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Mexican President to Reiterate Support for US War Against Terrorism - 2001-10-03

Mexican President Vicente Fox, who has been criticized for not showing more support for the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks, plans to visit Washington within the coming week.

In a surprise move, President Fox on Tuesday asked permission of the Mexican Congress to visit the United States sometime between now and October 9. Mexican government officials say they are making contact with the White House to establish the exact agenda for the meeting, through which President Fox wishes to reiterate his support for the United States in the war against terrorism.

The surprise announcement comes three weeks after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in which more than five thousand people from 60 nations, including Mexico, died.

Critics here in Mexico and abroad took Mr. Fox to task during the first week after the attacks for not making a stronger statement of support for the northern neighbor. While many other nations held memorials for the victims, the Mexican government did not even order its flags to fly at half staff in the days after the attacks. President Fox did express condolences and, a few days later, offered unconditional support to the United States. But his interior minister, Santiago Creel, emphasized Mexico's traditional policy of non-involvement in foreign disputes.

Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda clashed with Mr. Creel and other traditional nationalists by saying that Mexico needed to show solidarity with the United States, if for no other reason, because of the many ties that bind the two nations. But he was quick to emphasize that this stopped short of military involvement.

Some members of the Mexican Congress then called for Mr. Castaneda's resignation and condemned any policy that would draw Mexico into a war. Mexican novelist Carlos Fuentes said Mexico should not be an "Achichincle", a Mexican term meaning that Mexico should not be the servant of the United States.

Mexican business leaders and some newspaper columnists took Mr. Fuentes to task for this statement, pointing out that the United States is the country to which Mexico sends 85 percent of its exports. They also recalled the support the United States provided Mexico during its 1994 peso crisis. Among the harshest critics of the Mexican attitude in the wake of the attacks have been Mexican-Americans and some Mexican citizens living in the United States. Dallas, Texas-based columnist Ruben Navarrette, Jr. said this week that, "if Mexico does not lend a helping hand, the United States will conclude the only thing Mexico is capable of extending to its neighbor is an outstretched palm."