one television program this week said the law should be changed so that the senate can no longer impede presidential travel.