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Mexico: Fox Report Card Mixed After First Year - 2001-12-17

When Mexican President Vicente Fox took office a year ago, hopes were high for the first head of government in 70 years who was not from the Institutional Revolutionary Party. His report card from citizens is mixed at best, and pressure is mounting for him to begin fulfilling his campaign promises. However, world events and local politics are making it tough for Mr. Fox.

When Vicente Fox took office, he had the support of a wide range of people who had opposed the seven-decade rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Today, however, many of those people who once supported him express disappointment, and President Fox is struggling to explain why so much remains undone.

The big items on the Fox agenda, including tax reform, energy sector reform and education improvements, have yet to be accomplished, but Mr. Fox and his supporters say many small victories have been won. They note that a restructuring of the national police agencies has been carried out, and that the United States has recognized Mexico's more aggressive approach to the war on drugs. President Fox says he needs more time to continue this progress and to accomplish his other goals. He says his administration has done much, but that political opposition has held back large parts of his program. He says there are some who would like to have things the way they were, but that he is going forward to implement the changes he promised in his campaign.

One of the chief obstacles to the Fox program is the continuing strength of the PRI in the Congress. Mr. Fox's party, the National Action Party, lacks the votes to pass major reforms on its own, and attempts to build consensus with PRI legislators have, for the most part, failed.

Opposition figures say the president has only himself to blame because of his clumsy handling of the legislature. Some analysts agree that Mr. Fox has spent too much time pronouncing and not enough time building coalitions to advance his program.

PRI leader Beatrice Paredes, who chairs the Chamber of Deputies, says President Fox has failed to live up to expectations. She says this tends to happen to charismatic politicians who raise high expectations. She says they leave a wide gap between what they promise and what they do.

Recent public opinion polls show a drop in Vicente Fox's approval rating, but he still commands support from more than half the people polled. He says it is unfair to expect him to fulfill all his campaign promises in one year. He says some things may take until the end of his term, in 2006. President Fox also says that circumstances beyond his control have upset his agenda. He says in the last few months the whole world has been shaken by the biggest economic crisis in the last 20 years. Mexico has been affected as well, But, President Fox says, the nation has remained stable in spite of the difficult situation. He notes that the peso currency remains strong, inflation is low and interest rates are relatively low by Mexican standards.

While President Fox presses forward with his agenda, it is clear from statements made by the president and his cabinet ministers that some goals will probably be modified in the months ahead. The tax reform measure, in particular, may have to be weakened considerably to allow passage, and job creation will be stalled until the U.S. economy shows improvement and demand for Mexican products increases.