Mexican President Vicente Fox will complete his first year in office Saturday. After ending 71-years of one-party rule, by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, known as the PRI, Mr. Fox raised expectations that he and his National Action Party, known as the PAN, would start a new era in Mexico. But many Fox supporters are still waiting for that new beginning.
A year after seeing him sworn in, many Mexicans who hailed the election of Vicente Fox say they are still waiting to see profound changes. Some are more patient than others and, while the president's popularity in polls has dropped 20 points from its high of 90 percent a year ago, that still leaves him with approval ratings around 70 percent. As President Fox himself noted last week, many leaders around the world would love to have an approval rating that high.
Fox critics chide the president for continuing to promise more than he delivers, but President Fox and his supporters note that much of his program has been blocked by politics in the Congress. This week President Fox acknowledged that his government's budget is not sufficient to meet the needs of the nation.
He said the criticisms do not surprise him, but he asked "what can we do?" He said the Congress holds the power to pass his fiscal reform package in order to increase revenues and improve the national economy.
But the Mexican Congress has been slow to approve Fox proposals and the tax reform package remains stalled. The PRI, although defeated in a presidential race for the first time by Mr. Fox, remains strong in the Congress and since the PAN does not have a majority in either house, Mr. Fox needs a compromise with the old ruling party. The likely outcome of that will be a watered-down version of his proposed value-added tax, but financial institutions have indicated any reform would be better than none.
Critics have also attacked President Fox for failing to create the seven percent economic growth he promised, but circumstances beyond his control have played a role in weakening the economy. The recession in the United States, exacerbated by the terrorist attacks of September 11, has eroded the main pillars of the Mexican economy. Oil prices have fallen, tourism has declined and thousands of Mexican workers in the United States have lost their jobs and will not be sending home as much money in coming months as they had in the past.
At a foreign trade conference in his home state of Guanajuato Friday, where he met with former U.S. President George Bush, President Fox addressed the challenges ahead but maintained his optimism. He asked once again for patience as he tries to fulfill the promises he made a year ago.