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Mexican Peasants Say Fox Has Forgotten Them - 2001-08-08

Mexican President Vicente Fox met Tuesday with representatives of the National Confederation of Rural Property Owners to discuss the problems of the agricultural sector in his country. The meeting came only hours before a planned march to the capital by thousands of peasants who say the president has forgotten them.

In his speech before the farm owners, President Fox rejected the idea that his government was out of touch with the rural sector. He said marches and demonstrations by agricultural workers are not necessary.

He said his government certainly does not need pressure from demonstrators to pay attention to the needs of the rural sector because members of the government, the president included, are from the country. He said he understands the problems in the fields and speaks the truth to the people in the rural areas.

Mr. Fox comes from a family of ranchers in the central state of Guanajuato.

But many campesinos, or rural workers, say the Fox government has failed to deliver economic assistance to them while concentrating more on the manufacturing sector. The leaders of campesino organizations, together with some leftist groups and members of opposition parties, are planning to take over federal offices throughout Mexico on Wednesday to press their demands.

The same organizations are behind a march that is expected to draw 30,000 dissatisfied rural laborers to the capital. A group from the state of Guerrero, for example, is pressing for the release of more than $2 million in assistance the government promised coffee growers who have recently felt the effects of a worldwide drop in coffee prices.

The march also coincides with the 122th anniversary of the birth of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata, whose 1910 peasant rebellion was based on the call for agrarian reform.