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Fox Likes Progress of Reforms - 2002-03-06

Mexican President Vicente Fox says it is likely one of his nation's top drug smugglers was killed in a shoot out with police last month, but that he is awaiting final proof. Meeting with foreign reporters in Mexico City, Mr. Fox spoke confidently of his government's progress in achieving reform.

In one of his first sit-down sessions with the international media in the last several months, President Fox spoke of the progress his government has made in strengthening the economy and fighting crime. He says a special federal anti-kidnapping force, formed within the past year, has already shown its effectiveness and that arrests of major drug traffickers have risen dramatically.

Mr. Fox says a man killed in a gun battle with police in Mazatlan, February tenth, appears to have been top drug lord Ramon Arellano Felix. He says tests are being conducted both in Mexico and the United States on blood samples and other evidence from the scene of the shooting. He says he expects confirmation of the identity, later this week.

Ramon Arellano Felix is on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's Ten Most Wanted List and is also wanted in Mexico for drug trafficking and murder. The man killed in Mazatlan was carrying a false federal police credential, but bore a strong resemblance to the fugitive drug trafficker.

In answer to questions about his fiscal reform package, which the Mexican congress watered down, President Fox said it was at least a partial success. He hailed the progress that was made. "We do have a reform, which is not exactly what we presented, but yet we have increased income to government and we are now investing that money in education; investing that money in health; and investing that money in combating poverty," he said. "At the same time, that reform gave us the opportunity to strengthen the economy and to keep the stability that we need for growth in the near future."

President Fox says he hopes the congress will make some adjustments to the fiscal-reform measures that were passed. He also spoke of energy and labor sector reforms he is proposing.

The Mexican leader says he remains optimistic about achieving an immigration agreement with the United States. He says he expects to discuss the issue at the end of the month when he meets with President Bush in the northern Mexican city, Monterrey, at the International Conference on Financing for Development.