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Fox's OAS Speech Focuses on Poverty, Crime - 2001-09-08

Mexican President Vicente Fox is calling for a new effort throughout the Americas to eradicate regional threats. Among them are poverty and crime as well as what he calls the economic backwardness of some countries in the hemisphere.

On his final day in Washington, President Fox set aside what had been the theme of his American visit that of improving relations with the United States to take up a bigger issue: tackling problems ranging from poverty, to crime, to environmental erosion affecting some of the hemisphere's poorest countries.

In a well-attended speech at the Organization of American States, the Mexican leader told a largely Latin American audience the region faces new and different challenges to its security - the kind that old treaties more oriented toward military threats were never meant to deal with. "Mexico therefore hopes to be a main player in the discussion of a new security system that will strengthen the unity of our region at the same time enable us to identify and confront the true threats to us," said Mr. Fox.

Some of these new threats will be taken up at a meeting of regional leaders next week in Peru. "We have common enemies that we have to combat without quarter and with all of the determination of our countries economic backwardness and extreme poverty, poor distribution of income, transnational organized crime and drugs," Mr. Fox said.

All of the Americas with the exception of Cuba have embraced democratic reforms. So much progress has made over the past twenty years that President Fox says he is considering pulling Mexico out of a half-century old hemispheric defense treaty, saying the changes in the region now make such an accord an anachronism.