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Fox Accuses Mexican Senate of Blocking Nation's Progress - 2002-04-10

Mexican President Vicente Fox is accusing opposition leaders of trying to stop progress in his nation after the Mexican Senate late Tuesday voted to prevent him from travelling to the United States and Canada next week. It was the first time the Mexican Senate had ever exercised its constitutional power to block a presidential journey. The squabble has more to do with internal politics than the planned trip itself.

In a nationwide television address late Tuesday, President Fox lashed out at opponents for having denied him permission to leave the country next week.

He said if he had gone to the United States he would have been able to advance talks to achieve a migrant labor accord. This, he said, would have allowed thousands more Mexican laborers to work in the United States each year. He said this and other important matters had now been scuttled because of "partisan decisions that are contrary to the interests of the nation."

President Fox laid the main blame at the feet of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, whose seven-decade rule came to an end with his election in July, 2000. He said the PRI is trying to undermine the changes his government is trying to make on behalf of the voters.

But opposition party leaders on Wednesday maintained their position that the president has traveled too much outside the nation while neglecting important issues at home. PRI leaders have also said they opposed the trip because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last month that said illegal aliens who are mistreated on the job do not have the same rights to restitution as do U.S. citizens and legal residents. Mexico regards that decision as a violation of basic human rights and a contradiction of current bilateral agreements.

The PRI senators, backed by smaller numbers of senators from the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD, and the Green Party, criticized the Fox administration's protest of the decision as too tepid. PRI Senator Sylvia Hernandez, of the Mexican Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, says President Fox has focused on human rights problems in other countries, but says little about violations in a country with which Mexico has such strong relations.

This was a reference as well to what many senators perceive to have been a slight to Cuban communist leader Fidel Castro at the recent United Nations poverty summit in the northern Mexico city of Monterrey. Mr. Castro claimed he was pressured to leave the meeting early so that he would not be present when President Bush spoke.

Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda denied that the Mexican or U.S. governments had done anything to pressure the Cuban leader and cited a letter in which Mr. Castro had said he would only be in Monterrey for a short time. But charges leveled against Mr. Castaneda by government-controlled media in Havana provided Castro supporters here in Mexico with material to prolong the controversy.

The PRD, in particular, has taken a pro-Castro position in regard to the upcoming vote by the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva. There were rumors earlier this year that Mexico might vote in favor of a resolution criticizing violations of human rights in Cuba, but the controversy created by Mr. Castro in Monterrey has put pressure on Mr. Castaneda to refrain from voting against Cuba. It is now expected that Mexico will abstain in Geneva as it did last year.