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Mexico's Fox Addresses the Nation - 2002-09-02

Mexican President Vicente Fox delivered his second state-of-the nation speech before the Mexican Congress, Sunday, fulfilling a constitutional obligation and addressing critics who say he has accomplished little. The president called for help from the congress to move the country forward.

Coming before a legislature that has blocked most of his initiatives so far, President Fox emphasized what he says his government has accomplished and called for cooperation in the year ahead. Chief among the accomplishments he cited were the reorganization of the federal law enforcement agencies; the successes of those agencies in combating drug smuggling and kidnapping; and attacks on corruption within the bureaucracy. He says his government's fight against corruption is a matter of principle and not an attempt to settle scores with anyone.

The Fox government has begun investigation of misappropriation of funds at the state-owned oil company and other acts of corruption that allegedly took place under the 71-year-rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI, which lost power when Mr. Fox won the 2000, presidential election.

In recent weeks, President Fox has made a concerted effort to seek compromise with leaders of the PRI and other opposition parties. He has gained support from PRI leaders to seek a consensus plan to reform the nation's publicly owned electrical power sector. In his speech, Mr. Fox expressed his respect for the work of the congress, which is dominated by the PRI and other opposition parties.

Mr. Fox says the differences he has had with other branches of the government or with state governments have always been resolved within a constitutional framework.

In speeches by congressional representatives that preceded the presidential address, opponents criticized Mr. Fox for failing to fulfill most of his campaign promises. In his speech, the president said he was the first person to recognize all goals had not been achieved and that more work needed to be done.

In the official congressional response speech, the PRI's Beatrice Paredes, president of the congressional coordinating committee, emphasized the needs of Mexico's impoverished rural population and called for better treatment of immigrants in the United States. She called on the government to pursue an immigration accord with the United States that would protect the rights of workers, north of the border. That had been a major priority of the Fox government and progress seemed in sight before the terrorist attacks of September 11th pushed the issue off the immediate agenda of the Bush Administration. Fox government spokesmen now concede an immigration agreement is not likely in the near future. Still, they say it remains a top priority.