The Administration of Vicente Fox, Former President of Mexico

Without a doubt, this politician is also a character: No one will forget his jokes, the rumors about his in-laws, his boots, etc. But he’s remembered even more for being the first elected president that belonged to a political party that was not the PRI (which was the ‘Official’ party) in other words, the first to alternate and to change the foundational power that many were already used to. So in this article we will focus on what is really important: his achievements as Mexico’s President, his failures and some very important events took place during his administration.

One of his campaign promises stated that every Mexican would be given a Volkswagen Beetle and a small store. He also said he could solve the Chiapas conflict in 15 minutes, in addition to other unrealistic goals. This, and above all, the fact that we as nation had attributed most of our problems as a country to the continuous regime of the PRI, led many to believe that there would be an overnight change. He was also one of the first Mexican politicians to use the Internet as a means of communication of his activities and his election campaign. So, Vicente Fox Quesada came to power with the highest popularity rating in history compared to prior Presidents.

His big hits

In November 2001, the AFI (Federal Investigation Agency) was created by presidential decree. Its function was to fight federal crimes such as kidnapping, drug trafficking, organized crime and others. This institution was part of the PGR (Attorney General’s Office). Its staff was well trained and its role was important until it disappeared in 2008, when it became inconsistent with the new way of crime fighting.

He also established the Federal Law of Transparency and Access to Public Government Information. Its purpose was to enable any citizen to receive information regarding how and where the Federal Government spent its money. For this purpose, the Federal Institute for Access to Public Information (IFAI) was created. Both the establishment of law and the creation of the institute happened virtually at the same time, as Congress was formed mainly by members of his party, the PAN. These changes went into effect in 2002 and it’s worth mentioning that even the IFAE does not have information regarding all of the federal government expenses.

Without a doubt, Vicente Fox is known as the President that was insisting – more than any other before or after him – in trying to achieve an immigration agreement with the United States, and took advantage of several meetings with President George W. Bush to try to reach such agreement. Obviously he didn’t achieve his goal, largely by the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the strengthening of U.S. security, but at the risk of sounding defensive, the attempt was made.

Interestingly, during his administration one of the highest economic growth figures in Mexico was recorded, and inflation was controlled under less than 3.5%, something not seen since the decade of the 60's.

Finally an error/success: Vicente Fox had enough "courage" to tell the United States that he didn’t agree to Iraq’s invasion, and refusing to cooperate in any way with the war, something that few countries would do. Although at the time that was a surprise, now there are some few who still believe in the justice of this war.

His mistakes

In the area of foreign policy, mistakes and above all, the President’s naive behavior, jeopardized relations – in more than one occasion – with other countries. We only need to remember that when he was having a “private” conversation with Fidel Castro, he asked Fidel to "eat and leave", fearing the consequences if Castro and Bush met at the Summit of the United Nations. Besides this, his actions provoked that the rest of Latin America would keep their ‘distance’ from Mexico when in 2005 he criticized Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay for refusing to create an area of free trade.

Fox was accused of being weak in the case of the "Macheteros” (People that when working have to use a machete or bowie knife) of San Salvador Atenco because he had committed to improving transportation infrastructure and this required the creation of a new airport, as it would help the already congested Benito Juarez airport in Mexico City. After obtaining the results of studies regarding the place to build it, he chose the area surrounding the Texcoco Lake. 4,550 acres would be expropriated for the airport construction, but local farmers objected and got together (with their farming knives in hand) to protest and file lawsuits against the government, unwilling to accept what they considered to be a theft. As the conflict intensified, the Office of the President decided to cancel the project without proper negotiations, which led to the delay within the different means of transportation of the country.

The “José Vasconcelos Library”, named by the press as the "Mega Library" is considered the largest investment regarding infrastructure in the administration of President Fox. It is located one block from the former Buenavista Train Station, in Mexico City. The library has an approximate area of 38,000 square meters and had an initial planned cost of 954 million pesos. President Fox inaugurated the library on May 16, 2006 when he stated that it was one of the most advanced buildings of the 21st Century. Oddly, the library was closed in March 2007 due to defects in its construction, which were reflected in serious water seepage, lack of water in the toilets, and other failures. The Federal Auditor of the Nation spotted 36 irregularities in its construction and issued 13 motions of responsibility to public servants in the federal government. Among the documented irregularities, it was stated the ‘loss’ of marble blocks at a cost of 15 million pesos.

While it is true that the government of Vicente Fox left many Mexicans satisfied, many were disappointed as they didn’t see the significant progress they expected from the first President elected by popular will and not by the so-called "dedazo" (finger-pointing to choose the next president within the PRI’s leaders). In addition, the general disappointment at the end of his term was also to be seen in his actions. He once literally said: “I’m leaving…you are staying here”.

Article produced by the Editorial Team of "Explorando Mexico".
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