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Mexican President Cuts Top Government Salaries

Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderon, began the first full week of his six-year term Monday by signing a decree to reduce his own salary and the salaries of top government officials by 10 percent. The money saved, which amounts to around $2.5 billion, will be spent on social programs and law enforcement. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Mexico City, the new president is also seeking more foreign investment to boost job growth in his country.

With his cabinet members standing at attention behind him, President Calderon signed the decree that will cut their salaries and his by 10 percent. He says this cut will also affect sub-secretaries and other high officials and will benefit social programs. He says the amount saved is equivalent to the combined annual budgets of six government departments.

Calderon had already announced his intention to cut salaries over the weekend and Mexico newspapers on Monday celebrated the move with big headlines. The man who lost the July 2 presidential election by a narrow margin, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, attacked the salary cut as insignificant in a meeting with reporters.

He chided the news media for playing up the salary cut by the man he referred to as the "spurious president." Lopez Obrador complained that the idea of reducing government salaries was his and that he would cut them by far more than ten percent.

Lopez Obrador has claimed the presidential election was fraudulent, but the Federal Electoral Tribunal rejected his arguments and today public opinion polls show the vast majority of Mexicans accepting Felipe Calderon as president. However, Lopez Obrador continues to command the loyalty of a significant part of the population. The leftist parties who support him do not have sufficient votes in the Mexican Congress to block legislation, but they can complicate the legislative process and delay approval of Calderon's reform proposals.

But President Calderon has shown no hesitancy in promoting his policies, which include an effort to reform the judicial system and reduce regulations that would encourage more private investment. He spoke of his government's commitment to this at the Spanish-Mexican Investment Forum in Mexico City Monday.

He said foreign investors can count on his government's efforts to fight crime and corruption and to make Mexico a good place to invest.

President Calderon says he wants to initiate reforms that would make Mexico more competitive and generate more jobs. He says he would prefer to have Mexican laborers remain here rather than cross the border illegally to work in the United States.

Political analysts question how much of this ambitious program the new president will be able to accomplish, given the fact that he won the election with only a little more than a third of the vote and his party lacks the votes in Congress to pass legislation without seeking votes from other parties. His supporters say he is open to dialogue with other parties, including the leftists who question his legitimacy, and that he is determined to move quickly to accomplish his goals in spite of the obstacles.