Confidence runs high in Mexico
Sunday, the country sidestepped the 'fear vote' by electing the first non- PRI president in 71 years.
"New Mexico" - suddenly that means something other than one of the 50 United States.Skip to next paragraph
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A Mexico in which many people professed a fear of life without the party that ruled for seven decades is now a nation enthusiastically embracing a profound political change.
The "fear vote" - that many Mexicans only last week said would stall any temptation to defeat the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Sunday's election - never materialized. Instead, Mexicans buoyed by a transparent and meticulously fair electoral process voted in surprisingly decisive numbers for a fresh start.
This new Mexico is youthful, urban, confident that things can be better, and more demanding of its leaders. This Mexico is placing its hope for a prosperous, less corrupt, and safer nation in Vicente Fox, the first opposition candidate ever to win the presidency.
Confidence in the merits of a new direction was so strong that voters followed through with the equally unthinkable: The PRI also lost for the first time its majority in the Senate. Mr. Fox's National Action Party (PAN) and its partner Green party are expected to have a plurality in the two-house Congress once all votes are counted.
Foreign investors appear to have faith that Mexico will be on solid financial footing when Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo turns the reins over to Fox in December: Markets rose 6 percent Monday, and the peso rose 3 percent against the dollar.
The advent of a Mexico governed by the populist, unorthodox Fox could mean some shaking up of the US-Mexico relationship, analysts say. After meeting with Mr. Zedillo in the Los Pinos presidential palace Monday evening, Fox sounded all business, laying out how his government program would focus on three priorities: ratcheting up growth to a 7 percent annual rate, an educational revolution, and judicial reform.
But for now, the magnitude of the change Sunday's vote portends for Mexico both stunned and cheered Mexicans. "This is like the end of our Berlin Wall, this [vote] is the expression of a new Mexico," said Joaquin Lpez-Doriga, news anchor for the Televisa television network. His words were all the more meaningful since for decades Televisa was one of the blocks in the PRI's wall of control around Mexico, a private company that worked hand in hand with the PRI government to help guarantee its rule.
Since 1929, generations of Mexicans have grown up with the PRI as a fixture of everyday life. The PRI gave out jobs, provided subsidies, and created and sold monopolies to its wealthy supporters. It was also tradition-bound, corrupt, told people how to vote, and left a legacy that includes 45 percent of Mexicans still living in poverty.
After the vote, Mexico City's famed Angel of Independence monument was the site of spontaneous celebrations for Fox. "Yes, we did it!" chanted a crowd of 20,000 revelers with a note of disbelief.
That feeling of wonderment is still palpable around the country. "I just want to take this all in," says retiree Ramiro Ramrez, looking over the dozens of headlines at a central Mexico City newsstand proclaiming Fox's victory with mile-high letters and exclamation marks. "I was eight years old when the PRI came to power [in 1929], and I never thought I'd survive to see this happen," he says, his eyes shining. "This is like a second independence day."