Mexican President Vicente Fox is on his way to Washington and plans to meet with President Bush Thursday before proceeding to New York City for a firsthand look at the World Trade Center disaster site. The visit is intended to reaffirm Mexican support for the United States and to focus attention on some bilateral issues that were set aside after the terrorist attacks.
After making a short visit to the border city of Tijuana, President Fox spoke to the Mexican national media about his sudden trip to the United States and why it is important.
He said that the government of Mexico adheres to international agreements that obligate its participation in the struggle against terrorism. The current fight against terrorism, he said, is a basic part of the region's security and that regional security agreements should be revamped with an eye towards improving their application to the threat of terrorism.
President Fox said he would also discuss such issues as trade and immigration policy when he meets with President Bush. The Mexican leader had been in Washington promoting legalization of Mexican undocumented workers in the United States just four days before the terrorist attacks.
Mr. Fox said the attacks in Washington and New York had greatly affected Mexico because of its close commercial ties with the United States. Since the events of September 11, Mexico's tourism industry has suffered a harsh blow, with some resort hotels at half normal capacity. The nation's factories had already laid off thousands of workers because of the economic slowdown in the United States and that situation is expected to worsen as a result of the attacks.
The Mexican president's visit to Washington and New York follows three weeks of political squabbling here in Mexico over what position should be taken in support of the United States. President Fox extended his condolences immediately after the attacks and then offered unconditional support to Washington. This led to outcries from leftists and nationalists who feared Mexico would be drawn into a global conflict or would be seen as subordinating its own interests to those of the United States.
In the end, most political leaders and columnists gave their support to President Fox's pledges of solidarity and some of those who had expressed concern about Mexico being drawn into conflict were among those urging Mr. Fox to make the trip. The Mexican Congress gave President Fox unanimous approval for his visit, but 27 members of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution abstained.